Monday, April 12, 2010

Earning respect

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Jason Marquis didn't respond well to adversity in the fourth inning today.
PHILADELPHIA -- Inside his office following today's 7-4 loss to the Phillies -- an eminently winnable game that went awry over two disastrous innings -- Jim Riggleman talked about his team needing to get more respect.

The insinuation from Riggleman, who was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing balls and strikes, was that umpires should give the same calls to teams coming off back-to-back 100-loss seasons as they give to teams coming off back-to-back National League pennants.

"I just felt like I needed to make a statement that we've got to get a little respect, too," Riggleman said of his arguing a close 1-2 pitch from Jason Marquis to Ryan Howard. "That's the Phillies over there, who have earned a great amount of respect. But we've got to get some respect, too, so I felt like I had to say something."

He's right. The Phillies and Nationals should be treated the exact same way, regardless of record. But you know the best way to ensure that kind of thing doesn't happen anymore? Win.

Win games in blowout fashion. Win games in close fashion. Win games that require you to come from behind. And win games that you seize control of early, not letting them slip through your hands.

Today's loss was a perfect example of that last category. The Nats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning. They had Cole Hamels on the ropes. Jimmy Rollins was in the trainer's room, nursing a calf strain that occurred moments before first pitch and could turn into something serious for the Phillies leadoff man. The crowd of 44,791 that turned out on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park was restless and booing its hometown heroes.

"We definitely had them on the ropes," first baseman Adam Dunn said. "But when you've got a chance to put a team away like that and you don't do it, it gives them a second wind."

Sure enough, the Nats gave the game back to the Phillies. The meltdown began in the bottom of the fourth, when an automatic ball was called on Marquis for licking his fingers while standing on the mound and then not wiping his hand on his pants before throwing a 2-1 pitch to Chase Utley.

Marquis insisted he did nothing wrong.

"He just said I didn't wipe to my leg, which I know I did," the right-hander said. "It's a he-said/she-said type of thing. I know I wiped. He said I didn't. Obviously the umpire has the ultimate say."

It wouldn't have been that big a deal, except that for whatever reason, Marquis crumbled after that incident. After retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced, he proceeded to retire only three of the next 11.

It didn't help matters that during the next at-bat following the automatic ball, plate umpire Paul Schrieber squeezed Marquis on a 1-2 slider to Ryan Howard. The Nats thought it should have been strike three. Schrieber said it was ball two. Moments later, Howard sent an RBI single to left field to ignite the Phillies' rally.

And moments after that, Riggleman went to the mound, not to confer with his pitcher but to complain about Schrieber's strike zone. As soon as the umpire arrived there to break up the meeting, the Nats manager gave him a mouthful and (appropriately) was ejected on the spot.

Sometimes, a manager will get ejected to light a fire under his team. And sometimes it works. This time, it didn't. The Phillies kept the pressure on, and by the time Utley crushed a two-run homer off the right-field foul pole in the fifth, that 4-0 lead had morphed into a 7-4 deficit, and Marquis' afternoon had ended on a sour note.

"My team put myself in a good position to win a ballgame, and I wasn't able to get the job done," Marquis said. "I let them down."

Marquis (0-2 with a 12.96 ERA and only 8 1/3 innings pitched in two starts) deserves the lion's share of the blame. But he wasn't solely responsible for this loss. His defense didn't always help him, like when Ivan Rodriguez (nursing some upper back spasms that hinder his throwing ability) made an ill-advised throw to second on a sacrifice bunt attempt. And his offensive teammates didn't help, either, shutting down after a strong start against Hamels and held to one measly hit after the fourth inning.

"We got the opportunity. We jumped ahead 4-0, and against a pretty good pitcher," Rodriguez said. "But that's baseball. That's why you've got to play 27 outs."

Until the Nationals begin playing 27 outs every single night, they're going to have a difficult time hanging with the NL's elite.

And until they can hang with baseball's best, they're going to have a difficult time earning the respect they so desire but at this point have not been afforded.


Nervous Nats Fan said...

I wasn't watching on TV - did Marquis wipe his hands on his pants?

Michael Dempsey said...

The umps today were a joke. Paul Schrieber was in a coma behind home plate while Joe West whines about how long the games are because he wants to get to the buffet quicker.

Andrew said...

Michael - Well said!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

Joe "XXXXXL" West didn't cost us the game, but he and Schreiber, that other blind mouse behind the plate, didn't help. Good on Riggs for barking at these clowns, and he's right about the respect thing. He's being very un-Manny-like, and I really like it. Riggs deserves better. We all do.

Anonymous said...

The pitch to Howard was clearly a strike. Morgan clearly beat out the bang bang play too. This game looked as fixed as a PIttsburgh Penguins playoff series.

Good for Riggs for calling attention to what happened today -- it may not have mattered in today's game but I bet it was surely noted in the clubhouse and will keep the boys battling hard. . The more I see of the guy, the more I like him.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_for_Me said...

