- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006

Q: I was absolutely stunned the Nationals extended Nick Johnson’s contract (during spring training) for three more years. This guy is injury prone. Why not trade him while you can still get some value for him and turn first base over to Larry Broadway, who is having a monster season at Class AAA New Orleans? Jim Storey

A: There are certainly those who share your beliefs on this subject, given Johnson’s injury history (not to mention Broadway’s .311 average at New Orleans). And I don’t believe he’s untouchable heading into the July 31 trade deadline. Ryan Zimmerman is the only player the Nationals would refuse to deal.

That said, it’s not time to give up on Johnson. The guy is on pace to hit .302 with 25 homers, 68 RBI and 101 runs this season, and he’s missed only five games with a lower back strain. Plus, he plays a standout first base and is signed for relatively cheap numbers ($5.5 million a year starting in 2007).

The Nationals do, however, need to make a decision shortly on their long-term plan at first base. Broadway appears to be ready for the big leagues, and neither he nor Johnson can play another position. So it would be good for the club to trade one of the two, using this rare excess at one position to help fill the void at another.

Q: What does it say that Camden Yards was almost sold out for last weekend’s series against the Nationals, while the Nationals struggled to fill seats at RFK when the O’s were here? — Rich Mintz

A: I wouldn’t read a whole lot into that, really. Why? Because it would have been a miracle had the Nationals drawn more fans than the Orioles.

The three-game series at RFK came in May — before school let out — in a dilapidated ballpark and managed to draw 95,000 fans. The three-game series at Camden Yards came in late June in one of the majors’ best ballparks, included a Friday night sellout that happened to coincide with a postgame fireworks show and college night and totaled 112,000.

Let’s see how the attendance compares in 2008 once the Nationals’ new stadium opens.

Q: I’m a transplanted Washingtonian living in Carlisle, Pa. I’m very frustrated with this Nationals-Comcast-MASN-Orioles television debacle. Last season I could at least watch the Nationals on the Internet. This season I’m blacked out completely. Can you give me any words of encouragement on the Nationals’ television situation? — Gary Patterson

A: Ah, Carlisle, long lost home of Redskins training camp and late-night meals at the Gingerbread Man. …

But anyway, not much news to offer on this front, other than to reiterate what new team president Stan Kasten says: The TV situation is unacceptable, and it will be resolved.

If it’s any consolation — and I’m sure it’s not — Nationals fans aren’t the only ones suffering from Internet blackouts. That has nothing to do with MASN or Comcast. That has to do with MLB’s crazy blackout system, one that affects every region of the country. For example, if you live in Iowa, more than 200 miles from any major league stadium, there are still six teams blacked out in your town: the Cubs, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals and Royals.

Talk about unfair.

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

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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