Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Our character is getting tested"

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ian Desmond has committed a major-league-leading 19 errors already this season.
ATLANTA -- The day began with a closed-door meeting, convened by the manager who had a few thoughts he needed to get off his chest, bolstered by the words of a few players who spoke up themselves.

It ended with a 5-0 loss to the Braves that was in some ways even more gut-wrenching than the four losses that preceded it, all of them crushing on their own merits.

These are trying times for the Nationals, who are finding all sorts of manner in which to lose ballgames. Sometimes they get no offense. Sometimes they score early but can't keep it up. Sometimes they get poor starting pitching. Sometimes their bullpen blows it. And plenty of times lately, they've given away games via wretched glovework, as was the case once again last night.

"We're all agonizing," Jim Riggleman said. "We're all going through a really tough time, one of the tougher times that I've been through. I've been fortunate enough to manage in the big leagues. This is one of the tougher stretches I've experienced. ... Our character is getting tested, and our guys have to pass the test."

But how much longer will the guys on this roster be given the chance to pass this critical test?

From every corner of NatsTown, fans are clamoring for change of some kind, especially some kind of change that would address the majors' worst defense. Mike Rizzo, though, made it pretty clear after last night's loss those types of moves are unlikely at this stage.

"We're always looking to make moves, but this is not [going to be] a knee-jerk reaction from the poor defense we've shown in the last month," the general manager said. "We showed that we could play clean games, because we did early in the season. I don't see any reason why we can't revert back to that and play cleaner, more efficient ballgames again."

It's difficult to imagine the Nats playing any worse in the field. Quite simply, they've been atrocious, especially at key moments when one defensive play can make or break a ballgame.

And when a string of gaffes comes in succession as it did during last night's fateful seventh inning, the result isn't pretty. It began with Ian Desmond booting a routine double-play grounder that might have saved Stephen Strasburg's outing but instead became Desmond's 19th error of the year (far and away the most in baseball). It continued with a stupid decision by Nyjer Morgan to throw to third base on a sacrifice fly when he had no chance to retire that runner and merely allowed the trailing runner to advance. It included a stumbling attempt by Sean Burnett to field a bunt. And it concluded with a sharp grounder bouncing off both Ryan Zimmerman and Desmond.

Riggleman believes players may be getting a little tight in the field, worried about making a mistake and thus increasing their chances of making a mistake.

At least one player, though, continues to espouse confidence. Desmond has been like this his entire professional career, and his recent string of errors isn't going to change that line of thinking. He remains confident in the field.

"Absolutely. No doubt about it," he said. "I wanted that ball to come to me in that situation. I was 100 percent ready for it."

The Nationals knew what they were getting when they named Desmond their starting shortstop. They knew he'd commit errors this season, though perhaps they didn't expect quite this many. Regardless, they remain committed to keeping him in the lineup and in the field.

"He's a very confident young man," Riggleman said. "He's got tremendous leadership ability. He keeps his head up. He's going to be a star in this league. I don't want him to agonize over particular plays and stuff. I just want him to use it as a learning experience and get better at it on a daily basis. ... I'll take nine of him."

As long as Desmond shows signs of improvement, the Nats will keep giving him chances to perform.

"He's a young major-league shortstop," Rizzo said. "And the best thing about young major-league shortstops is that they become second-year major-league shortstops. He's learning on the job. ... But I'll tell you what: His energy, his range, his abilities ... he's going to be around here playing shortstop for us for a long time. He's going to save us a lot of runs down the road. It's growing pains, unfortunately. He makes no excuses for them. I make no excuses for them. There's a guy with terrific upside that plays his butt off every time he goes out there, and there's nobody in this room that feels worse than he does, and that's good. It's a learning experience for him."

Even with his limited experience in the majors, Desmond has already established himself as a leader on and off the field. He's become a team spokesman of sorts, and after last night's loss he assessed what he believes the mood inside the Nats' clubhouse is right now.

"The sense in here is the feeling you get when you just can't catch a break," he said. "That's what it feels like. You just want it to go your way, and it's just not going your way. That's the best description. No one's sad. No one's upset. There's probably some frustrated people in here, but no one's down by any means."

That upbeat tone is a direct reflection of the Nats' manager (who called yesterday's meeting not so much to chew guys out but to re-emphasize a few points) and of the clubhouse's senior-most player. Ivan Rodriguez insists on staying positive and believes the feeling in shared throughout the room.

