Monday, June 28, 2010

Should someone speak up?

Good morning, NatsTown. At least, I hope it's a good morning for all of you considering the events of the past three days in Baltimore.

I'm at Dulles, waiting for my flight to Atlanta -- great matchup tonight between Stephen Strasburg and Tim Hudson -- so I don't have time to put together a comprehensive morning post. But I did want to broach one subject: Whether it's time for someone inside the Nationals' clubhouse to speak up and whip everyone into shape.

I asked several players about this after yesterday's loss, and the opinion was unanimous: No, there's no need for a team meeting or anything like that. Yet.

The thinking among players is that such closed-door meetings are necessary if there's clearly an issue with effort. No one believes that's an issue right now. If it does become an issue, then a players-only meeting might need to happen.

One question I'd have, though, is this: What player would take charge in such a situation? In other words, who is the leader of this team? It's not in Ryan Zimmerman's personality to do it. Same for Adam Dunn, Adam Kennedy and Cristian Guzman. Ian Desmond seems like the type who might be a vocal leader, but not at this early stage of his career.

The likeliest (and maybe only) choice seems to be Ivan Rodriguez. He's been praised by former managers and teammates as a leader, but the opportunity hasn't really presented itself yet with the Nats. Perhaps if this losing streak continues, Pudge will decide it's time to speak up.

So here are my two questions for all of you as I depart for Atlanta: Do you think someone needs to speak up at this point, and if so, who?


pauloyd said...

First off, I don't buy that it is not in Ryan Zimmerman's personality to do it. There are plenty of things people do for their jobs that aren't in their personality. If anything, that makes a statement all the more powerful. So, my take is that Ryan needs to step up and fill that need right now. This isn't about this year, it is about the core of the team continuing to 'not expect to lose' anymore.

Second, Riggleman's pressers have been strange. No one wants to keep hearing this 'keep playing hard and we'll win plenty of games'nonsense. Maybe you can say 'keep playing hard, it's all you can do.' Can't argue with that. But it might not win games.

Rizzo needs to address the team directly as well.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo picked them he should close the door and rip them. They are sleep walking to 100 loses again.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Rizzo needs to "address the team" so much as he needs to "DFA Harris and Nieves, trade Morgan for a backup catcher and rush Wang and Detwiler back to the rotation." That'll light a fire under this team more than any silly speech.

HHover said...

To answer you questions--yes, and Pudge.

And I don't buy the "the effort is there, we just need to gut it out" explanation. They've got the most errors and (from my quick scan) the second most unearned runs in MLB. Unearned runs were the margin of victory in 2 of the 3 games this weekend in Baltimore.

The middle infield has been the worst, but there's plenty of blame to go around. Add to the things that get scored as errors other mental lapses and episodes of carelessness that--wild pitches, caught stealing, etc--and there's more than enough fodder for a general meeting.

And since Strasburg has pitched well enough to win but been let down by his teammates in his last 2 starts, having the meeting before tonight's game would seem a good time.

Bowdenball said...

Speak up to whom? The Lerners?

This is a team that started the season with a #5 starter getting the ball on Opening Day and below major-league offensive talent at 4 of the 8 positions (although I'll admit I thought Nyjer could give us major league production and Pudge was done- boy was I wrong on both counts). We have really only one guy who's a superior talent on both sides of the ball.

It was really fun when the bullpen was performing brilliantly and protecting every single lead, but 33-43 is about what we all should have expected. It sucks that we arrived there by going 25-20 and then collapsing completely, but the end result is the same. Dennis Green syndrome. They are who we thought they were.

Big Cat said...

Good points Bowden. Bottom line is: we ain't that frickin good. We are a bad ball club and a bad ball club gets exposed over a 160 game schedule. the way....tell Capps to sit down now.

joemktg said...

Second Bowden's motion. Talk till you're blue in the face: ain't nothing going to change the performance other than individual changes in approach/technique. And no GM can work miracles in such a short time frame.