I'm with you, Raymitten. Riggs is a pro, a total pro. He's just the right guy for this team. Quiet, but he demands respect. For himself. For the game. For us. I really, really like the guy too.

Princess Jazzy said...

Well guys, I find it quite interesting that some of the prominent Nats' blogs are flaming Riggleman for getting tossed.

I can't understand that type of thinking. Riggs didn't get tossed in a vain attempt at Kabuki theatre to rally his troops, he was trying keep Country Joe and his Stinking Fish umpiring crew honest.

I sincerely hope that the Nats send a tape of this game to the MLB office. It's getting really tough to see umpires blow call after call after call.

There was a horrible call on Opening Day in Atlanta during the Cubs/Braves game. The ball bounced out of McClouth's glove and not one umpire could see it. Not sure if they showed the replay on the largest screen known to God and Man at Turner Field, but if the umps couldn't see it on that monster, they really need some vision tests.

Looks like the umpires are getting worse, not better.

Michael Dempsey said...

Kudos to Riggleman, it was a great move, something Acta would not have done. Some of these umps need to go. How does a guy that weighs 320 pounds and has three chins run out to check on home runs, foul /fair balls and catches in the outfield? Do you see this in any other pro sport?

Anonymous said...

Did Marquis wipe his hands or not?

Anonymous said...

Balls and strikes were a joke tonight, which took Maquis out of his game. But whatever, it's the Phils and they need all the help they can get, right? We're only fans if Schrieber (or whatever the Hell his name is) gets verbally abused next time he shows his Ugly Mug at Nats Park.

Chris S. said...

Nobody can possibly disagree that the pitch to Howard was strike three.

In baseball, it's a fact that the Umpire will make bad calls. What determines the quality of your ballclub is how you respond to the bad calls, and Marquis crumbled.

Princess Jazzy said...

That's right, Chris. This is on Marquis with an assist from Pudge's bad throw and the disturbing pattern that the Nats aren't hitting and adding to their leads once they score a few runs.

On the bright side, the bullpen really came through and didn't allow Philly to get any more runs.

Anonymous said...

Enough with blaming the umps! You all sound like Joe Gibbs. We pitched poorly and cannot capitalize against weak pitchers, if we do not score 6 or 7 runs a night we will lose...end of story

natsfan1a said...

I believe that teams are prohibited from doing that, although fans who are seated near a tv monitor might see a reply on the broadcast.


Not sure if they showed the replay on the largest screen known to God and Man at Turner Field, but if the umps couldn't see it on that monster, they really need some vision tests.

natsfan1a said...

They might even see a "replay." (


fans who are seated near a tv monitor might see a reply on the broadcast.

Matteo said...

The fact is Riggs actually stood up for his team. In this game it did not matter but think of the effect it will have down the road. When you know not only your teammates, but your manager has your back, your more likely to give it your all and push your self to the limit. Acta would have sat on the bench and ate sumflower seeds while the team wondered if he was even paying attention.
Conversly, give credit to the Phillies. They had the same bad umps the Nats had but they adjusted better and waited till Marquis fell apart. That shows the difference between a 100 loss team and a pennant winner very clearly. The Nats will get to that point and I like the small steps I'm seeing towards that. Riggs is not my favorite manager by far but at least he has a clue of what this game is about and demands his players do too.

Soarian said...

The 1-2 pitch to Howard was indeed a strike, and Morgan did beat out that grounder he was called out on.

But looking on the other side, the ball that "hit" Dunn was clearly a good 2-3 inches from his uniform when looking at the replay. Even Dunn himself said it didn't hit him.

Also the two check swings that the 3rd base ump said weren't swings, replays showed he went around on both of them. After he walks Marquis hits the double that scores 2 runs.

If these calls weren't blown in favor of the Nats they would have only scored 1 run, not 4.

So yes the umpiring was bad, but saying it affected the ultimate outcome of the day is untrue. The Nats just need to learn how to overcome these things and win games like this, which the Phillies have.

Don't Toss Me, Bro said...

I am very much in favor of the manager sticking up for his players. You gotta have your boys' back. That being said, I don't understand why a manager would ever argue balls and strikes. Argue something else, anything else. But why go out to the field and yell about something you can't win and know will get you thrown out of the game? I would be shocked to find out that an umpire is going to rethink his strike zone just because a manager came out and argued about it. Besides, how effective can you be as a manager if you're watching the game on TV from the clubhouse?

Unknown said...

I for one am just glad that Riggleman's shenanigan's and ejection fired the team up to play better and win out in the end! Oh wait...that didn't happen.

Hate to break up the love fest, but I don't like the way Riggleman manages the team. I'm fine with the fire and sticking up for his team, but his in-game moves and personnel decisions are suspect at best. Playing Guzman in RF? I thought the reason he wasn't playing well at short was because his shoulder wasn't strong enough to make the throw. So your answer is to put him in a position to make a longer throw? Choosing Mock over Olsen for the rotation? Going to Batista before Bruney out of the bullpen virtually every game? I'm sick of his general attitude that bad veterans "deserve" playing time over promising young players just becuase they are older. I can't wait until he is fired/ his contract is not renewed. I hope that happens this October.

natscan reduxit said...