"Everybody's positive in here," the 38-year-old catcher said. "If you asked everybody, I think everybody's on the same page. We're fine. There's still a lot of games left. There's still a lot of season left. We've got to stay positive."

Fans may not want to hear that kind of approach from a ballclub that has now lost 13 of its last 16 games, including five straight. But it's the tone that's been established from the top of the organization.

As much as everyone wanted to believe the Nationals were capable of making a surprise playoff run this season, Rizzo knew better. He has insisted since last winter that a surge from 103 losses to 90 wins was next-to-impossible. There had to be an intermediate step between the two, and that's what's happening this season. The Nats may end up with 68 wins. They may end up with 73 wins. They may end up with 78 wins.

Whatever the final tally, it will be an improvement over the last two years. And, team officials hope, it will set the stage for a legitimate run in 2011.

In the meantime, Rizzo wants the 2010 Nationals to relax and get back to playing baseball the way they're capable of playing it.

"Guys are pressing right now," he said. "Everyone wants to get big hits and make big plays. They wear losses really hard, and that's really, really good. That's a good thing. It's a tight-knit group of guys as you can see, and I've got their backs."

71 comments:

JayB said...

Mark,

"as long as they see improvement? Where exactly are they seeing improvement in Ian D. defense?

He is not improving at this point....so what is that line about?

The Great Unwashed said...

There's no question defense is a major problem right now. But lost in all of this is that Guzman, Zimmerman, Willingham, and Desmond aren't hitting right now. And Dunn, for the most part, doesn't get hits when runners are in scoring position. This team-wide slump is as much to blame as the bad defense.

bdrube said...

"The Nats may end up with 68 wins. They may end up with 73 wins. They may end up with 78 wins."


- I'll take the under.

Anonymous said...

Still no comment about Morgan's inability to hit the cutoff man? About getting picked of at first AGAIN?

dale said...

It's good to feel good. It's much better to BE good or even adequate or even functioning above room temperature.

I am sensing a management style of shrugging the shoulders and shuffling along. Things happen for a reason, that is the other way of analyzing why a team nosedives out of competitive play. The "accountability" standard that Rizzo uses for the pitching staff should also be used for positional players. The odd bounce I understand, the mental fielding errors or getting picked off of first I don't.

TimDz said...

Dear Mr. Morgan,
You made a brilliant catch this past weekend against the O's....one of the best I have ever seen.
However, this is a game of "what have you done for me lately" and your throw in the 7th last night would have made a little league coach puke.
This multiple personality/attention deficit act of yours is getting very old. You got to the Majors, but to STAY in the Majors, you need to be consistent and you are about as consistent as toddler trying his hand at potty training...one minute you think he's got it down, the next, he's crapping the bed.

Sincerely,

NatsTown Faithful

Jeeves said...

Interesting how the Padres, arguably as poor a team as the Nats over the last couple of years, have done so well this year despite having only one big name in their lineup. (and a good closer)
Must say something about their front office and its ability to recognize talent.
Has Rizzo made one move of any significance? And don't tell me Morgan. I'll concede Pudge, for the short term,although he is fast becoming the hitter he's been the last couple of years. Capps-maybe. That's it.

Linda said...

MIL: I thought we were trying to win games, not give Desmond an arena to "develop" as a short stop. His botched "double play" (the announcers said: "there's the double play")and he blew it, and the sad superlative "far and away the most errors of the year" make me wonder what management is thinking by not making any changes.... Desmond may be a confident man but so was the King with no clothes.

Anonymous said...

The team is pressing, that is reflected in the defense with Desmond focusing so hard, not moving his feet. You can really tell Zimm is pressing, someone needs to loosen these boys up, wear the Elvis wig during batting practice,something! What would be the point of Pudge blowing up at the team other than to alienate his teammates, he has to keep his pitchers positive and believing in their defense.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this club could use a good self-help book. Too bad Manny Acta took the whole library with him when he left.

Big Cat said...

I almost had to close my eyes when Zim and Desmond were falling all over themselves there in the 7th inning. And that was AFTER the booted double play grounder and Morgans little league throw to the wrong base. And the nation was taking it all in on national tv.

The reason why we aren't making changes is that there is no one in the minors to bring up. Its gonna take time

Pauloyd said...

