08/25/08 2:59 PM ET
Mailbag: Will the Nats re-sign Harris?
Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers questions from fans
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
Why send Kory Casto to the Minor Leagues when more than half of the team is struggling? Let him figure it out like the rest of the players are doing.
-- Aaron P., Minneapolis
I received a lot of e-mails about this demotion. Casto is a guy who has been the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year twice. Casto set the bar high and the Nationals expected more out of him -- they don't want a singles hitter who goes to left field too often. They want a power hitter who draws a lot of walks. Let's not forget that Ronnie Belliard is swinging a hot bat and deserves to play.
I read that the Nationals decided not to sign first-round Draft pick Aaron Crow over a difference of less than a $1 million. For a team that emphasizes building their farm system, isn't this move a bit hypocritical?
-- Pat R. Oakton, Va.
This a tough question, because there are two sides to this Crow story and you really don't know who to believe. I personally don't think it's the end of the world that Crow wasn't signed. Let's see how he does in independent ball. The Nationals have a chance to draft him next year.
I really do feel for you. Any team that loses 12 straight games has more than just injury problems. The Nationals' manager -- Manny Acta -- can't play small ball and I don't like Jim Bowden. He reminds me a lot of Jim Beattie. Hang in there.
-- Scott S., Halifax, Va.
Thanks for showing your concern for me, but the Nationals' poor season has no effect on me. I'm not the one losing games.
I will stand by what I said about Bowden. I want to see him spend $80 to $100 million before I pass judgment of him as a GM. When you have a low Major League payroll, you have to cut corners and that's what Bowden has had to do since he has been with the Nationals. I will never fault him for that. Remember, he is not the one determining the Major League payroll.
I think when all is said and done, Acta will be a great manager. I think all he needs is to have the horses to win games. Acta and I will always agree to disagree with some of his in-game managing. In my opinion, he does wait for the three-run homer too much instead of giving opposing teams the element of surprise. For example, I will always believe that Ryan Zimmerman should bunt and steal bases often.
The Rays have gone from worst to first with Joe Maddon's no-nonsense approach. Shouldn't the Nationals take note? Isn't a taskmaster needed?
-- John S., Alexandria, Va.
There's no question the Nationals should take note of the success of the Rays, who have proven that pitching, defense and great attitudes win games. I have always been a fan of managers being taskmasters (See Billy Martin, Buck Showalter and Gil Hodges), but Acta believes that yelling at players doesn't work in the long run. He believes they will eventually tune the skipper out.
At this point in the season, on a scale from A-F, how would you rate the performance of Jesus Flores? Please rate his defense and offense.
-- Jason H., Rockwood, Tenn.
I would give Flores a B+ for his offense. I think no one expected him to be the team leader in RBIs. As far as his defense goes, I would give him a B. Acta hardly ever complains about what he does behind the plate.
Will Adam Dunn be headed for D.C.? We know Bowden loves Reds players he once drafted and traded for. The Nats need a huge power bat and Dunn could fill that void.
-- Chad B., Hitchins Ky.
They need a power hitter in the worst way, but I don't think Dunn is the answer. He strikes out too much and he is a below-average defensive player. It's time for the Nationals to acquire complete players. If they were to sign Dunn, you might as well bring Dave Kingman out of retirement, because they are the same player.
I really believe that Nick Johnson should call it quits. He has spent more time on the DL than in the field. At his age, things aren't going to get any better.
-- Jorge, Springfield, Va.
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I wouldn't go that far. I believe Johnson has a lot left in him, but at the same time, the Nationals need to protect themselves by getting a first baseman this offseason. I agree, he gets hurt often.
Will the Nats re-sign Willie Harris? He's been extraordinarily useful and I also like his attitude.
-- Richard M., Lexington, Va.
The last I heard was that the two parties were talking about a contract, but they are not close to a deal. Don't forget that Harris is eligible for arbitration, so the two parties could possibly settle their contract issues that way.
It doesn't take rocket science to determine that the Nats just can't hit. Is Lenny Harris the best hitting instructor available? Have the Nationals talked to Paul Molitor? He comes highly recommended -- 3,319 hits.
-- J.W., Springfield, Va.
I understand your frustration. In terms of Harris, I'm sure members of the "think tank" are evaluating him on a daily basis. If they were to let Harris go, I don't think they have to go outside and hire a guy like Molitor. There is a guy named Rick Eckstein, who is highly respected in the organization. He is a hitting coach in Triple-A Columbus.