Matt’s Bats Chat with MLB.com Beat Reporter Bill Ladson
If you look at MLB Blogs Central, you know that there are 3 MLB Pro bloggers writing about the Nationals. In addition to Matt’s Bats, there is, of course, the official blog of the Nationals, Curly W Live, which Amanda Comak and her team writes. (By the way, for November, Matt’s Bats ranked #30 and Curly W Live was #6). There is also the blog written by the Nationals’ official MLB.com beat writer called All Nats All The Time. The author is Bill Ladson. Earlier this month, I got a chance to talk to Bill over the phone, and here is our Matt’s Bats Chat.
Bill Ladson: I started working for MLB.com in 2001. I came from FoxSports.com. I started working on the desk at first. In 2002, I found out that someone was leaving and I wrote to my boss and told him that I wanted the job because at the time Frank Robinson and Omar Minaya were running the team and they acquired Bartolo Colon, Cliff Floyd, and I said to myself, “man, I want to be a part of the action.” So started November 1, 2002, and it’s been really fun ever since.
MB: When did you get started in sports-writing?
BL: I wanted to be a sportswriter, dating back to 1986. I went to Baruch College. I worked for the school paper. I wrote about baseball, mostly.
I was also a music writer. At first, I thought I wanted to be a music critic. The reason I stopped was because – I didn’t like the music at that time and I thought I would be a cruel critic and I didn’t want to write about bad music and write bad reviews every time. My heart still liked the 70s and 60s. That’s my favorite music and I didn’t want to rip music of the 80s. I thought I didn’t want to do that all the time. That’s why I went into sportswriting.
I started writing for Sport magazine. After that I was with The Sporting News for two years. Then I went to Fox Sports and then MLB.com.
MB: What are your favorite ballparks to visit?
BL: Yankee Stadium, no question about it. That will always be Number One. I grew up a die-hard Yankees fan. I’m not saying I root for them now, but growing up, without a doubt, Yankee Stadium is number one. I would say Nationals Park is number two. Number three, I would have to say, believe it or not, I loved Indians Stadium, which became Jacobs Field and is now called Progressive Field.
MB: Are you allowed to root for the Nats now that you’re covering them as a journalist?
BL: I’m not a Nats fan per se. As a journalist covering the team, you’re not supposed to root for the Nats. I guess going by my predictions it seems like I’m a Nats fan. I really thought they were going to go to the World Series this year (2013). I thought they had a better team, but it didn’t happen, and I kind of looked silly. But I really believed they were going to be a good team in 2013. Maybe next year – we’ll see what happens during the Winter Meetings . I think Mike Rizzo is going to make a splash again during the off-season. We’ll have to see what happens.
MB: Who do you think the Nats will trade this offseason? Are there any free agents or trades you think are a good fit?
BL: I think it really depends. I could see them trade for someone like a David Price or a Max Scherzer of the Tigers – I think that could happen. There’s talk of those two guys getting traded and I could see the Nationals try to trade for one of those guys. The Nationals need pitching right now for the back end. I think they have enough ammunition to make that trade.
[We did this interview before the Doug Fister trade]
In terms of free agency, I think it’s not going to be a major player there because I think they need a couple of bench guys, they need a backup catcher – I don’t think they’ll make a splash there.
I think they will get a quality player for the bench, backup catcher, and a left handed specialist for the bullpen, for sure. Who that is, I don’t know now. You would think they might go after Michael Gonzalez again; they let him go and that proved to be a huge mistake. They obviously can’t trade for Gorzelanny because he has another year to go in his contract. That’s what they need the most. It’s hard to say at this early stage who they could go after.
MB: Do you have a certain favorite Nats moment, not just from 2013?
BL: I have several moments. Ironically, my best moment covering this team occurred while they were in Montreal, in August 2003. They swept the Phillies in 4 games to go into a 4 way tie for the Wild Card lead with the Marlins and the Phillies. That was fun to watch. It really was. That’s number one in my book. They actually had a chance to go to the playoffs that year, but after that 4 game sweep they went downhill. They weren’t really in Wild Card contention again until 2005. I have to say 2003 with the Expos, that has to be number one. Hearing the crowd sing “Valerie, Valera” – that was really fun to hear. The crowd really showed up at Olympic Stadium during that series. It was really great to see.
MB: What is the craziest thing you’ve seen a fan or player do while you’ve been covering the team?
BL: The craziest thing I saw was probably watching Frank Robinson and Mike Scioscia go at it in 2005. They were arguing over, I forget who the pitcher was, whether the ball was tainted. It was funny to see Mike Scioscia and Frank Robinson almost fight.
MB: What do you like to do when you are not writing about the Nationals?
BL: Ever since I was a little kid, music has been my thing. I’m a big fan of music in the 1960s and 1970s. When I get a chance, I play Otis Redding all the time. I’m a big Beach Boys fan. I’m into music big time. That’s what I do when I’m not covering a team or writing. That’s my favorite hobby.
MB: Who else on the Nats beat do you like to hang out with?
BL: My closest friend is Craig Heist, a radio personality in DC. He’s funny, we talk politics all the time. I’m a Democrat, he’s a diehard Republican. I like the way we go at it all the time. I get a kick on him getting angry when we talk about politics, I do get a kick out of that.
MB: Can you tell me something about yourself that people may not know?
BL: First of all, the one thing I’m glad about, I have my health. This is the first year I’ve been healthy for the first time since 2010. Dialysis has a lot to do with that, by the way. I hope one day to get a kidney transplant. I would say it was a great year because I didn’t have to miss work because of illness. It was the first time since 2010.
I really appreciate Bill taking time on his offseason to talk to me. You should read his blog All Nats All the Time, which is at http://therocket.mlblogs.com/ You can also follow him on Twitter @washingnats to get all the Nats hot stove news this winter from the official MLB.com beat reporter. Check back in on MattsBats.com soon, because I have a couple more really great Matt’s Bats Chats coming up, including my interviews with ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian and another kid blogger.