Great stuff Mark, and I love you how being independent you don't have to pull any punches. That being said, don't you think it is no guarantee the Nats record will be better than last year in the end? I think they HAVE to at least accomplish that.

Bowdenball said...

Anybody else getting tired of these "character" arguments? You know some other guys who have amazing character, courage, and grace under pressure? Nelson Mandela. Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenburger. Our military heroes. Should the Nats sign them? I'm think probably no, because they can't play baseball at the major league level. Just like all but 6 or 7 of the guys on the Nats' 25 man roster.

Enough with the "character" and "growing pains" sound bites.

And enough with the B.S. lines about Ian Desmond. It frightens me to no end that our front office is convinced he's a star. Show me ONE guy in the history of baseball who had minor league numbers as mediocre as his over 6 seasons (OBP of .329, slugging of .388), then a half-season as putrid as his (.289 OBP, .375 slugging, leading the league in errors), and then turned into a star without the help of PEDs. It simply does not happen. He might some day be a mediocre major league shortstop. But a century of baseball history doesn't lie. If he was good, we'd know it by now.

Anonymous said...

Desmond is making a whole team worth of errors by himself!!! The dig on him was always he played on bad fields in the minors so his error total was high..BS! His error total was high because he is in la-la land half the time thinking about making the WebGem and forgets about the little league fundamental play...he sucks in the field, if his defense is not good by age 24 he belongs in AAA, put Gonzo out there to teach Ian a lesson...I KNOW Derek Jeter and Ian you are NO Jeter, more like a Bobby Meacham or maybe a Wayne Tolleson!

Anonymous8 said...

I truly believe if Gonzalez hits the ball to score Bernadina in the top of the 7th, Strasburg takes that 1-0 lead and a rush of adrenaline and mows down the Braves in the bottom of the 7th.

A darn shame that this kid is getting no support but it happened in so many starts that Jordan Zimmermann had last year too.

The W/L record is so unfair sometimes.

Aussie Gus said...

Not sure if anyone else saw it, we get ESPN down here in Aus, but top of the 4th, camera's on Stras in the dugout, and there is Nyjer in the background, picking his nose as a joke for the camera. Funny if we are winning, and you are contributing, plain childish if you suck, and the team sucks with you.

Slopitchtom said...

Well, they've finally beaten me down. I've been taking all these recent excruciating losses hard, but have got to the point where my expectations have now been reduced to zilch. Thankfully, I can now start watching games and not get upset when they lose, just like the past two years. When you expect to see them lose, it's so much easier when they do.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Second on that Slopitchtom.... I am now resigned to expexting them to lose. The entertainment value has dropped to nothing.

Seeing Desmond, Morgan, and Kennedy continue to make the same excrutiating mistakes in the field, day after day, and seeing Eckstein sitting on the bench with his clipboard while the line up makes the same excrutiating mistakes at the plate have become to much to bear.

I was looking forward to my DC trip for the Padres, Giants games and now I'm dreading watching this debacle in the stifling summer heat.

FOTB said...

Anonymous said: "I KNOW Derek Jeter and Ian you are NO Jeter, more like a Bobby Meacham or maybe a Wayne Tolleson!"

Anonymous, why mock Desmond by saying he is not Derek Jeter? Jeter's not a winner. That's just a myth. He's only been to the postseason 13 times in 14 full years in the majors and 7 World Series and won 5 rings. If you want to make your point, pick a more successful player, not a loser like Derek Jeter.

carolync said...

I hoped to get up this morning to see that the wretched Desmond had gone to AAA to see if he could reverse his downward spiral. It's not happening with him in the line-up badly hurting the team every game both batting and in the field.. He's the latest in a string of bargain basement "solutions" to the middle infield void. We survived Bonifacio and Anderson Hernandez but they were not as damaging. Let Guzman and Gonzalez play short for a while.

alexva said...

Exasperating, demoralizing, aggravating and disheartening. First the O's series and then last night. Specifically

Desmond, if you look at his error totals each year it's hard to argue thet he will ever get it done. It's got to be mental but unfortunately that's worse than physical.

Riggleman, his trot to first base to argue the Morgan pickoff was an act of desperation.

Morgan, please enough already.

Gonzales, no way he comes through vs. Hudson there but at least he gives you the defense.

