Monday, September 13, 2010

Gut check time for Nats

The Nationals have reached the home stretch of the season, 19 games over 21 days to conclude a 2010 season that still could go either way.

A week ago, the Nats looked like a safe bet to reach 70 wins. But five straight losses, including a sweep at the hands of the Marlins over the weekend, leave them at 60-83. Now they need to finish 10-9 to get to 70 wins.

And that's going to be a challenge because the schedule is about to get rough. Beginning tonight in Atlanta, the Nationals will play 12 of their final 19 games against the contending Braves and Phillies.

Every game matters for those two teams, with the Phillies currently holding a 1-game lead in the NL East and the Braves narrowly leading the three NL West contenders (the Giants, Padres and Rockies) in the wild-card race. You know they'll be coming out with full effort for the stretch run. But will the Nats?

After yesterday's loss to the Marlins, Jim Riggleman and his coaches chewed out their players for a perceived lack of energy. It's certainly not uncommon to sense that in mid-September of a losing season, but it's the last thing these guys want see.

There's still plenty at stake over these final three weeks, from the Nats' won-loss record to individual jobs that are on the line. A lackluster weekend series against the Marlins couldn't bring them out of their doldrums.

Perhaps a bunch of games against contenders over the next three weeks will.


JayB said...

"perceived lack of energy"....Mark you clearly were not there......I say walking on and off the field between innings....jogging down to 1b on grounders.....walking and then jogging after balls lose in the OF as Fish took 2 extra bases and the lead....It was not a perceived problem...ask anyone who paid as I did to watch that crap....worst game of the year aside from opening day.

Golfersal said...

Do you feel that we could be entering a Riggleman death watch time. A lot of displeasure is being felt on not only this site but others. But in going to the games this weekend notice that the limited crowd which number around 8,000 where also very quiet and a lot of displeasure was given toward Riggelman.

joNAThan said...

Do the Nats envision Riggleman as the manager when they are "ready to compete" in 2012? If not, cut bait and go get the manager that can help them get to the next level. I like Riggs, but to me he's a caretaker, and while some of the things that were missing with Acta have gotten better, this team still has lots of work to do. Not sure what managers will be available this off-season, but its time to start a search.

Section 222 said...

I'd almost rather see the Nats collapse at this point than finish with a winning streak like they did last year, engendering alot of false confidence in the current roster and Riggleman. We've seen what this team is really made of these past few weeks, and it's not pretty.

Pedro said...


Wondering if the Nats FO has taken note of the O's record since bringing in Showalter? Is that weighing on Riggs? Any insight to what Buck did to spark Baltimore or is it just a fluke?

DCGuy7 said...

JayB - couldn't agree more - yesterday was pathetic. Glad to hear that Riggs and the rest of the staff bitched the team out, at least. After going out of my way to get extra tickets (beyond my STH tickets, due to visiting family) i was really kind of annoyed that the team couldn't even be bothered to give a good effort, in trying to avoid a sweep. They were doggin' it - clear as day. There were at least 15 times yesterday that i just shook my head noticing this kind of attittude/behavior. Some house cleaning is badly needed.

Also - @golfersal, repeating from the other post - let us know what seats yours are - i for one will gladly buy them next time i'm looking for extra games, if they're available.

Stew Magnuson said...

Who chews out the coaches and manager?
Gut check time for the Nats front office, I say.
Riggleman is mediocre.

N. Cognito said...

One thing I've never understood, and you see it on all teams, ballplayers rarely have to run hard and yet many times when they should, they don't.

After the melee with the Marlins down in Florida, it was obvious these last three games, which team cared enough to turn it into effort.
Embarrassing. How do they even consider showing their faces in public.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Why isn't anyone holding the players accountable...Riggleman identified that there is a segment of the clubhouse that is selfish and only interested in personal stats and milestones and not the greater good...Rizzo should be asking for names and these players should be sent packing the day after the season ends! This is not Riggleman's fault or any of the coaches fault it is a player personnel problem so if anyone should be under fire it is the players and Mike Rizzo!!

I believe the following players are the ones that Riggleman was talking about:


I only wish we could have a manager like Buck but instead we will not pay for that so will be more likely to have a Mike Quade type managing by the All-Star Break 2011.

Anonymous said...

"Gut check" time? How about "roll over and play dead" time? Much more likely based on what I've seen of late. They'll go 5-14 over the last 19 games.

Thank God the NFL is back, to avert my eyes from this mess any more for 2010.

