Back by popular demand, The Nationals Enquirer answers the Nationals dot com mailbag. The correct answers were posted yesterday on Nationals dot com; now we'll give it a shot.
I'm curious to know your gut feeling as to whether you think this year's team will be stronger than last year's. -- D.R., Chico, Calif.
My gut feeling tells me that when you add it all up, this year's model is about the same as last year's. The bullpen will be solid; the rotation is a question mark. The bench is better; but there's still no answer to the question of who will bat leadoff, etc. etc. We're probably talking about a .500 team. The good news is that they won't finish in last in the NL East; that role will be reserved for the slashed-and-burned Florida Marlins, who don't even slightly resemble the team that took the field last year to open the season. But the bad news is that they'll probably spend most of the season looking up at New York and Atlanta, and battling Philadelphia for third place.
I don't understand why the Nationals have been so critical of Ryan Church. He's done nothing but play well. I know they were upset that Church didn't play through the toe injury, but I don't see how making their displeasure so public can help his confidence at all. -- J., Frederick, Md.
How will being in the World Baseball Classic affect Chad Cordero and Brian Schneider with the Nationals? -- W.G., Arlington, Va.
It can't help, that's for sure.
Reliever Joe Horgan pitched well when he came up in 2004. Last year, he wasn't so good. What is Horgan's status for 2006? -- R.S., Richland, Wash.
The last we heard, he was still hosting Fear Factor.
Should the Nationals trade Alfonso Soriano for a good starting pitcher? He hasn't played one game for the team and he's already saying that he's not playing in the outfield. -- S.P., Rimouski, Canada
Shhh...Don't tell anyone, but I actually like the Soriano for Wilkerson +2 deal. I know I shouldn't; everywhere you turn, someone else is calling this the worst move of the offseason. I've probably said it once or twice here myself. One SI columnist described Soriano as "a skinny Dave Kingman with wheels," which is at first glance pretty funny, but then when you think about it for a second, a fairly apt description. Stat freaks have their collective pocket protectors in a bunch over the trade, all the people who loved Brad Wilkerson's game (count me out) are still crying over his departure, and I'm sure there's someone out there who can make an argument that throwing in Termell Sledge and Armando Galarraga to complete the deal makes this one of the worst move in the history of bad offseason moves. But for whatever reason, I'm optimistic that Frank will be able to work out the Soriano-Vidro problem. And I'm optimistic that Soriano is going to have a huge year (and yes, I've looked at his road numbers). Just a gut feeling. Take it or leave it.
But yeah, sure, back to your question: if a good starting pitcher comes available, should the Nats trade Soriano? Absolutely.
If the Nationals don't re-sign Nick Johnson to a multiyear deal, who will be Washington's starting first baseman of the future? -- F.M., Reston, Va.
Do you think the Nationals will carry 11 or 12 pitchers? It seems with their improved bench, 11 would make more sense. -- S.C., Syracuse, N.Y.
No idea what they will do, but I think the team should carry a dozen.
Who is your all-time favorite Expo? -- G., Avon, Ind.
With an organization that is short on pitching, how could the Nationals lose Darrell Rasner on waivers? -- J.S., Perth, Ontario
I put in a call to Jim Bowden about this, but he never called back.
I know many believe that Sammy Sosa is washed up, but is it really fair to only offer him a $500,000 non-guaranteed contract, which is less than what Marlon Byrd makes? -- D.C., Nova Scotia, Canada
Yes, it is fair. Really fair.
(all questions taken from The Washington Nationals Official Website)