We'll all feel a lot better if we collectively LOWER OUR EXPECTATIONS. Give me a contender in 2012: until then, pass me a cold one.

bobn said...

Some contender will want Guzman and Willingham..and they ought to bring in some return..though Guzzie's contract may stand in the way. And, if the Pirates get rid of someone (Morgan and Capps) there must be a reason.

natsfan1a said...

Agree with Bowdenball, Big Cat, and joemarketing. The good start may have raised expectations somewhat higher than was warranted.

Anonymous said...

Zuck has a good point though....who is a leader on this team. Do you think anyone would of stood up to that dog Upton like their 3rd baseman did? Probably not. Whens the last time someone got a big hit. I was there when Dunn had the walk off bomb last year. That seems like a loooong time ago. This team is a bunch of mice

Bowdenball said...

Anonymous 9:51-

I don't know if we have someone who would have said something to Upton. I'm also not sure it matters. Do you think the Rays are a better club for it? Why?

I just don't see lack of effort as a problem here. Yeah, there's been some mistakes in the field, but Desmond has always been mistake-prone throughout his minor league career. That's who he is. A speech isn't gonna change that. Same thing goes for Guzman's lack of range. And sure, we've made some other stupid mistakes, but that happens to all teams. Lugo, a veteran, almost cost the Orioles the game yesterday with a mistake far dumber than any the Nats made all weekend. Does he need a talking to? No, of course not- these things sometimes just happen, and they happen to ALL clubs.

The difference isn't effort or focus. This difference is that some clubs have Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Kensin Kawakami or Roy Hallday, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer in the rotation, and have scored 350+ total runs this season. Other clubs have Strasburg plus a rotating cast of journeymen, castoffs and minor leaguers, and have scored 313 total runs this season.

Richard said...

I had the same thought this morning: who is the team's leader? The heart of the order (3-4-5) seems content -- from my distant vantage point --to accept whatever the results are. I think the media says they're "even tempered, not too high or low", which has been praise -- until now. Now that even temper seems a bit passionless. Anyway, Rizzo mentioned that Adam Dunn is a leader, in his quirky way, which seems right. Zimm and Willingham are leaders too, probably, by example rather than verbally. But the team seems better on paper than the results on the field, and maybe that reflects a lack of a leader. Championship teams have that leader, someone who is clearly an allstar and who abhors losing and can deliver under pressure so that his mates want to follow. I'm thinking of Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, and -- who would it be in baseball? Kevin Youkilis maybe.

Anonymous said...

But I did want to broach one subject: Whether it's time for someone inside the Nationals' clubhouse to speak up and whip everyone into shape.

Isn't that the manager's job? Of course, it is rather hard to inspire people when every other word out of your mouth is "y'know."

Well, y'know, you guys need to, y'know, start winning some ballgames here, y'know.

Works for me, Jim.

Nervous Nats Fan said...

Even though I think "closed door meetings" don't ever truly accomplish anything on the field, I think they make the fans feel like they're trying to do something.

I think someone needs to step up. Maybe it's Riggs, maybe Zimmerman (suck it up), Pudge, or Willingham (he sees what's going on with certain members of the outfield and that half of the infield?).

phil dunn said...

Your article pinpoints one of the Nats biggest problems--they don't have a team leader Worse yet, their manager is a mouse, just like Manny Acta. He was afraid to come out of the dugout to argue an obvious blown call at home plate last Wednesday in a 1-0 game. If a manager doesn't care, then why should the players? Maybe Riggleman needs Leo Durocher to remind him of his famous line--"nice guys finish last". Riggleman was the wrong choice to manage this underachieving, complacent team. They need a manager who will kick some ass.

Steve M. said...

NatsTown is talking loudly today. People are pissed off and have a right to.

While I don't agree with any comparison of Riggleman to Acta as a "Mouse" as Phil Dunn describes it, I will say that it is mousey to compliment a Royals pitcher that started the game with a 5.77 ERA and kept the Nats scoreless while throwing junk all game.

