Team president Stan Kasten took responsibility for the decision. Robinson has not decided whether he will perform those Spring Training duties for Washington.
"All of us have so much respect for Frank, but, on balance given the changes we are making looking forward, we concluded that was the best way to proceed going forward," Kasten said. "I will be reluctant to talk about any specifics and here's why: If I said 25 things that praise Frank and offer one that criticizes him, all I will hear about is the one thing I said that could be made or interpreted to be critical of Frank. I will never do that."
Asked why it took so long to make a decision on Robinson when he could have looked for jobs in other organizations, Kasten said: "He was always free to do whatever he chooses to do. It took so long because we were thinking about it that long. We were considering the best decision. During the offseason, things are happening. ... As soon as we decided this, the first thing we did was call Frank."
Robinson was hoping to manage the Nationals for another three years, but a second-half collapse in 2005 -- after being in first place before the All-Star break -- a subpar season in 2006 and questions about the way he prepared his teams for games made him fall out of favor with the front office.
The Nationals are tentatively planning to have a Frank Robinson Day on May 20, when they play the Orioles at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The team is not planning to retire his No. 20.
Outside of the U.S.: The Nationals continue to have an impact in the Dominican Republic. After conducting an invitation-only tryout last month at their academy in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, the club has signed pitchers Randy Almonte, Marcos Frias and Francisco Vizcaino and catcher Ricardo Martinez.
Almonte and Frias are expected to get invitations to Spring Training, while Vizcaino and Martinez are expected to start in the Dominican Summer League.
Almonte, 17, is a 6-foot-6 left-hander and has a fastball that has been clocked in the high-80s and low-90s.
Frias, 18, is right-hander who throws a heavy sinker and has a fastball that gets up to 92 mph.
According to director of amateur scouting Dana Brown, the left-handed Vizcaino, 18, has a "good feel for pitching and has a good changeup."
Martinez, also 18, has a strong arm and is considered a good contact hitter.
"These guys are Major League caliber prospects, especially when you need a left-handed pitcher," Brown said. "Almonte has a chance to pitch in the rotation."
During the previous five years, the Nationals/Expos didn't have a budget to sign talented players outside the United States. Now, with ownership in place, the Nats are working quickly to sign the best players around the world.
"We want to be known as the leader in Latin America, with African-Americans, Caucasians, everybody. We want to be diverse. We are being very aggressive," general manager Jim Bowden said. "We have a strong presence between [manager] Manny Acta and [special assistant to the general manager] Jose Rijo. Dana's reputation is growing down there, [and assistant general manager] Mike Rizzo has a good reputation down there. We are very powerful as far as drawing young players."
Man in the middle: Citing a need to improve the defense, which was one of the worst in the National League [in 2006], Acta said that Nook Logan will enter Spring Training as the everyday center fielder. Logan was a pleasant surprise after he was acquired from the Tigers on Sept. 1. He played sparkling defense and was 27-for-90 (.300) with a home run and eight RBIs in 27 games.
"We had such a horrible defense last year and that has to be addressed. It's a big part of what we are trying to do," Acta said. "Having two shortstops [Cristian Guzman and Felipe Lopez] up the middle, Logan and [catcher Brian] Schneider, our defense is going to be a good one."
With Logan and Austin Kearns already set in the outfield, that means that Kory Casto, Ryan Church and Alex Escobar will compete for the left-field job.
Times are changing: During his five years as manager of the Nationals/Expos, Robinson carried no more than 11 pitchers entering Opening Day even though, at times, the team lacked depth in the rotation. That will change in 2007. Acta is leaning toward to carrying 12 pitchers on Opening Day because of the question marks in the rotation and the delicate situation with reliever Luis Ayala, who is coming off elbow reconstruction.
Who's No. 2? With Jose Vidro traded, the Nationals need someone to hit second in the lineup. Acta said that Guzman is the leading candidate to take over the spot.
"We are going to see if the laser-eye surgery that Guzzie had is going to work and if he is back to his days in Minnesota," Acta said. "We will probably give him a shot to be the second hitter."
Guzman missed the 2006 season because of a shoulder injury and had his worst season in 2005 for Washington, hitting .219.
Quote of the day: "I think our entire pitching staff might make less money than Gil Meche does." -- Bowden
See the Nationals: The team is planning to have a caravan during the week of Jan. 22.