Mailbag: Robinson still the man in D.C?

Mailbag: Robinson still the man in D.C?

With the Nationals ending their first season in Washington with an 81-81 record, a lot of fans want to know about the team as the offseason continues.

Here are some answers to your questions. Keep those e-mails coming. Thanks a bunch.

Can the Nationals win with Frank Robinson as their manager?
-- Arthur R., Toronto

Arthur, I'm going to give you more than one answer to this question. Yes, I strongly believe the Nationals can win with Robinson as the manager, but he needs the personnel to win. There are still question marks about the starting pitching and the offense entering Spring Training.

At the same time, I think that Robinson needs to change some of his managerial philosophies. He sticks with slumping players too long. Last season, for example, Vinny Castilla, Cristian Guzman, Preston Wilson and Brad Wilkerson should have been benched for a period of time because they were hurting the team during the second half. Robinson would always say that he was loyal to the people who helped the team enter first place in the first half. But that loyalty cost the Nationals quite a few ballgames after the All-Star break.

I also feel that Robinson needs to sometimes revert to being the type of person that reamed out Giants pitcher Jim Barr, who showed up Robinson at Shea Stadium in the early 1980s. There were times last year I felt some of the players needed a tongue-lashing for the way they played on the field. For example, it made no sense that Castilla was doubled off first base twice on long fly balls to center field.

Who are the possible candidates to be on the coaching staff in 2006?
-- Craig R., Long Island, N.Y.

Robinson and general manager Jim Bowden are trying their best to keep this quiet. I expect them to have debates for quite a while before a decision is made. Bowden said he is looking for high-energy coaches, and I have to believe that Jose Cardenal, Jose Rijo, Wendell Kim, Mitchell Page and Tim Foli are candidates, because they fit that profile.

Robinson loves to promote from within the organization, so it would be interesting to see if a person like infield coordinator Jose Alguacil will get a shot at the big-league level. He was with the team during September and was working hard with Ryan Zimmerman and Rick Short on their fielding skills.

With Alfonso Soriano saying he wants to return to the American League after the 2006 season, do you see the Nationals trading him for pitching or hitting?
-- Dan H., Rockville, Md.

According to a source, the Nationals offered Soriano to the Orioles for shortstop Miguel Tejada and to the Red Sox for right-hander Josh Beckett, but the parties couldn't agree on a deal.

I don't see the Nationals trading Soriano at this time, but if they are out of the race by June, they would likely deal Soriano for some prospects, who are needed for the farm system.

I also think it's premature to react to Soriano's comments. Let see how he responds to Robinson and playing the outfield before we pass judgment.

If Guzman doesn't break out of his year-long slump during Spring Training, do you expect Bowden to make a move for another starting shortstop?
-- Thomas B., Falls Church, Va.

I don't think the Nationals are going to be that impatient with Guzman during Spring Training. I think Guzman will be judged on his performance during the regular season. I don't see the Nationals trying to get a shortstop anytime soon to replace Guzman.

Do you think it is possible Tyrell Godwin could become an everyday player for the Nationals?
-- Mary K., Elizabethtown, Pa.

Mary, that is a great question, because nobody has really talked about him being a candidate for the leadoff spot. Godwin did have a solid Minor League season for Triple-A New Orleans. However, he is a long shot to make the team. According to people who have watched him play, he needs work on his baserunning and fielding skills. He was prone to making a lot of mistakes in those departments.

Have a question about the Nationals?
Bill LadsonE-mail your query to Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
First Name, Last Initial:


Email Address:


Is anyone in the Nationals organization looking at free agent Jeff Weaver? Would he be a good No. 3 starter at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium?
-- Jose N., Washington

The Nationals would love to have Weaver on their team, but his asking price is too high. There are reports that Weaver is talking to the Angels about a contract.

With regards to the Ryan Church vs. Brandon Watson debate, are the Nationals focusing too much on finding a leadoff hitter who can play center field rather than finding the best possible center fielder? While Church is not a prototypical leadoff hitter, he is a better defensive center fielder than Watson and he has a good bat for the middle of the order.
-- Brian O., Alexandria, Va.

Your evaluation of Church is correct, but I think they are looking for a leadoff hitter who can play center field. They are looking for a person who can get on base, steal and score a lot of runs. This organization hasn't had that true leadoff hitter since Marquis Grissom left the Expos after the 1994 season.

While Church is the more proven player, the Nationals are hoping that Watson can answer their problems at the top of the order. I think it's too early to judge Watson. He really wasn't given a chance to prove what he can do in the big leagues. Let's see him play for two straight weeks before we pass judgment.

How is Nick Johnson doing? Do you think 2006 will be a good year for Nick?
-- Alex A., Fairfax Station, Va.

Johnson's right heel is expected to be 100 percent by Spring Training, and I expect him to have a solid season. I look for him to hit .290 with 20 home runs, 100 RBIs, 100 walks and 15 stolen bases, provided, of course, that he stays healthy.

Will Chad Cordero be able to repeat what he did last year as a closer?
-- Philip G., Brandywine, Del.

It would be hard to ask Cordero to save 47 games again, but I see him having another solid season. The biggest concern that I have is, can Cordero pitch another 74 games in 2006? His arm was tired at the end of the season.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.