Riggleman cannot keep writing Willie Harris into clutch situations when the game is on the line.

Riggleman has had an oversized bullpen but refuses to use them effectively hence 3 games were lost over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Except for the excitement surrounding SS, there is total lack of energy and emotion on the field. Even last year when our record was much worse, we had a Zim hit streak, a Lannan complete game vs the Mets, and I think at least a walk-off or two. this year it looks like a bunch of zombies out there - Riggs has developed "Manny Face", too. I understand the philosophy of not getting too high or too low, but this is ridiculous. They all look like they are in a coma - somebody needs to show some kind of expression - anger, joy - something! It's excruciating to watch.........

Dave said...

Personally I don't think it is a coincidence that the Nat's were winning while Pudge was playing out of his mind the first month and a half of the season. He has only been hitting .250 since he returned, and .220 since May 15th, when the losing really began. I realize that there are tons of other variables i.e. errors, etc. Just one fans opinion.

FOTB said...

"Championship teams have that leader, someone who is clearly an allstar and who abhors losing and can deliver under pressure so that his mates want to follow. I'm thinking of Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, and -- who would it be in baseball? Kevin Youkilis maybe."

I agree with your point, Richard ... but Kevin Youkilis? Seriously?

Try Derek Jeter ... year after year, game after game.

Anonymous said...

is there a possibly of getting middle infield help?

...stephen drew possibly.

PS im a red sox fan as well as a nats fan and i still think jeter is the guy you go to in baseball

N. Cognito said...

Leadership, clubhouse meetings, trade or DFA players (when no real replacements are seriously available)...
What a load of garbage.
The Nats are losing simply because they have too many players that aren't very good.

MJR said...

I've been thinking and wondering about this all weekend. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that Pudge hasn't been visibly peeved at the way things have been going. Weren't he and Adam Kennedy (and Marquis if he were around) supposed to inject something of a winning attitude/culture into the team after the past several years of hopeless losing? In Kennedy's case, that's a little hard to do since he's not playing much and when he does, he's - shall we say - rusty. But Pudge...I can't believe he's putting up with this.

Doggie DooDoo Snowcone said...

The Nats look like the worst team in the National league on pace for another 100 loss season. Its time to make some big changes. These veterans Riggleman brags led a team that was once 5 games under .500 to 10 games under and sliding fast.

They need to be replaced by promising prospects not another displaced veteran who may or may not pan out. And Jon Daniels looks like he is having a fire sale of guys Mike Rizzo knows well. Its time for the totally solvent Lerners to take full advantage of AZ's financial woes.

Steve M. said...

Kevin Youkilis had the balls to stand up to Manny Ramirez so I agree. Youkilis has been the guy in that clubhouse and he doesn't wear the Captain "C" in Boston.

Pudge is the guy on the Nats to speak up if needed. He's here for more than just a paycheck.

Rizzo made some poor personnel decisions like Bruney, Justin Maxwell, Nyjer, Adam Kennedy, Cristian Guzman, Wil Nieves, Willie Harris, John Lannan, Marquis, Garrett Mock, Willy Taveras, Craig Stammen.

That is 12 out of 25 where possibly Nyjer will right himself with Lannan and Stammen still question marks.

Lannan had a lackluster Spring. Marquis had a horrible Spring.

Yes, Rizzo deserves better and so do the fans.

Anonymous said...

Its interesting that we all seem to be sensing the same thing -- that there is not a lack of effort, but that there is complancency of losing -- and are trying to come up with ways to solve it.

I think the players care, and I think the players are trying. I also think the players are good enough to be at or near .500. I don't agree that Riggs is 'mousey', quite the opposite. Watching him work and get others working at spring training will dispel that notion.

I think it boils down to the fact that there is a culture of losing here which began with JimBo screwing with the chemistry of the '05 team and its stuck with us ever since. I'm not sure how to break it, but I am sure that saying 'we played good' after getting swept by the worst team in baseball isn't a good idea.