An now for the really, really good news - Stephen Strasberg. You could see from his first pitch he was a little off, to battle like he did had better inspire some of his teammates to get their act together.

Anonymous8 said...

If the team won the 3 games they should have won in Baltimore, then you get through games like last night easier. You have to win those gifts on the schedule like the Orioles and of course last Wednesday's finale matchup with the Royals.

Bowdenball said...

FOTB:

I assume you are talking about what I said about Jeter yesterday.

Jeter is a winner because he is a really good baseball player on a team with a $200 million dollar payroll, not because he has some special magical pixie dust that transforms defeat into victory.

The problem is that too many people in the Nats' front office seem to think that this magical pixie dust exists. You hear guys like Rizzo giving sound bytes about having guys on the roster with rings. Who cares about guys who won in the past? Lots of horrible ballplayers have rings. Performance is all that matters. All this nonsense about "character" and "winning attitudes" is just that-nonsense. Of all the troubling developments lately, perhaps the most troubling is hearing our front office spewing this garbage.

raymitten said...

Who's character is being tested, the players or the fans?

Mark, do you know anything about the Dunn trade rumors to the White Sox or Angels?

If people think the team is bad now, take Dunn out of the lineup and we get the coveted number one draft choice yet again.

HHover said...

Another demoralizing loss, another round of even more demoralizing "we'll come around! we care--maybe too much!!" excuses.

Mark is spot-on that this was a dreadful, lousy, no-good game by the Nats, full of stupid, bush-league mistakes (Morgan picked off, Morgan not hitting the cut-off) that thankfully for the Nats don't get scored as errors in the record book.

Fact is, the Nats are not going to make changes in the middle infield because they don't have any changes to make--no great options on the bench or down in the minors, and since management doesn't expect to contend for at least 2 years, they're not going to go out and become buyers of any significance before the trade deadline. There may be some shuffling, but no significant upgrades.

Which means this will be a place-holder season at second, and an error-filled season of on-the-job training for Desmond at short. It was possible early on to hope that these guys would perform above expectations, but it's now pretty clear they're not, and that management is ok with that.

Whether the fans are, I don't know. I've almost certainly attended and watched more games in the past 2 months than I will in the next 2.

Anonymous said...

So, is Ian Desmond's mom bringing the juice boxes and cookies for everyone after the game? 'Cuz this is sure looking like little league to me. Oh no wait, I know! Jim Riggleman is taking them all to Pizza Hut when they lose. Just like those little boys say on the commercial, "Maybe losing ISN'T so bad." That must be it. Have we ordered the special medals for everyone to get at the end of the season for trying real hard?

LoJank said...

I was excited earlier this year, looks like a team of professionals that might exceed or at least meet expectations. Now it is clear that was a mirage and we are truly a AAAA team.

Desmond - send him down to AAA or release him.

Morgan - a joke, the guy will never be any good.

Clippard - coming back to earth, should have sold high on him.

Livan - washed up.

Atilano - AAAA

Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham - solid but would all be bench guys on a good team

Really we have nothing but Strasburg, no chips, no future. I Bet you that over the next 10 years the Orioles will be MUCH better than the Nats. Losing ONLY 90 games a year will be a success. We will lose Strasburg to free agency and I am 110% certain the town will abandon this team just like it has foolishly abandoned our visonary Preseident Obama and they will be run out of town, winding up in Oklahoma City or something like that.

It was fun while it lasted, kiss it all goodbye.

WillC said...

One has to wonder if it is the decision of Rizzo to keep the lineup the way it is. The way Rizzo insists that Desmond is going to be a successful major leaguer and since Morgan is the product of Rizzo's big first trade as the permanent GM, I have to believe the front office is behind the status quo in the lineup.
Personally, as many have indicated, Morgan and Desmond must be benched (at least for now). There must be some sort of punishment for these non-performers for them to get the focus back. That's is how the real world normally works. I'd rather have Maxwell at center than Morgan. Send Morgan and Desmond down to Syracuse to get their "mojo" back. Bring back Maxwell and Orr. Start Gonzalez at short and Kennedy at 2B (I think he just needs regular playing time to be better). For the outfield, start Maxwell and Bernadina. Let's get some steady defense first!!! Once Desmond and Morgan start playing better, then bring them back.

alexva said...

okay now take a breath, step away from the ledge.