Hi Mark,

... you said, "He's right. The Phillies and Nationals should be treated the exact same way, regardless of record. But you know the best way to ensure that kind of thing doesn't happen anymore? Win."

... and I'm afraid you're wrong on this one. Respect is a human right, not something which should be relegated to those teams which win more often than others. What kind of a society would we live in, if it was the common thing to offer respect, or more of it, to those among us who are more successful, or have more money? That kind of social inequality would breed more and more unrest and result in disrespect, not the universal respect we all long for.

... same goes for sports.

natscan reduxit said...

... and just to complete my remarks by returning to baseball, let me say that over the past ten years or more, there have been innumerable stories, incidents and anecdotes which point to the human frailties and outright errors made by umpires. Some were even on widespread display during last year's post-season. When will MLB, and the commissioner’s office take note and do something like establishing a commission to look into the effects of poor officiating on the current lack of public interest in the game?

Neato Torpedo said...

Hey, they umps may not have been with us, but with all due respect to the Marquis de Suck (copyright FJB 2010), he's supposed to be better than that. We brought the guy in to be a machine. Not fly apart like some 21-year-old almost-ready rookie the minute something doesnt go his way. He's supposed to be Livan, with a heater above 83. His performance yesterday transcended inexcusible, and that utter lack of personal discipline is just infuriating.

Arguing with an ump? Sure, sometimes it's needed. But considering how fragile this team's confidence is (Marquis gets one lousy call and everything evaporates), that's the least of our concerns.

@natscan reduxit - BRILLIANT satire of this town. Well done.

Anonymous8 said...

Anonymous8 said...
Rumors, rumors, rumors. Gammons may get a little egg on his face on that one. 100 innings as a cap for MLB time or combined?

My question of the day for Mark Z. is what has happened to Adam Dunn's power? We didn't see it all Spring Training and besides some majestic foul balls, no Homers yet.

April 12, 2010 9:36 AM

Mark - I threw you a meatball yesterday morning and you didn't even take a swing on this Dunn thing.

I see Nats320 picked up on it this morning.

Is there a gag order in town for the mainstream media not to talk about Dunn's lack of power?

sbrent said...

I think that having a manager call out an umpire on balls and strikes and get himself tossed probably does have some effect. It's gesture politics. Everyone knows that the manager gets tossed for arguing balls and strikes. So if a manager feels strongly enough about it to do it anyway, that's a strong signal. It will make the ump feel like he has to be that much more careful and vigilant the rest of the game (even series) to "prove" that the manager was wrong. And over time if the same umpire is involved in these disputes over and over with different managers, it calls attention to his performance. I also think that it's easy for an umpire to get a little lazy, and if he doesn't really quite see the ball well on a given pitch, he's likely just to give the benefit of the doubt to the perceived better player or team as the safer bet. It's useful to send a message that people are paying attention and will call him out if he does this too often.

And others have already mentioned the factor of letting the team know the manager's with them and is watching their back.

natsfan1a said...

The premise that professional ballplayers, who are presumably competitive by nature, would need to see their manager tossed in order to be fired up and perform at their highest level has always struck me as odd. That's aside from how much they are paid to do their jobs. Oh, wait. I guess I just did mention it. That's also aside from the good old-fashioned ethic of taking pride in a job well done, no matter what work one is doing, or whether one seems to be getting a raw deal at the moment. (And yeah, I'm a curmudgeonette sometimes. That's how I roll. :-))

Also, I don't think it's about respect, or social justice, or even being human and erring on occasion. It's about whether or not umpires are biased, and I think we all know the answer to that one. (And as for not making themselves the story, don't get me started. The games are too long, Mr. West? I'm sure that umpiring has nothing to do with that. Riiight.)

Mark Zuckerman said...

Anonymous8: Check out the new item I just posted on Dunn. Was already working on it when you commented.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahahaha!!!! Haha, so Marquis fell apart all because the umpire thought he didn't wipe!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! What a professional he is!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

cadeck13 said...

Natsfan1a - you go girl ;)

SilverSpring8 said...

I agree with Chris, Princess Jazzy and Soarian. Yes, it appears there were some questionable calls, but they appeared to be questionable both ways. Regardless, good teams overcome it, make their own breaks and win. Bad teams and bad TV announcers (the unwatchable Carpenter and Dibble) blame the umpires.

Anonymous said...

Tough to stay composed when you don't know where the strike zone is. The umps where horrible. And it wasn't both ways. It was the Phillies home opener. A big crowd. The umps were inimidated by the NL Champs home environment. Riggs was right to make a statement. And Carpenter, Dibble and that stike zone monitor couldn't help but make it obvious.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, cadeck. :-)

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