Washington Nationals: ESPN’s Buster Olney talks Dodgers/Nats


ESPN’s baseball guru chats about Trea Turner, Dusty Baker, Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals playoff chances.

District on Deck—FanSided’s home for Washington Nationals coverage—had the chance to sit down with ESPN’s Buster Olney Friday afternoon.

Olney will be the sideline reporter as ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball is in town for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Nats game this week at 8:00 Eastern. Joining him on the broadcast will be Dan Shulman on play-by-play with analysts Aaron Boone and Jessica Mendoza.

Unfortunately, the audio from our chat is missing. So, unlike our other visits with ESPN’s crew, everything here is paraphrased.

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Olney is excited to see Cody Bellinger and Trea Turner face off against each other. Bellinger grew up in the spotlight of the majors as his father Clay played for the New York Yankees and Anaheim Angels while Cody was a toddler. Those early experiences prepared him for what is going through now.

As for Turner, Olney suggested he has a “baserunners arrogance.” Not in a bad way, but behind the quiet and shy personality lies a man confident in his abilities. He compared Turner to Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton and Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts. Players comfortable with their game and can withstand bad ones.

He said Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout was from the same mold.

Olney thinks the Nats are the biggest threat to the Dodgers winning the National League although he is impressed with how well the Arizona Diamondbacks are playing as of late. In the jumbled race for NL MVP, he likes Anthony Rendon, but strong years from Giancarlo Stanton, Charlie Blackmon and Paul Goldschmidt have cases too.

He feels Max Scherzer will win another Cy Young award.

When asked about Bryce Harper’s return, he compared the situation to Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs last year in the World Series. The key to Harper’s success is getting the swing timing back to normal. The Nats will bring live pitchers up from Florida so Harper can grab around 15 simulated at-bats a day during his rehab.

If you are wondering about whether Dusty Baker returns next year, Olney thinks he will. But, the terms will take work to settle. There will be genuine give and take.

There is genuine affection for Baker from his players similar to Bobby Cox from the Atlanta Braves and Joe Torre during his tenure with the New York Yankees. When Olney visited the new Nats Spring Training home in West Palm Beach, he found Baker and Harper talking in the manager’s office with the conversation mainly focused away from the game.

Familiar with the anxiety of Nats fans from past October, he feels the difference this time is a healthy Stephen Strasburg. Olney pointed out Strasburg was one of the first players coming out of the Nats dugout to greet the fans who stayed after Washington clinched the division Sunday. Strasburg, a private person, would not have been out so early in the past and Olney enjoyed the enthusiasm of the pitcher.

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Although the Nats catching the Dodgers for the best NL record is harder after Friday’s loss, you can catch Strasburg’s next start Sunday night only on ESPN, preceded by Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown with Karl Ravech, David Ross and Tim Kurkjian at 7:00 Eastern.