The game itself was actually pretty good. It was a quick one and our pitchers were excellent. I was very impressed with Balester, Mock and Hanrahan (and, even though he came out unscathed, I remain skeptical about Charlie Manning). Too bad our offense is awful and we've got Zimmerman making excellent baserunning decisions...NOT!
I think this is interesting: Paul Lo Duca thinks his value is lower because he's not catching. That's pretty obvious I suppose, but it's also obvious that Lo Duca is the 3rd best catcher on the team and Jesus Flores should not EVER be benched again for the sake of "showcasing" a lousy player behind him (a la last week and the Johnny Estrada dealio).
And now it's mailbag time!
Right-hander Jon Rauch has been my favorite player since the Expos acquired him in 2004. Do you think it was good to trade Rauch to the Diamondbacks for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio?
-- Ben F., Suffolk, Va.
No. I tried to rationalize it for a while, but it simply wasn't a great trade for the Nats. Now that being said it could end up being a win for the team, but Rauch is worth more than Bonifacio. They should have (and definitely could have) gotten more than Emilio.
How could the Nats trade away such a valuable player in Rauch? He's clearly been their most consistent pitcher. I'm very disappointed in this trade, as I'm sure many others are, too.
-- Steve O., Montreal
Wookie had a good run in DC, but a 29-year-old closer on one of the worst teams in baseball is as useful as a cow on roller skates. We're building for the future and Rauch probably wasn't going to be part of it. But, like I said, we should have gotten more for him. Bowden's mistake.
What is going on with the Nationals' bullpen? It was advertised as the team's strength and hasn't performed as such. Is it because Chad Cordero went down with a shoulder injury?
-- Lee H., Silver Spring, Md.
The bullpen had 3 solid guys up until the Rauch trade in him, Rivera and Hanrahan. Now we're down to two. Counting on Colome to be effective was not smart, as he simply has never been an incredibly solid reliever. Last year's 3.82 ERA was a fluke. I have no idea what's up with Ayala, but unlike Colome, we didn't see that coming. His lowest ERA EVER was 3.19 last year and that was coming off of Tommy John surgery. Hopefully he'll bounce back and be a solid setup guy next year. Shell has been fine, Manning has been unpredictable, Sanches was uninspiring...and the Chief is hurt. But then again, middle relievers are the most unpredictable players in all of baseball. There's no sense putting faith into them.
Are there any middle infielders in the system who are close to being the big leagues?
-- Michael P., Minneapolis, Minn.
Bonifacio is the only one. Leonard Davis played 20 games at 2B last year in A ball, but he's really a 3B/OF type and Seth Bynum is doing damage in AA at the ripe age of 27. Desmond is in AA and COULD be up at some point next year. I doubt it, though, unless things start clicking. If the Nats sign 3rd rounder Danny Espinoza soon, the answer might be different.
I was so excited when the Nationals acquired Elijah Dukes from the Rays. How has he been so far?
-- J.P., Fairfax, Va.
Besides being injured, he's an absolute manchild. He's hitting .263/.367/.434 for the season, but
is hitting .302/.400/.497 since May 21, where he turned his season around after an awful 1-26 start to the year. He is a future MVP candidate and maybe even a future HOF guy. All he has to do is keep his emotions and actions in check (something I'm becoming progressively more confident in). He'll grow up eventually, and grow up into a heck of a ballplayer.
With the Nats' inability to generate offense, has there been any mention of replacing Lenny Harris as hitting coach? I believe they were better offensively under Mitchell Page.
-- Tim H., Lorton, Va.
It appears to me that the team needs to change the manager. Manny Acta doesn't really appear to make tough decisions, especially at critical parts of a game. Appreciate your thoughts.
-- Phil P., Falls Church, Va.
Sometimes I question Manny's lineup making skills, but for the most part, he's a great manager. He runs the team remarkably well considering how bad they are. When it comes to starting certain guys and putting certain relievers in at key points, you often have to wonder how much pressure the FO is putting on him to play guys like Lopez, Lo Duca, etc.