Two things, besides Strasburg, I'll remember last night: the frustration on Pudge and Zimm's faces after the Morgan gaffes. You know that is exaclty what was discussed pregame and yet it happened again. You can bet dollars to donuts that Morgan is riding the bench tonight.

FOTB said...

Bowdenball...I thought you said yesterday that "Jeter is a winner" was a myth perpetrated by ESPN and Rudy G. Today it's not a myth?
Great teams, so I've heard, are built with strength up the middle -- shortstop, second base, and centerfield. One of the reasons the Yankees have had so much success during the past 15 years is that they have had strong players at those positions, including the Captain at short. One of the reasons the Nats have not been successful, IMHO, is that they have not had strong defensive players at those key positions.

Ernie said...

Questions I would like to have answered:

1. Who is talking to Morgan after he makes mental mistakes in the field or on the bases? Does he seem to listen to this/these coach(es)? Is he coachable at this point in his career?

2. What was happening yesterday when Pudge got caught stealing? Was it a botched hit and run? A missed signal? A poor decision to steal? IF it was a hit and run, why put that play on with a hitter who is having trouble making contact with the ball lately?

3. Does Morgan (or any player) have the green light on the bases to run whenever he wants? How often has Morgan run or been caught leaning when he was NOT supposed to be stealing? How often has he been successful when he decided on his own to steal a base?

4. (More light-heartedly) Who runs the kangaroo court for this team? That are they planning to do with the millions they should have collected from each other at this point?

Anonymous said...

This team is just as brutal as Dibble's beyond awful tattoos. I'm not anti-tattoo and I'm certainly not anti-visible tattoo, but I am ANTI-horrible tattoos that are visible. Dibble's tattoos are just awful, awful, awful. MASN should make him cover them up. I don't care if it's 100 degrees in Atlanta. When you get tattoos on your forearms, you resign yourself to the fact you will be wearing long-sleeves in any and every professional endeavor you partake in, except for strip club bouncer, pimp, band member, or prison inmate.

A DC Wonk said...

Sheesh, talk about what have you done for me lately:

Has Rizzo made one move of any significance?

Hello? Do you remember how the Nats had one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball last year? Despite having poor relief pitching over the last week, this year has been awfully good -- in part because the pen is almost completely revamped. That's Rizzo's doing. (And, yes, I remember folks complaining about Rizzo's pick of Drew Storen last year) Oh, and Rizzo got Scott Bora$ to blink and get Strasburg signed with 77 seconds left in the deadline.

Let's see, what else . . . picking up Wang and Olsen and Pudge and Marquis in a single offseason. (If only one of two of those pitchers pan out, that will be quite a score) ... Cleaning up the entire Dominican Republic crooked mess ...

Let's not forget -- this is a team that got screwed by MLB for years, completely destroying the farm system. And we know the farm system is where teams get much of their core talent. This is a team that had the worst record in baseball for two straight years. Nobody can turn a team around in just a year (and, remember also, Rizzo wasn't named permanent GM until 10 months ago)

(Ernie -- nice comment about the kangaroo court -- we'd be rich by now if we could just get a small percentage of the fines that ought to be levied!)

twDC said...

I don't think Desmond is capable to be a team leader at this stage. If he is already a Jeter type player, that's fine. But Desmond must have good stats before he gets the respect. To me,right now, Desmond boasts he is a leader.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Hey Anonymous on Dribble... I vote we locate him a job at a strip club. His entire personna reeks of strip club!

Anonymous said...

Bring back Maxwell and Orr. Start Gonzalez at short and Kennedy at 2B (I think he just needs regular playing time to be better). For the outfield,

Orr is hitting .240 and below in Syracuse people. He truly is AAAA! Comparing or even contrasting that with Desmond is insane! Maxwell still has that wonderful .140 BA here in the majors after many chances and starts!!! Bernadina has progressively gotten better and is on the verge of breaking .300 BA. Sheesh! Stop with the Orr, the Maxwell, the friggin' past! Espinosa can hit just as well as Maxwell and is a better and more valuable MI. I'd rather see that ***prospect*** than more of Maxwell, Orr, Mench etc. The only exception I would make would be Duncan who really could have an impact if he were able to come back. But as time goes by that seems less and less likely. And before Maxwell, Boomer Whiting who appears to be doing better than Maxwell after his jump from A+ ball!

