Inbox: Is Dukes the Nats' best player?

Inbox: Is Dukes the Nats' best player?

Is Elijah Dukes the Nationals' best player? Will Lastings Milledge play center field for Washington again? Those are two of the many questions Nationals fans have been asking. Here are some answers to your queries.

Do you believe Dukes is the Nationals' best player?
-- John J., Washington

No, Ryan Zimmerman is the team's best all-around player. He can do it all -- run, hit and field. Zimmerman is so good that I believe he could go 30-30 (homers and steals) if he wanted to. Dukes can hit and run, but he is shaky at times in the outfield.

Do you think Milledge will ever play for the Nats again, or will he be traded? I would think Dukes is entrenched as the center fielder.
-- Dennis W., Silver Spring, Md.

This is a good question. I have thought long and hard about it, and I think Milledge will not play center field for the Nationals again because of his defensive shortcomings. However, I could see him playing corner positions. The problem is, who is he going to play over? Not Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns or Josh Willingham.

As far as Dukes goes, I don't see him entrenched as the center fielder. When it's all said and done, Justin Maxwell will be the guy because of his instincts in center field.

If Daniel Cabrera continues to be shaky, do you think the front office would be willing to see if Collin Balester could do a better job?
-- Bryan A., Fairfield, Conn.

Of the Minor League pitchers out there, the Nationals are keeping a close eye on right Craig Stammen, who is 3-1 with a 2.35 ERA for Triple-A Syracuse. I'm sure Balester will get a look, but he has to improve his numbers. He has a 5.26 ERA for Syracuse.

In the wake of recent closer woes, can you shed some light on why the Nationals got rid of Steven Shell?
-- Cordell F., Washington

The Nationals didn't believe Shell had the stuff to get people out on a consistent basis. A lot of people believe the season he had last year was a fluke.

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It was reported the Nats have interest in Pedro Martinez. If so, they should go after him.
-- Dennis W., Silver Spring, Md.

I don't see Martinez coming to the Nationals, because he wants too much money. It has been reported that he wants $5 million. Some people believe that he wants to be with a contender anyway.

I have been following the Nationals/Expos from the very beginning, and I like the young pitchers. I'm also confident that the Nationals will have 20-22 more wins this year than last. I know that sounds over the top, but I sincerely believe it.
-- Dan R., San Luis Obispo, Calif.

If you are around me, you would realize that I say a lot of things that are over the top. Remember, I was the one who believed the Nationals would win 90 games last year. Anyway, I agree that the Nationals should be better than what they are. They should be at least a .500 club.

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