Saturday, October 13, 2012

Debating the big decisions

Associated Press photo
Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson will face criticism all winter after the Game 5 loss.
As the throbbing pain of a punch to the gut begins to ease and turn into a mere, lingering black-and-blue mark, the outcome of Game 5 of the National League Division Series begins to take a backseat to the decisions that set it up to happen.

In the immediate wake of their 9-7 loss to the Cardinals, the Nationals and their fans were too consumed with emotion to think rationally about what had just transpired. But with sunrise and a new day comes more perspective and an opportunity to revisit the path that led everything to this soul-crushing juncture.

Here, then, is a look back at some of the toughest decisions Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and others made leading up to and during the NLDS...

It was inevitable: The only way the Nationals could have avoided subjecting themselves to criticism from around the world about their decision to shut down a healthy Stephen Strasburg in early-September was to win the World Series. (And even then, some would have decried Rizzo for denying the right-hander the opportunity to contribute to a title.)

So it's no surprise that much of the discussion this morning centers on the Strasburg shutdown and whether it factored at all into the outcome of this series.

"I'm not going to think about it," Rizzo inside the disconsolate clubhouse late last night. "We had a plan in mind, and it was something we had from the beginning. I stand by my decision. We'll take the criticism as it comes, but we have to do what's best for the Washington Nationals, and we think we did."

Would Strasburg's presence on the active roster have won the series for the Nationals? It sure doesn't seem that way. The guy who replaced him in the rotation, Ross Detwiler, was the only guy on the staff to produce a quality start in the series. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson still would have pitched, and likely struggled.

And who's to say Strasburg would have pitched any better? His ERA over his final six starts was 4.29. He was showing signs of fatigue. He would have been entering uncharted territory in innings and pitches thrown over a long season.

On top of all that, Strasburg's presence wouldn't have turned the Nationals' youthful hitters into clutch postseason performers, nor allowed Drew Storen to throw one more strike in the ninth inning last night that would have made this debate moot anyway.

Johnson spent all week talking about how he wasn't going to change anything about the way he managed his team in the postseason, insisting the manner -- and the players -- that produced 98 wins in the regular season could also win in October.

But in the Nationals' final two games of the year, the veteran skipper contradicted himself with his bullpen usage, staying away from several relievers who helped him get to this point and instead turning to two struggling starters in unfamiliar roles.

The gamble worked in Game 4 with Jordan Zimmermann striking out the side. It did not work in Game 5, with Edwin Jackson laboring through the seventh inning and giving up a run that put the Cardinals in better position to mount their final rally.

"I just felt like Jackson was the best choice I had to get through that part of that lineup," Johnson said. "He did the job for me. He gave up a run, but he did what we needed to, to get to the people we needed to get to."

The most curious absence from Game 5 might well have been Ryan Mattheus, the right-hander who was so effective all season escaping jams and who authored the greatest two-pitch relief appearance in history in Game 1. Mattheus never did warm up last night.

Some will also question the fact Johnson used Storen in the 8-0 Game 3 blowout, in the process forcing the young right-hander to pitch on three consecutive days. Storen wound up throwing 70 pitches in three days. He had actually been used back-to-back-to-back in September, so this wasn't a first-time challenge. Though in that previous instance (Sept. 10-12) he threw a total of only 22 pitches.

Johnson may not have stayed true to his plan in the bullpen, but he certainly stayed true when it came to his starting lineup. The same eight players started all five games of the series in the same batting order: Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Kurt Suzuki.

That lineup produced little in the series' first four games, going a collective 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position. It did burst out early in Game 5 against Adam Wainwright, scoring six quick runs and knocking the veteran starter out of the game.

But those bats went silent the rest of the night -- save Suzuki's insurance-run single in the eighth -- and at the end of the series there is reason to wonder whether anyone off the bench should have been given a chance to replace one of the struggling starters.

The most obvious candidate to have been benched was Espinosa, who went 1-for-15 with two walks and seven strikeouts in the series. Espinosa also was shaky in the field at times, diminishing his value to the Nationals.

