With the 2007 season growing ever closer, 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.
What's your take on manager Manny Acta reaching out to Ryan Church? It sure doesn't sound like he wants Church traded, nor does it sound like Church will be a backup outfielder. -- Teresa E., Washington, D.C.
I thought it was Acta's way of showing Church that he has confidence in him. With Acta on board, it is a fresh start for Church, and Acta said that Church will get every chance to win a starting job.
I don't know why you are amazed about the overwhelming support for Church, one of the best but most mishandled players on the team. It will be to his benefit to be traded from a team that doesn't respect him, don't you think?
-- Earl B., Sebring, Fla.
I think you are wrong when you say Church was mishandled. It's unfortunate that he slumped at the wrong time last season, and it cost him two trips to the Minor Leagues. And I also think it's wrong to say that the Nationals don't respect him. It was general manager Jim Bowden who compared Church with Jim Edmonds as a hitter.
A number of readers wrote in to address Church.
You're not the only one surprised with how much support Church has received. It's quite amazing for someone who is currently a .269 career hitter with only 20 homers and 146 strikeouts. He's roughly striking out once every 3.5 at-bats, as opposed to players like Nick Johnson or Ryan Zimmerman, who are up at around a strikeout every five at-bats. Now I, of course, understand that he's young, and stats don't always tell the whole story.
I'm hardly against Church, and I hope he does turn into a great ballplayer. However, something just doesn't seem right with him. I just thought that some of us agree with you as well.
-- Jonny N., Falls Church, Va.
I don't understand all of this support for Church. Yes, he has shown some bright spots with the bat, but he can't hit breaking balls on the outside of the plate. I saw him strike out multiple times on two-strike breaking balls in the dirt last year, and he isn't anything special with the glove. I feel left field should belong to Kory Casto.
-- Aaron B., Alexandria, Va.
It seems that Nationals fans have been divided into two camps -- the "pro-planners" and the "anti-planners." The pro-planners are satisfied with the Nationals' efforts to date, whereas the "anti-planners" believe that the team can restock the farm system while signing free agents for the here and now. Do you believe that the Nationals should split their resources and attempt to build for today as well as tomorrow?
-- Farid R., Pocatello, Id.
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E-mail your query to MLB.com Nationals beat reporter Bill Ladson for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
The answer is no. For two years, the Nationals went with veterans, and it didn't work out. In fact, the team has two fifth-place finishes to show for it. I think it's time to play such young players as Casto and Larry Broadway. I applaud the Nationals for not spending money on mediocre players this offseason.
Will Acta be as generous and patient as Frank Robinson was with Cristian Guzman if Guzman has another rough year at the plate?
-- Matt D., Montreal
Matt, I hope not. It's too early, but I expect Acta to have a backup plan in case Guzman doesn't work out at shortstop. The Nationals had a backup plan in 2005, it's just that Jamey Carroll didn't get a chance to be the everyday shortstop.
What role, if any, do you expect Robinson to be offered in the Nationals organization?
-- Tim M., Annandale, Va.
It's hard to say. Team president Stan Kasten said a few weeks ago that the Nationals would talk about Robinson's role sometime in January.
In the last mailbag, you gave us your prediction on the starting rotation. How about your prediction on who will be in the bullpen?
-- Josh G., Oklahoma
For now, provided that no one is traded, the bullpen will be Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, Ryan Wagner, Luis Ayala, Saul Rivera, Micah Bowie and Chris Booker.
Lately, in several of your mailbags, you have been answering questions about the Nationals' starting rotation. What are your thoughts about Beltran Perez being in the rotation?
-- Ryan S., Millersville, Md.
Perez has earned a shot to make the rotation. If September was any indication, he could be one of the mainstays on the staff. When I made my early prediction last week, I should have put Perez in the rotation over Mike O'Connor or Shawn Hill.
What, if any, do the Nationals have as far as left-handed relievers go?
-- Jeff G., Lancaster, Pa.
Bowie will most likely will be one of the lefties out of the bullpen. He was outstanding before he strained a muscle behind his left shoulder, which put him out for the season. Acta has said that he would like to have a second lefty in the bullpen. Who that will be? It's too early to tell.
My daughter, who is a Nationals fan, asked me a question and I didn't have an answer: Who was the highest-paid player on the team last year?
-- Mackenzie P., Washington, D.C.
Alfonso Soriano was the highest paid, at $10 million.
I read that the Nats are looking for backup middle infielders, so why on earth won't they consider giving Rick Short another shot? All the guy did when he was up last time was hit.
-- Andrew S., Leesburg, Va.
That's what Marlon Anderson and Daryle Ward did as well, but none of them was very good defensively, and the Nationals need to improve in that department this offseason.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.