Mailbag: Will Soriano change his mind?

Mailbag: Will Soriano change his mind?

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.

I think adding Davey Lopes and Mitchell Page to the coaching staff are excellent moves. Do you think they will change Alfonso Soriano's mind about playing the outfield?
-- Thom W., Alexandria, Va.

I think they will try to help Soriano change his mind about playing the outfield. However, I agree with Jose Vidro when he said the situation must be resolved before Spring Training starts. I think the onus is on general manager Jim Bowden and manager Frank Robinson to convince Soriano that he belongs out there. But they are not going to talk to Soriano about the position switch until his arbitration case is settled.

It's obvious that Soriano does not want to play the outfield. Has any Major Leaguer ever flat out refused to play a position?
-- Dustin C., North Hero, Vt.

The player that comes to mind for me is outfielder Amos Otis, who became a quality ballplayer with the Royals. He started his Major League career with the Mets, and they wanted him to be a third baseman. He refused to play the position and the Mets ended up trading him and pitcher Bob Johnson to the Royals for third baseman Joe Foy on Dec. 3, 1969.

The Nationals used 55 players last year, an unheard of amount. What are they doing to upgrade their conditioning and preventing these injuries in the future? -- Mike Z., Utica, N.Y.

It is Bowden's belief that lack of conditioning had nothing to do with the injuries last season. As he put it, there was no set pattern that caused the injuries. For example, Jose Guillen and Vidro were hurt sliding into home plate. Terrmel Sledge and Vinny Castilla were hurt trying to make defensive plays.

What is Tony Blanco's future with the Nationals?
-- Alex C., Montreal

I think Blanco is a long shot to make the 25-man roster this upcoming season. He needs to learn the strike zone and play much better defense. Last season, he was a Rule 5 Draft pick and he had to stay on the Major League roster or be sent back to the Reds.

What was the reason why the Nationals signed Nick Johnson to only a one-year deal?
-- Kevin F., McLean, Va.

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I have to believe that injures played a role in giving Johnson just a one-year deal. The last time Johnson was healthy for a full season was back in 1999, when he was in the Yankees' farm system.

What is the Nationals' stance on video scouting? It is my understanding that when they were in Montreal, they spent less than $10,000 on video equipment and personnel, which most probably had a lot to do with their misfortunes at the plate.
-- Adam O., Montreal

To be accurate, Adam, the Expos didn't spend any money on video scouting the last three seasons in Montreal. However, the Nationals used video scouting -- big time -- last season and hired Eddie Robinson as the video coordinator. Robinson thought having video equipment would help the team, especially in the hitting department, but it finished last in the Majors in offense.

Where does Alex Escobar fit into the Nationals' plans?
-- Matt, Colchester, Vt.

He's a long shot to make the Opening Day roster. I know general manager Jim Bowden loves Escobar's potential, but Escobar hasn't been the same player since he tore a ligament in his left knee in 2002.

Is Andre Dawson Hall of Fame material to you? How long do you think it will take him to go into Cooperstown?
-- James U., Glendale, Calif.

There's no question in my mind that Dawson belongs in the Hall of Fame. He was a complete player, and he did it with a bad knee his entire career. Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg said it best about Dawson: "He did it the right way, the natural way."

I know people who once worked in the Expos organization -- Jim Fanning, Mel Didier, who discovered Dawson, and Warren Cromartie -- who feel that Dawson should have went into the Hall of Fame before Gary Carter, and I agree with them.

Unfortunately, I don't see Dawson voted into Cooperstown anytime soon, because he will be facing some stiff competition in Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, Goose Gossage and Jim Rice. I think all four should go in before Dawson.

What hurt Dawson is that he stayed in the game as a player too long. He should have ended his career with the Cubs. He was playing on one leg with the Red Sox and Marlins.

Since Bowden believes in second chances, would he give Rafael Palmeiro a chance?
-- Richard F., Waynesboro, Va.

No, because Palmeiro is no more than a designated hitter. Besides, the team has Robert Fick to back up Johnson at first base, and don't forget their first baseman of the future, Larry Broadway. I wouldn't be surprised if Broadway is the Nationals' starting first baseman in 2007.

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