- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Q: I agree with the Lerners about the way they are going about the farm system and player development, but they are making a horrible mistake by not signing free agents next year. The Nationals are a really good team that is a few players short of being one of baseball’s top teams and a World Series winner. (They are much better than how they are playing now.) They can compete now and build for the future at the same time. The fans of Washington deserve this. Don’t get me wrong: If we had a team like the Royals, then I would agree not to spend. What do you think? — Pete Gamboa

A: Sorry, but I have to disagree with you on this one. The Nationals are not one or two players short of competing for the World Series. They have a pitching staff full of holes and long-term question marks at shortstop and all three outfield positions (assuming Alfonso Soriano and Jose Guillen aren’t back in 2007).

The only way this organization truly can contend for a title is by building from within for the long haul. That’s not to say the new owners shouldn’t spend a little money wisely to plug a couple of immediate gaps, but the last thing they should do right now is go on a Dan Snyder spending spree in an attempt to win it all now.

Q: In its previous incarnation, RFK was not known as a pitcher’s park. Have home runs declined (compared to league average) in this park compared to 30 years ago? — Dale Matthews

A: I don’t have hard numbers from the old days to compare, but I can say this: RFK is a bigger park than it was back in the 1960s. The dimensions listed on the fence may be the same, but the distances sure aren’t. Remember, the true distances to the gaps (listed as 380 feet) are really more like 395 feet. That’s a huge difference and is reason No.1 why RFK is such a tough home-run hitter’s park in its current incarnation.

Q: I’ve been to two games this season, and I’m curious to know why the Nationals have stopped playing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” in the sixth inning? Patti Shea

A: While “Sweet Caroline” might have been popular with fans, it was kind of a cheap ripoff on the Nationals’ part. The Red Sox were the first ones to play the song during games at Fenway Park, and someone copied the idea. They may finally have realized that and decided to stop playing it.

Seems like the Nationals need to create their own tradition with an original song. Any suggestions?

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

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