Tuesday, February 15, 2005

'Tis mailbag time

Wild Bill Ladson's mailbag, that is

Nothing much happening, really. But I think the questions were rather insightful, as they were (apparently) motivated by gaining a deeper knowledge of a muddled February roster and perhaps by shedding light on some organizational philosophies. For example:

---The fill-in starter: This is a question I've been wondering; what's the pecking order among the unfortunate unrequited starter prospects, especially after Loiaza took the fifth (or fourth, depending on your perspective). Ladson apparently hasn't asked F-Robby about this, but I think he surmises correctly that Rauch should have the first clear shot. I am a little surprised, though, that Ladson didn't mention the possibility---which has been reported of late---that Day might go to the 'pen.

---Hammonds' chances to make the team: I would consider this a reasonable question, too, considering he was brought in as a possible Proven Veteran(tm) fill-in, credentials Ladson supplies in his response. Surprisingly, Ladson didn't mention Alex Escobar, who was just acquired and presumably makes the outfield picture even more muddled; I'm guessing Hammonds will have to set the world on fire this spring to break camp now.

---Nationals improved?: Okay, this question is rather broad, though in light of recent articles (such as Dave Sheinen's "get ready for the cellar" preview in the Post) that have chronicled the apparent rise of the NL East rivals, this is probably an important question to place in context. It is possible for the team to improve (that is, move toward an articulated goal) yet not improve much or at all in the standings. We might be looking at that situation, though I wouldn't rule out 75-80 wins, certainly.

---J.J. Davis' chances to make the team?: Ladson hits the high points here (weaknesses; change of scenery; Robinson likes him, which is important) but doesn't address the broader issue, which is "Man, this team has a lot of outfield candidates!" I know that's why we have Spring Training, to sort this stuff out, but it would have made sense for Ladson to address how Davis' chances are linked to his performance and the performance of several other players.

---How will Nationals draft in June?: I suspect that Graeme H. (Lloyd?) wanted to know a little more. That is, perhaps, a) will they select based on signability; b) will they focus on high school or college talent; c) will they draft based on need or tools---stuff like that. Ladson addresses the third possible question somewhat, but I think the signability issue is as important. In Ladson's defense, though, he doesn't even know if Bowden's going to be around or have much influence, even come June.

Overall, look, several Nats bloggers---including me---have thrashed the Ladson mailbags on occasion (or hell, every chance we've had). But they're getting better. The questions are becoming more insightful. Ladson's responses still lack a certain depth (he might as well answer the question, right?), but he's not replying with platitudes anymore and he is obviously handcuffed to a certain extent by the unusual organization situation. They've certainly been worth reading the past couple times, though. That's improvement.

I am certainly not suggesting even an inch that our criticism had any effect; I'm quite certain he's never heard of some guy from 100 miles away who calls himself the "Nationals Inquirer," for instance. But we will be referring to the Nats' website quite a lot, I imagine, and it is a positive development that Ladson appears to be growing into his role (as are the readers).

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