JayB said...

and Kennedy for sure...and it is Riggs fault because he keeps rewarding and playing Morgan, Kennedy when test two hurt the team day after day going back to May 15.....Riggs protects them he should take the heat for them....If Kennedy plays again then Riggs should be fire on the spot.

N. Cognito said...

Guys I wouldn't re-sign:

Mr Baseball said...

What do you mean Riggleman is not responsible? He makes the line-up! Doesn't he know how to bench people like Morgan(his pet), Dunn who didn't hit last September and HR production has declined the last two years. He also is the one who is double switch crazy and won't let pitchers work out of jams. He is the one also, who doesn't let relief pitchers build confidence by only pitching to one hitter and then being pulled.

Also, he the one who continues to play Kennedy and has to make sure his boy Harris gets his at bats.

He's the one who should kick them in the butt. And if you are not producing you sit the bench until the next opportunity presents its self.

When I coach teams, I always tell my players, if you are a starter don't let someone get their foot in the door. If you are a sub, just continue to work hard and when the opportunity comes kick the door down. Just remember you can out think, out work and out hustle the person in front of you. In time I'll see the players who have heart and really want to play.

I don't feel Riggleman views thing this way! He keeps waiting for certain people to start producing and with that view, you can wait forever.

dale said...

The comment from Riggs about players caring more about their personal stats is like a lightning bolt coming out of the shadows. Riggleman has refused to criticize his team in public the entire season, even when the play has been horrid.
Up until now we have been told that the team has been fiercely competitive, and working tirelessly to compete day after day. So perhaps the distance between what I see on the field and what I hear from Riggleman will be narrowing.

As for the individual players that are playing only for their stats--Morgan comes to mind first and foremost. His decisions on the field are not "team first" decisions.

I disagree tactically with some of the decisions that Riggleman has made this year, but every single manager will be second guessed. For those of you desiring an end to the Riggleman era, don't hold your breath. There will be changes for next season that will make a difference , but it will be with the players on the team, not the management. Morgan, Kennedy and Dunn will be gone. Kennedy's successor is already in the clubhouse. A new centerfielder will be playing next year and a better fielding first baseman will take over. I see steady incremental improvements, not the kind that will overly excite the fan base though.

sm13 said...

How does N. Cognito put Pudge on his list? Did you see the play where Pudge ran towards and tagged out the runner frozen between 1st and 2nd base? If all the Nats played with that combo of hustle and smarts we'd be talking about more than a faint hope of 70 wins.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Good call sm13.... Not only that play but allowing himself to move to 8th in the batting order shows a pretty good team concept, as well.

N. Cognito said...

Where is Pudge's name on my list?

Anonymous said...

why the Kennedy hate?

Mark Zuckerman said...

Hey folks, I don't want to take away from the discussion going on here, but I wanted to let everyone know that one of my former colleagues from the Washington Times (Patrick Stevens) is taking a cue from yours truly and asking readers to help him continue to cover the Maryland Terrapins this season. If you're a Terps fan and value good independent coverage, please take a moment to check out Patrick's "D1scourse" site and help him out the same way you so generously helped me this season.

Anonymous said...

Right now this team appears to be a mess.

1. Can someone please rationally explain why Rizzo continues to state that he wants to re-sign Dunn but nothing gets accomplished? Dunn has publically stated his demands, and they are, in the words of Ryan Zimmerman "a no brainer". This isn't doing the morale of the team any good.

2. I love Riggs, and I want him to be the manager. But its hard to reconcile his stated goals of insuring that players 'play the game the right way' and backing Nyjer Morgan. I can't help but think that Nyjer's antics have damaged the once cohesive clubhouse and polarized players on one side or the other, just as we've seen fans on this board argue back and forth about this.

3. What to make of Lannan and his terse comments about being removed -- "this is the way the manager manages, and that's it?"

4. Do you think players are as sick of the seemingly pointless double switches such as the Morse/Harris one yesterday?

I'm really more discouraged about this team right now than I've been in a long long time.

Golfersal said...

DCGuy7 said
We are in club level, 208 row A.
They are I think the best seats in the house, just inside third base. You can get me at I don't think am going to any of the Houston games and if they continue the slide won't bother to go to the Braves series. For those that say I am not a true fan, live in Leesburg and it's a pain to go to these games and fight the 1 and a half traffic.

Harper_ROY_2012 said...