LES in NC said...

I'm right there with you, Slopitchtom. I have endured these excruciating losses and have finally been brow beat into expecting this team to once again lose more than it wins. I knew going into the season 75 wins for this team was the ceiling, but the way they started, man, it looked like we could get to 81-83 wins and actually be a small factor in the playoff race. Now, unfortunately, we are going to be pressed to win 70 games as things are going.
I'll be glad to see some changes to this team, mainly our injured guys coming back, because without some new energy in the clubhouse this current team, the one that has lost 13 of its last 16, is the one that we are going to see throughout the remainder of the season. IMO.

natsfan1a said...

Speaking only for myself, I like Dibble. I'm not a fan of tattoos, but it doesn't bother me if they aren't covered up. I thought it was funny last night when he seemed to segue into Bull Durham speak at one point (points made regarding throwing and catching the ball - admonition that it's a simple game). My husband and I just looked at each other and laughed. :-)

Speaking of broadcasters, did anyone else wonder at the O's broadcaster (can't recall which) who stated over the weekend that Pudge was too fast of a runner to be doubled up. I like Pudge, but...say what, now?

Bowdenball said...

FOTB:

What I said was the the notion that he is, inherently, a "winner" or "clutch" is a myth. It is. He's a very good ballplayer. Not one of the all-time greats, but certainly one of the better SS of our era. He has won often in part because he's a very good ballplayer, but in much larger part because he's on a team with a giant payroll. Put him at SS on any of the teams with payrolls under $100 million and he'd be fortunate to have a single World Series title. And give the Yankees Hanley Ramirez at SS instead of Jeter and they'd be a better ballclub for it.

And to get it back to the Nats- this is a message our front office doesn't seem to get. There's no value in getting players on the cheap who played on winning teams in the past and have the right "attitude" and are "building character" if those players don't hit and pitch and field in a way that contributes positively. Clubhouse contributions, character, attitude- it's all virtually meaningless. This team can't hit and field well enough to win.

rogieshan said...

Funny how the opposition teams are "amped up to face Strasburg", yet our own players seem unable to respond to the challenge.

What does it say when the poor-fielding,weak-hitting, rookie shortstop is already the de facto spokesperson of the team?

I have no problem making a commitment to Desmond and suffering the growing pains with him, but why put more unnecessary pressures on the kid and drive fans mad with all this "he'll be a star" talk, when he is clearly not doing the job at the moment?

Chris said...

Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham - solid but would all be bench guys on a good team

..........................

It's official. Nats fans have lost their damn minds.

Kevin Trainor said...

Maxwell hasn't really had a decent shot in the majors - he was up for a short time last year and did well, but this year they sent him down to make more time for "proven veterans" Harris and Taveras, both of which have lower OPS than Maxwell did when he was sent down.

But this is about Desmond. There is nobody in the pipeline to replace him, and Gonzalez doesn't play well at short. Also, even with all the errors, Desmond's actually making more plays than the average NL shortstop - definitely more than Guzman did last year, or in any year for that matter. It's a long season, and nobody will ever mistake Desmond for Derek Jeter, but seeing everyone get down on him because he's slumping offensively is pretty sad.

Kevin Trainor said...

@Chris: Totally agree.

Section 409 said...

HAHA! Chris, I couldn't agree more. Really? Zimmerman won the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger last season! This is the most absurd thing I've ever heard.

Anonymous said...

Zimmerman is not the player he was last year. He has taken several steps backwards, both in the field and with the bat.

David said...

LOL at the poster who said Zim is a bench player on another team. He just won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger last year!!!! Dunn is a consistent 40/100 guy and WIllingham is a 25/85 guy, and yet both wouldn't start anywhere else? That's ludicrous. Livan is 6-4 with a under 3 era and he's washed up? Great baseball analysis going on there.

hleeo3 said...

Zimmerman always has a bad month, every season. Any player does, he will be fine.

David said...

yes Zim is slumping and pressing right now. but that DOES not mean he's taken "several steps backward". i think Nats fans are having the same mental issues the Nats on the field are. just chill out and start going about your business. we'll be fine. we'll end up around 74 wins, and in the end it will be a BIG improvement form last season. and if we put it all back together again we can win some damn ballgames like earlier in the year.

The Great Unwashed said...

"Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham - solid but would all be bench guys on a good team."

