- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2006

Q: After last Saturday’s game, I saw Lou Piniella outside RFK. I’m sure he was there on behalf of Fox, but is there any chance he will be managing the Nationals next year? — Josh Evans

A: You weren’t the only one who noticed Piniella at RFK last weekend. It was hard not to notice when he emerged from the Nationals’ dugout with Jim Bowden and then watched batting practice alongside Bowden, Bob Boone and Frank Robinson.

Piniella insists he’s happy doing TV work and isn’t thinking about managing. Few are buying that line of thinking, but if he does return to the dugout it probably won’t be in Washington.

As much as Bowden loves his former manager from Cincinnati, Piniella has never been big on long-term rebuilding projects. Remember what happened in Tampa Bay? So with the Nationals heading in that direction, it appears more likely Piniella will be looking elsewhere.

Q: With the trade deadline about to pass, how does the Nationals’ minor league talent look? What are some names we should look for when rosters expand in September or for next spring? — Eric Stuart

A: Actually, Nationals fans already have seen most of what the farm system has to offer. Did you know the club already has promoted 19 players from Class AAA New Orleans this season (20 once Ryan Wagner arrives today)?

So there aren’t a whole lot of unseen entities down there waiting to get a look. Chances are you will see a few familiar faces once rosters expand on Sept. 1, but there could be a couple of newcomers.

First baseman Larry Broadway is hitting .300 at New Orleans and has been knocking on the door for some time. And outfielders Kory Casto and Frank Diaz are still at Class AA Harrisburg but could get their first taste of the big leagues before the season’s over.

Q: Who do we have to thank for the cartoon they put on the RFK scoreboard during games of Neil Diamond holding the Nationals logo? They put it up during “Sweet Caroline.” I think it’s pretty funny, and I want a T-shirt. — Jack Hughes

A: If by “pretty funny” you actually mean “pretty creepy.” Yikes. OK, OK, it is kind of funny.

More impressive is the way the Nationals have managed to create a few decent ballpark traditions in a short amount of time. Yes, the “Sweet Caroline” thing was stolen from Boston, but the locals seem to have latched onto it, so the Nationals might as well keep it at this point.

And the new live-action “Presidents Race” is a huge hit with fans, players and media members alike. Rumor has it they may let certain beat writers get into the costumes and run one of these days. (I’ll be the one moon-walking past the finish line.)

cSend your questions to [email protected]washingtontimes.com or go to washingtontimes.com/sports and click on the Nationals Mailbag logo. Please include your full name.

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