Would Steve Lombardozzi have delivered a big hit in a big moment had he replaced Espinosa? We'll never know. But by the end of Game 5, it -- like so many other subjects -- was a valid question to ask.


NatsLady said...

I think Storen asked to be used in the 8-0 game, probably because he wanted the chance to scope out the hitters in a low-stress situation. I thought that at the time, because there was no other reason to put him in.

Exposremains said...

The pitching got them to the playoff, they had nothing(except DEt) during postseason. Also, in this case good hitting beat "good" pitching.

Anonymous said...

As I posted on twitter, part of Drew's difficulty (as Davey has said) is that he tries to be too fine, going for the K when a well placed FB or slider in or just off the zone will more often then not lead to a fly ball or ground out. He didn't need "to throw one more strike in the ninth inning" he need to get three outs before the cards scored 2 runs. Big difference.

baseballswami said...

High stress innings, though. I also am scratching my head at Mattheus not being used last night, especially after Davey had said EJax would only be used in extra innings. I also question no one warming up when Gio started to struggle - it took a long time. Then it was Stammen who has been used a lot and struggled. I am not saying Davey totally mismanaged - but I think perhaps he wasn't at his best. I was surprised to see Bernie pinch hit early as we may have needed him later for defense. Also surprised not to see Tyler Moore after he had been clutch on Sunday. I understand sticking with a plan, but I think sometimes in the offseason it's more about who is hot and who is cold and going with that in order to do everything you can to win in a short series. Not my opinion that Stras would have made a difference - he was gassed when he was shut down and also still melts down quite easily. They will all be tougher now.

peric said...

This was kind of a disjointed season for Storen. I'm not sure he ever got all the way back from that surgery ... he was always inconsistent ... the only reason he ended up closing was that Tyler Clippard became quite a bit worse! Methinks Burnett isn't the only one beset with injury problems ... I suspect a lot of that will come to light as the offseason progresses.

Storen was pretty consistent last season and made consistent appearances. Let's see how he does over the course of a reasonably healthy season again.

gail said...

Joy one day, sadness the next. This is baseball at its best and worst. I was at every playoff game. Very few moments will beat Thursday night's euphoria, or Friday night's agony. But what thrills and chills. Give me more!

Nats need better starting pitching. Gio was a nervous wreck out there. Jackson failed. Zimmermann redeemed himself on Thursday. But players need to be honest. If they are hurt, they shouldn't play. Baseball is a team sport.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Mark, all valid and you echoed the points I brought up in greater details and I will add that I still think Gio should've been pulled in the 5th being a do or die game.

Espi had been in a long slump and just looked lost at times. He had one at-bat where he walked on a 3-2 pitch but was never thrown a ball in the K zone which seemed the Cardinals strategy to let Danny expand his zone and get himself out.

It was good to see Bryce finish strong and Suzuki and Morse.

Exposremains said...

And I do think Gio was worst than Storen

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

aneedell, well said. Drew couldn't let Molina on base and needed to let BABIP work on his side as Molina couldn't beat him.

Todd Boss said...

It's a shame that the prevailing account of this series in the press will be all about Strasburg and Storen, since the fault really lies with an offense that really only was churning for 3 innings in game 5.

SonnyG10 said...

I really despise the second guessing that is going on and will go on. We were within one strike on two occassions of winning the game. If we win the game, all second guessing is moot. It was just not our time. Sometimes you're the bug and sometimes you're the windshield. Davey Johnson is a great manager and Mike Rizzo is a great GM. I wouldn't have a thing changed. We have a great team that I am so proud of and I know that they could have won the World Series if the breaks had gone our way. We have definitely arrived and I'm going to be very interested in seeing what tweeks are made during the off season, if any.

Steady Eddie said...

Mark, these are all good points -- although the Stras business is of interest mostly to those in the National media or other teams whose job it is to stir up controversy and conflict, not in the Nats organization or most knowledgeable Nats fans (let alone Nats Insiders-- but the biggest dog in the manger in this series was our pitching staff and especially our starters. Throughout the year, until late September, they either won games for us when the offense didn't produce much, or kept us in and gave us a chance to win late in games we lost, or won with a late outburst.