Who else besides Pudge on the club is out to break any milestones? He wants to get 3,000 hits and now with Ramos he will get less AB's, that is why I put Pudge on the list.

Feel Wood said...

"1. Can someone please rationally explain why Rizzo continues to state that he wants to re-sign Dunn but nothing gets accomplished? Dunn has publically stated his demands, and they are, in the words of Ryan Zimmerman "a no brainer". This isn't doing the morale of the team any good."

It's very simple. Dunn wants a four year contract (as he told Ladson last week) but no GM in his right mind is going to give him a four year deal - other than to be a DH. Rizzo wants Dunn, but not for four years. Two years ideally, maybe three. It's a classic contract standoff. Eventually one of the two sides will have to budge, but right now there's no incentive for either one to do anything. The triggering event will be when the season ends and Rizzo tenders a contract to Dunn, which I'm sure will be more than reasonable money-wise, but not for four years. Will Dunn accept, or will he take his chances that some other team will give him a four year deal? With his decline in offensive production for the second year in a row (last year he failed to reach 40 HR, and this year it looks like his HR total will drop even more - especially if like last year he basically shuts down in September) it's becoming increasingly unlikely that an AL team would give him four years to DH, much less an NL team giving him four years to play the field. Eventually Dunn and his agent will realize this, and Rizzo's offer will look much better to him.

And BTW, while Zimmerman did say that re-signing Dunn would be a no-brainer, I'm pretty sure he was speaking of the concept of re-signing him, not to giving him a four year deal. That is definitely not a no-brainer.

Steve M. said...

N. Cognito said...
Guys I wouldn't re-sign:

Can you scream this from the rooftops. I would say Gonzalez is the only name on the list I would reconsider and even though I can't stand Morgan, I would consider him as a bench player but definitely not a starter.

I blame Rizzo for settling for mediocrity and 70 wins is going to be tough.

Steve M. said...

Feel Wood, I was getting ready to comment on Ray Mitten's post, and could not have done a better job of responding then what you just wrote.

It is a negotiation but hope it is a good faith negotiation on both sides, but like you said, Dunn's September production last year wasn't great and this year looks worse. Dunn isn't helping his own case going into a potential Free Agency.

Do I still want him back? Yes, a 2 to 3 year deal will give the Nats time to hopefully develop or trade for Dunn's heir apparent.

Pilchard said...

Don't see the Nats resigning Dunn. Rizzo wants to emphasize defense, and although Dunn has improved some at first, he is still lacking there. Barring no interest in Dunn, which drives his asking price and length of contract down, Adam Dunn is nor coming back.

Also, do not see the Nats firing Riggs at the end of the year. The organization is fairly cautious when it comes to changes, and the Lerners and Rizzo know that this team is at least 1 year away from legitmately contending. That said, barring a shockingly good year in 2011, Riggs will be gone after next season.

Related to the Nats struggles, in the reverse standings, the Nats have now fallen to the 7th worst record in baseball, but only 3 games seperate the Nats, Royals, Indians and D-backs (even the O's are only 5 games behind now). Realize that this is little consolation, but the Nats are steadily climbing the draft board for 2011, with this late-season slide.

Link to the reverse standings (the Pirates have essentially clinched the top pick next year):

Doc said...

I was wondering about the Morse/Harris switch in yesterday's game too.

Was Morse still suffering from the minor injury reported a few games ago?

Big Cat said..., another vote for my boy Mike Quade. I think he would come in here and kick some butt. Be cheap too. Hmmmmmmm

Sunderland said...

Pilchard said...
Don't see the Nats resigning Dunn. Rizzo wants to emphasize defense, and although Dunn has improved some at first, he is still lacking there.

Just keep in mind, everything Rizzo says publicly and has leaked to the media is part of the negotiation.
So this "emphasis on defense" is posturing.
Where did it come from? (Un-named Nats sources?)
Regardless of where it came from, it might be grounded in some legitimacy, but it really means nothing.

Posture. Negotiate. 7 x 24.

And this is not raggin' on Rizzo. It's tha nature of both sides of this business.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

N. Cognito said...

Guys I wouldn't re-sign:

That's a good start. I certainly would add Rick Eckstein to that list. A lot of motion, and no real results. He's obviously biding his time until a MLB manager's spot opens up (Here?). But the guy has been a .220 batting coach, that's for sure. And, honestly, McCatty doesn't rank much higher.

Under the bus with them all!

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

A new team goal: 300 losses in three years.