"Bring back Maxwell and Orr."

Are you guys serious? Really? Wow.

Anonymous said...

Mark, This team is not taking an intermediate step forward this year. In many ways this team is as bad or worse than last years team. The only reason they might win a half dozen or so more games is because of their 20-15 start, which was a total fluke, just like the 50-31 start in 2005. This team has no clutch hitting, is terrible defensively, has lousy base running and awful pitching, except for Strasburg. Anyone who thinks this team has taken a step forward is delusional.

HHover said...

Anon @ 12:10 - The #s simply don't bear that out. Zim's homers are down slightly from last year's pace, but his average and OPS are essentially unchanged (BA is down 6 pts, OPS is up 4 pts). He's slightly worse in the field--he's on a pace to commit 19 errors vs 17 last year.

That's not "several steps backwards"--it's not even a single baby-step backwards.

He's had some ups and downs this season, but he's still a great player and a starter on any team that doesn't have brain dead management.

I'm frustrated too, but let's not come unhinged with the ridiculous statements.

Kevin Trainor said...

Zimmerman would definitely start with the Twins, and I can think of half a dozen other teams that would be glad to have a stud third baseman like him. You Anonymous Cowards need to troll better.

Post linked at Beltway Baseball.

Bowdenball said...

Kevin-

Maybe people are being unduly harsh on Desmond because he blew the game so obviously last night, but I disagree with several of your statements.

First, there is someone in the pipeline to replace him- Espinosa.

Second, I don't see any stats that suggest that he's "making more plays than the average NL shortstop." His zone rating is nothing to crow about, and his runs or runs saved above average come out about average at best, depending who you ask.

Third- you don't mention this, but he's been absolutely awful at the plate this year. This isn't a monthlong slump. It's a full half-season in which he's failed to get on base 30% of the time. That's flat-out unacceptable. And more importantly, guys that are that bad over entire half-seasons don't drastically improve when there's little evidence in their minor league careers to that point suggesting that they will.

He might someday be decent, but he'll almost certainly never be a "star." So the question is ... why is Rizzo saying he will be? And should we be concerned that the GM of the Washington Nationals appears to be deluding himself regarding our players' potential?

The Great Unwashed said...

What will you Zimmerman detractors say when he gets out of his slump, starts driving in runners, hits a walk-off or two, and on top of that provides the stellar defense we've taken for granted over the last five years? I understand your frustration, but take into account his body of work before calling him out.

nats rising said...

How many Nats players are exceeding expectations this year? Pudge, SS, Livan, Clippard (maybe) and Roger Bernadina (significantly so). Anyone else? A short list translates into a losing team.

NatsJack in Florida said...

It's very apparent that a whole bunch of the patients have taken over the asylum.

Zim doesn't sit on anybodys bench.

While I've become discouraged, I spent too may years following Calvins teams prior the move to Minnesota and the horrid expansion Senators to give up on these guys. They are still better that the 34 years prior 2005.

alm1000 said...

Morgan needs to go to the bench for some reflecting time and desmond needs to go to AAA as someone above said - to get his mojo back. Maybe he will be a star, maybe he won't but he needs an adjustment now. Bring Jmax up. Shake things up, DO SOMETHING RIZZO!

Zim would not be on any teams bench - any team.

A DC Wonk said...

Either Nats fans have lost their minds, or many just some Anonymous trollers are invading:

Anyone who thinks this team has taken a step forward is delusional.

Dude -- look at last year's bullpen, and look at this year's. A huge difference. Not even close.

Total overall pitching stats:

Last year -- dead last in ERA. Team ERA of 5.00, almost a full half run behind the 14th team (and 0.17 behind the 15th teams). Led the league in walks issued. Dead last in WHIP. Last in batting average against (.276!!)

This year -- 10th in ERA (4.12, almost a full run better than last year).

Bottom line: we've gone from having the far worst pitching to an average pitching team.

I think that a person who looks at that and doesn't see a step forward is delusional.

Anonymous said...

Whoever is complaining about Riggs calling for a hit & run with Pudge and Zimmerman. You call for that specifically because you have a hitter struggling to make contact, it is supposed to help them focus. Unfortunately if the pitcher guesses right they pitch it outside and the runner is a dead duck.

Bonnie Jo said...

