The Washington Times - June 29, 2009, 11:49AM

Sitting in the Washington Nationals dugout last week, I was trying to convince Willie Harris that right now he was the most popular National player among the fans.

He wasn’t buying it, but he is — just as he was last year.

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Fans appreciate Harris because he plays hard, plays the game right, and plays as if he is enjoying himself — all of which are true. There are other players who are more talented — and, overall, more well known, such as Ryan Zimmerman — but in the abyss the Nationals are in, the one shining star that makes fans smile is Willie Harris, who you could argue is not only the most popular play right now, but overall — offense, defense, baserunning — their best player.

“Wait until my bat gets going,” he said.

It’s going all right, as his average as risen from .217 on June 18 to .248, including a home run in Sunday’s win over the Orioles.

But this also illustrates the problem for this team. If Willie Harris is your most popular — and currently the best — player on the roster, then you have a problem. As much as Harris is fun to wafch, he is a role player, a contributor. He can’t be your go-to guy day in and day out, even though he is right now.

Then there is Austin Kearns, profiled by Ben Goessling in today’s Washington Times as pretty much untradeable, which is accurate. He is batting .197 and makes $8 million, with a $10 million option for next year that will cost any team who has him $1 million to get out of. So even if the Nationals were simply to cut Kearns lose and eat the remaining $4 million or so remaining on his salary this year, they would still have to suffer the insult of paying him another $1 million to get out of the $10 million committment.

Just another dead fish left in the safe deposit box to rot by former general manager Jim Bowden.

Radio

I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM Washington today (Monday) from 4 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m.

To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com