We lost 205 losses last two years. With 19 left, we're 60-and-83. We have to go 7-and-12 the rest of the way to roll our 300 game.

C'mon, Harris, Morgan, Nieves, Gonzo, Olsen (especially you, and that $100,000 per start contract you have), Kennedy (total stiff), you can do it.

Actually with 12 of the 19 against ATL-PHIL, and four with HOU (actually playing well), that only leaves the final three with the Mets up in the air. And they just took two of three from us here.

If we go 3-and-16 the rest of the way, that's 63-and-99. About right. 304 losses in three years.

Take a bow, StanK.

DCGuy7 said...

N. Cognito's list is right on target. Couple other "pitchers" i'd throw in as well.

sjm105 said...

Liked the list but I would keep Gonzalez and I know Nyjer would not stand for it but he would be an upgrade from Willie Harris. Who knows, maybe next year we will not be using over 200 double switches and we can have a normal bench. Is Tim Foley still in the discussion, I am not familiar with
Quade, can someone fill me in?

Thanks to Feel Wood for an excellent analysis on Dunn and what is happening.
I have gone back and forth on this and we have been horrible with Dunn, I might like to see what a + fielding first basemen would do for us.

A DC Wonk said...

The Rizzo and Riggs and FO bashing here is ridiculous. Rizzo has tremendously improved the pitching (c'mon, guys, remember guys like Bacsik?), and even more so the bullpen. He also cleaned up the Dominican Republic mess, and personally got both Strasburg and Harper signed, going to the last minute (quite literally) with Bora$. The FO? Does anybody remember that they went way over slot this year on three players? Yuneski Maya, anyone? Does anyone here think that was a risk worth taking? Approximately 31 other teams are wishing they got him.

As for Riggs -- it's the mark of a professional that you dress down your players in private, not in public. Of *course* there's going to be a difference between what he says in a press conference ("the guys are giving a good effort") and what he says to them privately. Sheesh.

As for the whole team -- you have to keep perspective about just how bad our farm system was while MLB owned and decimated the team's foundation. It's taken years, but we finally have guys like Espinosa and Desmond coming up, and there will be more. But you can't change a team that both sucked *and* had no foundation with the snap of a finger, no matter how brilliant the front office is.

What to make of Lannan and his terse comments about being removed -- "this is the way the manager manages, and that's it?"

What I make of that is that those are the words of a competitor. He wants to compete. Duh.

And sticking Lannan in the list of selfish players? Where does that come from?

Players tanking it in September? You know what? That happens from time to time. The Nats aren't the only team. The players tanked, and Riggs got in their face about it. That happens every year to every 5th place team in September.

Do I like what's happening? Heck no. And I'd be p-o'd if I had spent money on a ticket yesterday, too. But that doesn't mean: the FO doesn't care about winning and that Rizzo is incompetent and that Riggs is an idiot and guys like Lannan and Pudge are selfish. There are 31 other teams all trying to improve, too. The Nats were dealt one of the worst hands in history, and it's taking a bit of time to climb out of it.

Steve M. said...

Rizzo's biggest problem is the same one that bit Bowden which is playing favorites. Bowden has his Reds and Rizzo has anyone who he has recruited or signed.

We all expect Rizzo to go after Brandon Webb which is risky but he has to come to grips with guys he brought here like Nyjer Morgan and Adam Kennedy and guys he had in Arizona like Mock. He has to get with reality with guys he likes on a personal level like Justin Maxwell and Willie Harris, and make tough decisions on coaches like McCatty and Eckstein.

Rizzo's job is tough but thats why he gets paid the big bucks. There are enough smart people here that saw Day 1 the RF problems and the weak bench and Rizzo allowed that to happen. The vast improvement on this team was in the bullpen. Everything else is ending like it was last year. So Mr. Rizzo, what have you done for me lately?

Anonymous said...

The Dunn discussion is really not that complicated. Over all he is app. app. 4 WAR which takes into account offense and defense; this should translate to app. $15 mil salary which means that we got good value for him.

Generally speaking you don't sign 30 year old players to a 4 year contract because you can potentially end up with contracts like Carlos Lee and Vernon Wells. I really think that we should have traded him for Dan Hudson ( if that was really proposed) because then you win on 2 fronts; you get a major league ready pitcher (all scouting reports say at least a 2 or a 3) and you free up the money to use in the off season; heck you can resign Dunn if you are so inclined.

The arguments that not signing Dunn will upset Zim are childish; I can think of several million reasons for him to get over it.

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