The only consistently reliable pitcher was Det, a starter only because of the Strasdown. Probably hard to generalize about because I suspect there were different reasons for different pitchers. Fatigue for some -- JZimm had never pitched that much -- playoff nerves for others, seemingly like Gio, maybe Stammen, in conjunction with other reasons, Storen. Whatever it was, the weakness of the pitching in general was such a dramatic contrast from most of the year that it's the only factor that is such a contrast (our bats came and went across the season, Danny was a weak hitter through most of the season, KSuz got two huge clutch hits in the series despite his other weak hitting).

The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. said...

Mattheus never did warm up last night.

I think he did, Mark, in one of Gio's last two innings. If not him, there was another pitcher warming up alongside Jackson with his name on the ribbon board above the bullpen. Maybe it was Michael Gonzalez, although Davey doesn't usually bring in a lefty to relieve a lefty. So I think it was Mattheus. At any rate, when I saw the two of them warming up I thought Jackson was just getting his side session in. Imagine my bewilderment when Davey actually brought him in to pitch.

NatsLady said...

I'm not trying to second guess, just trying to understand some things that puzzled me. There's a difference, I think.

Anonymous said...

Ghost Of Steve M. ... many thanks. Just look what Mott did to Bryce and to Zimm in the bottom 9th. Drew can do that.

Steady Eddie said...

Swami, good points, especially about not going with the hot postseason hand, whosever it was. It's one thing to start with the same lineup, another and more problematic thing to stay with it and not make enough, or wise, in-game adjustments in a final series game.

djinFl. said...

I do trust that one of you who has MicheleS's twitter address has touched base with her. She seems to have disappeared since last night and having already taken one for the team on S. Capitol St. someone needs to make sure she is ok.

Steady Eddie said...

Steve, I think swami's points do a lot to reinforce yours. Exactly right about being too slow to yank a fading Gio, and bringing in EJax rather than Mattheus. The timing of in-game adjustments, and going with the hot hand in the playoffs, are especially crucial in a final series game. Mattheus was that hot hand in THIS series.

Steady Eddie said...

djinFL -- I'm pretty sure Michele posted on one of the late night threads after the game. I'll check that.

Steady Eddie said...

Thanks, NatsJack. I suspect he may want to keep some distance from baseball right now. Also haven't seen 222 or Wonk or Sofa.

I can't bring myself to watch anything re baseball on TV right now, so Intotally understand. Whereas babbling here seems to be therapeutic with fellow sufferers.

DJB said...

Rizzo is to blame in large part for the pitching woes. The minute Stras was pulled, that put more stress on the rest of the rotation, and on the bullpen. Davey was forced to bring up new guys like Christian Garcia to eat innings that would likely have not been necessary with Stras's quality starts. By the end of September, the bullpen was gassed. We succeeded earlier in the season because the bullpen was not used that much. At one point the Nats led the league in quality starts. In addition, Gio is not a number one, and is not really made for October. He is a warm-weather guy. Zimmermann was really benefiting from BABIP, because he did not have the repetoire of pitches for October either. Our bats have always been a weakness and Espi needs to be sent down. However, this season came to an end because of pitching and, more specifically, the inability to stretch the rotation without Stras. The loss falls squarely on Rizzo, who I think will eventually resign or be fired.

Look at the amount of pressure that will be on the kids next year. Stras is still angry. The clubhouse, which was a strength of this team, has been harmed. Kids like Harper want to play for winning teams - he's a fan of the Yankees, for goodness sake. We've made it harder to sign both him and Stras. Players put in hard work and risk injury to have maybe one chance to play in October. And Rizzo assumed we would be back. What happens if we don't return next year? Looking at how we were exposed, I'm beginning to believe this was a .500 team. Real disaster.

Dave said...

Michele is undoubtedly as bummed as any of us today. I'm not exactly sure why I'm on here posting, in fact. Just hard to let it go.

She told us at the meetup the story of her unfortunate car encounter. She seemed fine. I asked her whether she put a dent in the car's hood. I think she said she tried to but didn't.