Alright, Bowdenball and FOTB, let's settle this once and for all. Jeter and Desmond trade places for one month and we see how it affects the Yanks and Nats. I think the Nats will still suck and the Yanks will still be winning. One great infielder does not a Championship team make.

Ernie said...

Easy there Mr. I-don't-want-people-to-know-me-even-by-a-fake-name (2:30). I wasn't complaining about the hit and run. Just wondering if that was the call, and if Zim had missed the sign. That swing looked pretty bad to me if he was trying to make contact.

Which triggers another thought: With all of the stupid baserunning mistakes that everyone seems to be making this year, is there any common issue anyone would know about? Just a lot of bad decisionmaking? Bad signs/calls by the basecoaches? Missed signals? It's not just Morgan (though he's guilty more often than the rest). In the last month or so Willingham, Pudge, Bernadina, Harris, Desmond have all made mistakes that I can recall off the top of my head. Is it something in the water?

Richard said...

We're criticizing Dibble's tattoos? ... Okay, well then, why are there so many bald guys in the FO? That stucks -- you hear that Mark Lerner and Stan Kasten! Man up and grow some hair!

Richard said...

I mean "sucks" of course. I hate typos too.

natsfan1a said...

You forgot Rizzo, Richard. ;-)

And, while I'm not big on tattoos myself, I don't mind if Dibble shows his (well, at least the ones that are on his arms).

NatsJack in Florida said...

I wasn't criticizing Dribble's tattoos.... I was criticizing Dribble!

But you're right... The front office desperately needs some hair! I'm suprised they canned their Brother in Baldness Mr. Acta!

Anonymous said...

FOTB - LMAO on your Jeter comment, yes indeed he must not be a key to the Yankees winning all those championships..oh to dream that we will have a CORE FOUR someday who all come up through the system together and even get us to even one World Series!!! I guarantee one of those guys will not be named Ian Desmond!

Michael Dempsey said...

LoJank said...
Zimmerman/Dunn/Willingham - solid but would all be bench guys on a good team

This has got be the most idiotic comment ever.

Take a deep breath and relax dude.

RobBob said...

Bowdenball said: "Second, I don't see any stats that suggest that he's "making more plays than the average NL shortstop." His zone rating is nothing to crow about, and his runs or runs saved above average come out about average at best, depending who you ask."

Desmond's range factor per 9 innings is 5.00. The league average for shortstops is 4.42. That's a huge difference. Desmond's .4 WAR puts him right in the middle of the pack of NL shortstops. Yes, his OBP has dropped dramatically the last month, but on May 18 (after the St Louis series) his slash line was 279/326/443, which made him one of the best SS in the league. He's definitely shown the capability to play. Anyone who suggests they release him ought to have their head examined.

Anonymous said...

RobBob all those stats are wonderful, but somehow the reality of it is that when you stop looking at the paper numbers, he keeps losing the Nats baseball games all by himself on the field. It's not just that he makes atrocious errors, he makes them in key situations. He may want the ball all the time, but I can assure you, the only people in the stadium that are hoping he gets it are on or cheering for the other team. I imagine that they're all sitting on the bench saying "hit it to Desmond". I doubt they care what his WAR is, they know bouncing it his way is almost like hitting a ground-rule double.

Second, Ian should open a big can of shut up! He hasn't proved he can hit or field at the major league level. The ONLY reason he's playing is this franchise is so completely bankrupt in talent at the SS position people are actually thinking about putting Morse there. Okay, I doubt anyone with the Nats is really contemplating that, the point is if there was any reasonable alternative, Desmond would be the spokesman for the Chiefs. He has made almost as many erros as the Yankees; yes, the whole team. When you're a light hitting rookie that can't catch or throw, you really should cut a low profile.

SS aside, Nats management really needs to hire a PR guy or shut up as well. Everytime they tell us how much better this team is at its winning percentage falls sounds more and more lame. Truthfully, they sound like idiots right now. I wonder what it is that they're smoking. Maybe they should share with the rest of us.

Richard said...

Mark, all these posts suggest that there might be a book for you in this 2010 season, with a title like "A Test of Courage" -- the human story from the inside of highs and lows of what's turning out to be a season with lots of both. I'd subscribe!

Cwj said...

Strasburg should be 5-0, or perhaps 4-1. This team better click, and fast. Disgraceful losses.
Absolutely terrible losses.

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