Maybe getting a competent second baseman and another veteran starter would be a good start. And I still think that the team would be doing better if Dunn's contract were extended NOW. Dunn is extremely important to this team, both by his presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse. Keeping him on thin ice (and seeing his name in trade rumors to the Angels) is not doing anyone any good.

Bowdenball said...


The "Derek Jeter is a winner" line is a myth propped up by ESPN and people like Rudy Giuliani and who like to create heroes. He's a great baseball player who is exactly the same in the postseason/clutch as he is in an early May game against the Blue Jays.

He's had some amazing,heroic moments, sure. When you play an entire season worth of postseason games in your career, you'll have a few of them.

He's also the primary reason the Yankees lost the post- September 11 World Series to the Diamondbacks (.179 OBP, .259 SLG for the 7 game series), did absolutely nothing to stem the epic 2004 collapse to the Red Sox (.333 OBP but only .233 SLG on .200 BA) and has several other terrible series in his career that ended in Yankee elimination.

The Nats could use a Derek Jeter on their roster, sure. But that's because he's a middle infielder with a lifetime OBP of .387 who showed little sign of dropoff until this year, not because he's a "winner" who "refuses to lose."

The Great Unwashed said...

Please, folks. Stop with the "DFA this player" and "trade that player" comments.

Given how cheap the front office is, and the fact that they've already eaten Brian Bruney's salary, do you really expect them to DFA anyone else? I don't.

And do you really think other teams are going to trade their good players for Washington's substandard players? Come on. These views are unrealistic and everybody knows it.

The Nats had a good run at the start (for once) but now they've regressed back to who they really are. Maybe they'll show some promise and have another winning streak, but realistically they're a 70-75 win team (at least I hope). I wish things were different, but that's just the way it is.

As for Mark's original question, I don't think a team meeting could hurt. Look at how they've played without discussing things.

Anonymous said...

I'm sick to DEATH of "tipping my cap" to the opposing pitchers/hitters/whoever who kicked our butts each day and "showering this one off." My cap has fallen off my head and my skin is dry from all the showering.
I would love to see Riggleman take a page from the Joe Torre book of managing. Call someone out in the presser for screwing up and see how that works for motivation. Acta didn't hold any of the players accountable and look how the team performed. Riggleman is falling into the same trap. This isn't Little League, Jim, stop worrying about making them feel good themselves. Tell them to stop acting like AA ballplayers and go out their and EARN their millions. The fans are sick of the bullsh--t.

Steve M. said...

Anon at 1:12. Riggleman and his interaction with the players isn't the problem.

It is the depth of personnel he has been handed and the lineup card he fills out and his decisions on when to pull starters and put in relievers and pull relievers.

Anonymous said...

As a long time Pudge fan, I remember a time in 03' when Dontrelle Willis was talking on his cell phone and Pudge told him to get off NOW and get on the field for stretching. Or if he saw someone on the Tigers not communicating on defense he would let them know on the field (with a smile). This year several times I have seen him fire a throw back to the pitcher harder than he had received it, mainly to get that guys attention and to get him to re-focus. I really don't think it has reached a point where publicly he would get in somebody's face. He is usually a leader by example, who knows what is said in private (in the clubhouse). We can't afford to have him tossed and suspended so I hope it turns around soon or he will get really frustrated.

Bonnie Jo said...

A good point, we have no idea what the players say before the clubhouse opens to the media or after it closes, or what they text to eachother, or say on the phone. For all we know, they are pissed as all hell and have made the decision not to share that with "us," or for all we know they are spoiled millionaires who just don't really care as long as they are collecting their guaranteed salaries, or for all we know they are sick with heatstroke or are getting stoned before the games.

Anonymous said...

I see that many have yet to read today's Boswell. I like the part where he tries to capture Rizzo's demeanor: "add as many drops of sarcasm as your recipe requires".