Dave said...

I wish we had a real "ignore" button here. It's hard to scroll past some of these posts without becoming aware of them.

(Breathe deeply. Move on.)

Theophilus T. S. said...

According to MLB Trade Rumors Jackson still thinks he wants to be in Washington. How stupid does he think we are? (Don't answer that question.) Hope he ends of up in Baltimore.

NatsLady said...

Det was consistently reliable in September? Which Detwiler were you watching? If you are familiar with (Bill James) game scores here were Detilwer's last 5 start (50 is "average") 37, 58, 66, 37, 27. It was a coin flip whether Det was going to have a good start. His game score on Thursday was 63. Now, IMO, game score overvalues K's and so may underrate a pitcher like Detwiler. But consistent/reliable he wasn't.

phil dunton said...

I suspect Davey Johnson, the "players manager", left Gio in for 5 innings last night when he clearly didn't have it in order to qualify Gio for a win. This is dumb managing. Gio clearly has a serious problem with handling pressure and you could see it in his eyes.

awexton said...

Mark: You wrote pretty much everything I've been saying today -- bullpen management (Mattheus, EJax), Espinosa/Lombardozzi. One thing I might have added is that Davey left Gio in too long: all hands on deck means no need to leave a struggling starter out there. I don't think the true fans will lay this on Storen, but the Bandwagoners might.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

NatsJack, read MLB Trade Rumors. The off-season discussions starting. Burnett, LaRoche, EJAx.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Tim said...

The nats had the matchup they wanted in the situation they wanted. There were no mistakes made in the dugout. Sometimes the other guy wins.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

To be on Rizzo's case is totally 180 degree from me. He is the reason we are good.

I am ready fot stoving.

123 days til pitchers and catchers report (based on Feb 15) report date

baseballswami said...

I am avoiding national baseball media today. I only feel safe here :) Drew is such a great guy and I just hate to see him made the goat. The Nats were sliding in September and struggling. This last week the Cards were really outplaying us, we eked out two games by one run.One thing I have noticed is that the Cardinals have another gear later in the season. They also seemed to be blessed by the BABIP gods.Lots of times we berate our pitchers for always trying for the K, but when they let them hit it, it found a hole more times than not. Especially in Jordan's start. They are relentless hitters, remind me of when we played the Yankees. I hope our team watched they way they took professional at bats. Our guys made it way too easy on most of the cards pitchers. Still inexperienced and green - they will learn.I nominate EJax to continue his travels, I nominate DeRosa for a coaching position and I am torn about ALR, who I love, but I think maybe it's time for TyMo to come up permanently at his natural position.

Gonat said...

SteveM was saying during the game what is being second guessed here.

He was saying and posting in the beginning of the 5th that Gio just wasn't locating. Obviously Davey wanted him to finish his inning. It is what it is.

I agree that criticising in hindsight is just too easy to do.

The bandwagon has now stopped. How many will step off and how many will throw their musical instruments at the band leader. Some of these same people were doubting in September that the Nats could fall apart and make the playoffs and certainly calling in doubt the Division.

All I have to say is Strasburg, JZim, Det and Gio and RZim, Desmond, Bryce, Werth, Morse, Ramos/Suzuki.

The Nats will go into 2013 with maybe 4 or 5 question marks. If a guy like Sean Burnett doesn't want to stay here on his $3.5 million option or Adam LaRoche than there are guys in place to step up.

Steady Eddie said...

NL -- Rereading what I wrote , I see I was Thinkg "in the playoffs" (although consistently clearly is not the right word to use about a single start), but see that I was writing about "late September".

Please don't mark me down too much, teach! ;-)

Reminds me of the chewing gum in line scene in Blazing Saddles -- "boy, is he strict!"

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I think continuity is important. I think you must bring back LaRoche ona faur deal. If it blocks TyMo, those are the breaks.

Not even sure I would chase down Bourn with the job Harp has done.

Espinosa will be at a junction in his career. No more excuses from him. The excuses were piling up like Juan Epstein to Mr. