Mailbag: Trade an investment in future

Mailbag: Deal makes sense in long-term

With the Nationals entering their sixth month of the 2006 season, a lot of baseball fans want to know about the team and its chances of getting better in the National League East.

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

Do you think trading Daryle Ward to the Braves was a good move? He was the best bench player of the team.
-- Alex C., Montreal

Some would argue that Marlon Anderson was the best bench player on the team. But to answer your question, I thought it was a good move because the Nationals want to stockpile the Minor Leagues with talented pitching prospects. The question is, how long will it take for Luis Atilano to recover from Tommy John elbow surgery? The Nationals feel he was worth the risk after talking to Dr. James Andrews, who performed the surgery.

I thought the knock on Bernie Castro was that he had no glove. He made several slick plays at second against the Phillies.
-- Rodney L. Whitlock, Washington, D.C.

Castro can catch the ball. It's just that his arm isn't very strong. He has problems turning the double play. Before games, third base coach Tony Beasley works with Castro on his footwork around the bag.

Do you think shortstop Felipe Lopez has measured up defensively?
-- Patrick B., Fairfax Station, Va.

I don't think he has measured up defensively. I believe Cristian Guzman is a better shortstop with the glove. I think Guzman also has better range. Lopez has made some weird errors since becoming a member of the Nationals. It will be interesting to see if the Nationals move Lopez to second base next season.

In your opinion, how did the farm system get so bad? It wasn't so long ago when people used to talk about the depth and talent the farm system contained.
-- Matt M., Winooski, Vt.

It started in 2002, with Omar Minaya, who traded players such as Jason Bay, Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee. I don't blame Minaya for this because he wanted to show that he could put a Major League team together. There's no doubt in my mind that Minaya was always going to be judged for what he did on the Major League side. Like Jim Bowden, Minaya wanted to win, and Minaya often took the risk and traded those Minor Leaguers for veteran players. For the most part, it didn't work out.

Are the Nationals sincere in their efforts to sign Alfonso Soriano to a long-term deal?
-- Rob S., Gaithersburg, Md.

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.
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Yes, the Nationals are sincere. But the question is, how serious is Alfonso Soriano when it comes to staying with the Nationals? I've always said the key is his agent, Diego Bentz, who also represents Vladimir Guerrero among other clients. I believe Bentz will play a huge role on where Soriano goes. I'm basing this on how the Guerrero situation was handled after the 2003 season. In that case, it appeared Bentz had a lot of say about where Guerrero ended up.

You cited a lack of leadership and accountability from the players as a reason why the team is in fifth place. At some point, doesn't manager Frank Robinson become accountable for the bad season?
-- John H., Sterling, Va.

There's no doubt Robinson and the coaching staff are being held accountable. But for once, I would like to see the players blame themselves for the bad season. One player, in fact, did that and it was Jose Vidro who said everyone, except for Soriano and Ryan Zimmerman, have not been doing the job.

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