Mailbag: Time to move on at first base?

Mailbag: Time to move on at first?

The Nationals finished the 2008 season in fifth place with a 59-102 record, and fans want to know what Washington can do to get better next season. Here are more answers to their questions.

Don't you think it's time to move on at first base? Dating back to his days with the Yankees, Nick Johnson gets hurt every year. He's good when he does play, but you can't keep a player just for that reason.
-- Ed K., Harrisonburg, Va.

I'm really torn on this one, because Johnson is clearly one of the Nationals' best hitters. I say that because of his patience at the plate. Johnson also is pretty good with the glove. At the same time, I understand why Washington wasnts to acquire another first baseman. History shows a team can't rely on Johnson for a full season, and the club can't afford another injury-plagued season from him.

Any chance of the Nationals acquiring Adam Dunn?
-- Pam R., Cincinnati

I learned from a National League source on Sunday night that the Nationals have interest in Dunn. He can play first base and could be the left-handed power hitter they are looking for. It also helps that he has a .381 career on-base percentage.

If you were the general manager of the Nationals, what moves would you make?
-- Brian W., Washington, D.C.

I'll be honest about this: I would play almost nothing but the kids and let them grow in the Major Leagues, which is how the Twins went about it in the early 2000s. That turned out pretty well. If I'm going to acquire veteran players, they have to be teachers who are not worried about their stats.

I know it's hard to translate Minor League stats to the Major League level, but do you feel the Nats have any potential superstars in the Minors? I've seen Michael Burgess, Chris Marrero, Justin Maxwell and Roger Bernadina play, and I'm not really sold on any of them. All have talents but none seem to be franchise type players. May I have your thoughts?
-- Brandon P., Bethesda, Md.

I honestly can't answer your questions on Burgess and Marrero, because I haven't seen them enough. However, I don't see Maxwell or Bernadina as potential superstars. To reach that level, Maxwell has to hit for average and not get hurt every year. Bernadina has made tremendous progress as a hitter and is a good outfielder. Thus far, however, I can't sit here and say that he blew me away.

You've been covering the Nats/Expos for quite some time, so I figured I would show you my all-time Montreal lineup, since Washington hasn't been around long enough to have an all-franchise lineup. The Expos' all-time franchise lineup, to me, is: LF Tim Raines, 2B Jose Vidro, RF Vladimir Guerrero, CF Andre Dawson, C Gary Carter, SS Orlando Cabrera, 3B Tim Wallach and 1B Bob Bailey. What do you think?
-- Joseph M., Westwood, N.J.

I agree with you on every one except for the first baseman. It's a no brainer that the "Big Cat," Andres Galarraga, should be the first baseman and batting ahead of Cabrera and Wallach.

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What will the starting rotation look like next year?
-- Haley P., Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada

The only Nats hurler who's guaranteed a spot is left-hander John Lannan. I think we have to wait until Spring Training before we know who else will be in the rotation. I would like to see Washington pick up a power arm as well as a veteran who can teach the young pitchers how to win.

I read all of your mailbag questions, and none of your answers convince me that the Nationals will be any better next year. I like the coaching changes, however, the team is either full of young guys with potential or players who would be lucky to sit on the bench on any other club.
-- Alex L., New York

It's too early for me to tell how the Nationals will do in 2009. Be patient and ask me this same question after the Winter Meetings. I agree with you: I like the new coaching staff, especially the hiring of Rick Eckstein and Randy Knorr.

Have the Nats lost interest in left-hander Matt Chico? Where does he fit for 2009?
-- Bill N. Silver Spring, Md.

No, they haven't lost interest. Chico had reconstructive surgery on his left elbow and will not be ready for Spring Training. I'll be happy to see how he does by the All-Star break.

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