He just rips a new a-hole in the entire roster. He sounds almost as frustrated as JayB? ;)

Anonymous said...

Call someone out in the presser for screwing up and see how that works for motivation.

I think Mike Rizzo has already done just that ... and how ...

sounds like heads are rolling and jobs are on the line ... and uh Willie Harris? You are one of those guys with World Series rings right? Hitting .157 and saying you are just where you need to be ain't going to cut it? Not with us and apparently not with Mike Rizzo dude.

JayB said...


I have been asking for some time for some reaction from Rizzo and it looks like Boz got it......Your answer is just as I said...Rizzo should close the door and rip his Boz quotes....especially this one..."If you're a pro," Rizzo said, "make the play."

This is exactly what is needed and why Riggs will be gone at the ALL Star break. He is a major wimp and babying these guys.

DC Tom said...

I think the fielding woes are a function of the team's offensive woes...and both of those feed into more pressure on a very thin pitching staff. It's a vicious circle that is dragging the team down.

How do you break out of it? This is what managers are paid to do, to get teams through streaks like this. And Riggs can start by no longer batting his lowest-OBP guy at the top of the order. Have Guzman lead off, start Bernadina in center and Morse in right. Move the rest of the line-up up one slot:


I'd put Morse at fifth above I-Rod and Bernadina because he makes contact more than they do, so he is most likely to drive in runs from that spot. Bernadina's job becomes as a secondary lead-off hitter, to get on base before the pitcher...and if he succeeds at it after a couple weeks, I'd give him the shot at the lead-off job full-time and move Guzman-Zim-Dunn-Willingham down to 3-4-5 in the order.

The team needs to start generating runs more consistently. I think that's the key to turning it around.

phil dunn said...

Raymitten said: " And I still think that the team would be doing better if Dunn's contract were extended NOW. Dunn is extremely important to this team, both by his presence in the lineup and in the clubhouse."

I don't disagree with what you are saying about Dunn's offense, but he is one of the major reasons for the pathetic infield defense. That's why he doesn't have a contract for next season. Beyond his own fielding shortcomings, he isn't able to cope with errant throws to first base the way Nick Johnson could. At least half the infield throwing errors this season would not have happened if Nick was still at first base. Of course, Nick is gone and injured again. However, the infield defense won't improve until the Nats have a good fielding first baseman. Dunn belongs in the AL as a DH and if an AL team is willing to give the Nats some decent talent in return, I would jump at the opportunity. This season is another lost season anyway.

Anonymous said...

Phil Dunn...I respectfully disagree with you about Adam Dunn's defense; I think it is not bad now and getting better. Both throws over the weekend were the fault of the incompetent second basemen we are running out there. Dunn isn't bad, he's inexperienced and improving. His height saves many a high throw and his decision making process is getting better with every game. Zim has said as much.

I also disagree with you about Nick Johnson's D -- he was excellent when the team arrived in 2005 but was aging, slow and getting more and more inadequate as time went on. In any event, Nick even if available would only be on the field for selected moments in between injuries. I really liked Nick but it was time for him to go.

The best option at 1b the team is going to have, by a long shot, is extending Dunn and letting him continue to improve his defense while he hits his 40 HRs in the middle of the lineup each year. Think about the hole in the lineup if Dunn is gone.

Anonymous said...

We all seem to agree that this season is another lost season. Since that's the case, why not trade a hot item in much demand (Willingham) and replace him with a Morse. If Morse played everyday, he'd probably be at least as productive at Willingham and such a trade would certainly bring in some much needed talent.

DC Tom said...

I love Adam Dunn as a hitter, as a stabilizing factor in the lineup and clubhouse, and also think that the word that he's a defensive liability at 1B is grossly overstated. Check out Fangraphs...since full-time switch to 1B this year, he's only slightly below average in terms of Fielding Runs allowed, on par with Guzman. (The big drop-off in fielding this year is Morgan--from being a definite plus-CF he's well below average this year.)

