In turn I asked him five questions about the Nationals, here is what he had to say:
1. The Nationals should see an increase in revenue due to the new ownership group and eventually a stadium: will it be used to build up the farm system or is the team going the free agent route in order to improve?
New owners Ted and Mark Lerner, along with team President Stan Kasten, have said repeatedly that their first priority will be to re-build the farm system. That being said, it surprised me and many others when the trade deadline came and went with relatively little action. Now the team leadership is talking about re-signing Soriano. Obviously, a contract that large would really eat into payroll and would seemingly be at odds with the goal of improving from within. This will be THE story of the offseason for the Nats.
2. Is it a goal of the organization for the team to be competitive/contenders by the time they enter the new stadium?
Yes, definitely. That's been the impetus behind all of the "rebuild the farm team" talk. I personally have a hard time seeing the Nats contending before 2009 at the earliest. The new stadium is set to open in April 2008. That means that Kasten and GM Jim Bowden have to turn this thing around in 18 months, which seems quite unlikely.
3. Why wasn't Soriano traded?
Jim Bowden claims that he didn't like any of the offers that he was getting, and wasn't going to trade him just to trade him. My personal feeling is that Bowden wanted other teams to give up the kitchen sink, basically a team's top AA pitching prospects, for a two-month rental of Soriano. And Marlins fans know all too well what happens when you trade away prospects for pennant-winning rentals, right? ;-) Now we'll see if the Nats re-sign him or let him walk for two draft picks. I hope it's the latter.
4. Frank Robinson's contract will be up for renewal at the end of the season, in your opinion should it be renewed?
I'm ambivalent on Robinson's return. He's definitely a baseball legend and an experienced manager, and it's great to have a guy like him associated with the Nats. On the other hand, he criticizes his players in the media and has a tendency to overwork his pitching, and we get the sense that the players don't always enjoy playing for him. Jim Bowden has hired former Reds, Orioles and Dodgers manager Davey Johnson as a special consultant, and there is rampant speculation that Johnson will be tapped to replace Robinson at season's end. Personally, I think this is what will happen, and it might not be a bad thing for a rebuilding team.
5. What is the best food item at the RFK concession stands?
A timely question. When the new owners took over in July they installed a food court featuring some of the best of local D.C. restaurants. There's a barbecue stand that's pretty great, and I'm partial to the boneless chicken wings at Cluck U Chicken (yep, that's really what it's called). I've heard great things about the kosher stand, the brisket, and the chili as well.
Thank you Brandon for answering my questions.