Although I like the outfield strengths, I think Adam Dunn, Elijah Dukes and Austin Kearns should be the starting outfielders. I know Lastings Milledge is starting in center, but the other three guys seem to be more of an offensive threat. What are your thoughts?
-- Don M., Charlottetown, Canada
Ladson: "I like Dunn, but I want to see Maxwell and Roger Bernadina as the other outfielders. I've often said this: I want to see the Nationals play the kids. Washington manager Manny Acta, acting general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten will disagree with me, but Maxwell and Bernadina are ready. They are better than some of the outfielders they have now."
What? Maxwell and Bernadina are older than Dukes and Milledge. I think the Nats need to step up soon, though and either trade somebody or send Milledge or Dukes down because it hurt their development to not play every day.
It's not a secret the Nationals are shopping Nick Johnson, but what are they looking for in return? And is Johnson concerned about this at all?
-- Philip G., Brandywine, Md.
Ladson: "The Nationals are looking for young starting pitching in return. As far as Johnson goes, he is not worried about being traded. All this guy wants to do is win. The Yankees spoiled him, and I can tell you he wants to win a World Series ring badly."
Works for me. I'd like for Johnson to stick around, but somebody needs to go.
I don't understand why right-hander Jason Bergmann wasn't given a shot to make the starting rotation this year?
-- Darren M., Fairfax, Va.
Ladson: "Contrary to what he thinks, Bergmann did not have a good year in 2008, and he should be considered a reliever. Just look at the numbers. I've often felt Bergmann has been in denial about the season he had. It doesn't help when a certain beat reporter tells him he should have won nine games if he had the offense and defense behind him. The record is right where it should be: 2-11 with a 5.09 ERA."
Contrary to what Ladson thinks, Bergmann is still probably the 3rd or 4th best ML-ready SP in our system. Nonetheless, he should have been given a spot on the ML roster as either a starter or reliever this year. FJB had a good take on this a few days ago.
With the Orioles letting him go, what is the Nationals' rationale in penciling Daniel Cabrera in the middle of their rotation, seemingly without any competition?
-- Jim S., Bethesda, Md.
Ladson: "It's about Cabrera's potential. This guy can throw gas and be unhittable. I think pitching coach Randy St. Claire can straighten him out. I want to see what Cabrera can do during the first half before I pass judgment."
I'm going to go out on a limb and say probably at least half of pitchers who have thrown in the majors can throw gas and be unhittable. That's very unscientific, but Cabrera has already had 5 years to prove his potential in the majors and has gotten worse as time has gone on.
With the relative success of rejuvenating pitchers, is there any possible interest in the Nationals acquiring Tigers left-hander Dontrelle Willis? With his stock so low right now, it seems he could be obtained for little in return and would be a low-risk investment with high-reward potential.
-- Cliff S., Springfield, Va.
Ladson: "You and I are on the same page. I think St. Claire could turn Willis around. Right now, Willis is on the disabled list, so let's see what the Tigers do once he comes off of it."
Dontrelle is a 180 from Cabrera-he had great success in the majors before blowing up in 2008. I think he can be a good ML pitcher again with the right mentor (St. Claire), but he's also apparently not all there mentally anymore. He's not worth the money at this point. If the Tigers released him and he could be acquired for next to nothing, sure, but I don't want Willis taking up 10% or more of the Nats' payroll.
Dmitri Young is several floors -- not a few steps -- below Johnson defensively. I still believe Ryan Zimmerman's throwing problems are a result of playing a year with Young at first base. When you know you have to throw a strike to first base, it puts a lot of undue pressure on you as a fielder. Also, Young is not a couple of steps above anyone as a first baseman.
-- Richard A., Annapolis, Md.
Ladson: "As far as Young goes, I've seen worse first basemen. Give Young a break. I agree he is not a Gold Glover out there, and he won't be at first base as long as Johnson is healthy."
No, Young is TERRIBLE defensively. You haven't seen worse first basemen except for maybe Adam Dunn, but at least he hits 40 homers.
Wow, Ladson was really off today, even more so than usual.