Lest this be seen as a Dunn man-crush, however, would I trade him to the Angels for some combination involving Mike Trout (CF), Hank Conger (C), or starters Jordan Walden, Fabio Martinez Mesa, you have to do it.

Bowdenball said...

Anonymous 2:24:

Willingham is under club control for another season. He's arbitration-eligible, but he's a Nat and probably will play for well under what he'd command on the free agent market. So you trade him only if you can get a ton of value for him, or you think that 2011 is a lost season, too.

Also, no offense, but you're out of your mind if you think Morse would be "at least as productive as Willingham." Willingham is second in the National League in on-base percentage. If Morse were remotely in the same universe production-wise as Willingham, he would have been a regular in major league lineups a long time ago. I understand, you see the .340 average and the big OBP and slugging numbers, and it's tempting to extrapolate over the whole season. But that ain't how it works. Morse is 28. He's got 3000 minor league ABs you also gotta look at when you try to figure out what kind of talent he is. He may be finally "figuring it out," but the chances of a guy with his minor league stats magically becoming an all-star at age 28 are slim and none.

Anonymous said...

Looks like BJ Upton and Longoria had an altercation in the dugout. The Rays are starting to slip away ... and they are supposed to shed payroll this year if they aren't winning. AZ is going to have a bankruptcy fire sale. And the Lerners are both solvent and the wealthiest owners in the MLB.

Seems like it may be possible to get many problems resolved before July 31st for 2011 and beyond.

Dunn and Marrerro are both AL players who should be at the DH position. I would trade Dunn before Willingham because either Willingham or Morse could play first base. While the other plays in left field.

Anonymous said...


Not what I would do ... if Riggleman really wants to right this ship he
has to be aggressive. The Nats do indeed do have an NJ type OBP machine and he isn't made of glass.

1. Bernadina cf
2. Willingham (your NJ OBP machine) lf
3. Dunn 1b
4. Zimmerman 3b
5. Morse rf
6. Rodriguez c
7. Desmond ss
8. Gonzalez 2b

They need Gonzalez the flawless fielder more than Guzman the itinerant hacker who never, ever walks and MUST bat second. He needs to be on the bench as a pinch hitter. Has to be better than Willie Harris.

sjm105 said...

Anon 2:32
Probably the best line-up I have seen in weeks!! Think Morgan on the bench for a week might just wake him up and would love to see if Morse can handle things for a full week or so without being moved in and out of the line-up. I also have been waiting to see Gonzalez get more time and you can always put Guzman in to face lefthanders since he hits much better from the right side. Bottom line is what Riggleman has been trying for the last month is not working and I cannot figure out how Harris has stayed on the team much less plays in important spots deep in the game.

Anonymous said...

Good question, Mark! You are right most of our guys are not leaders, Zim is shy and Dunn is a goofball. Pudge needs to take the lead BUT the problem is this team needs someone else to take the lead..perhaps LIVO, to tell these guys (most 30 or under) about the wars they have been through, how they have faced adversity and won doing it..not sure either are willing to do that, I think both would rather be supporting members at this stage of their careers and THIS is where Kasten has FAILED to build a team, he got free agents but NO VETERAN LEADERSHIP, there is no Jeteresque guy, no Ripken, no Sandberg, no Boggs, no Brett, no Schmidt to keep these guys in line day to day, they need an enforcer from within!

Mark Zuckerman said...

FYI: Jim Riggleman just held a team meeting inside the Nats' clubhouse before batting practice. So it would appear the manager decided it was time to speak up, and he was the appropriate person to do it.

Wombat-socho said...

I think there are changes that could be made to the lineup that would improve the scoring and the fielding. I think the bullpen could have been handled much better over the weekend. I have no confidence that Riggleman will make those changes or stop abusing his relievers the way he used to abuse his starters. The man needs to go and he needs to be replaced by a manager who will play the kids instead of the veterans.

Linked at Beltway Baseball.

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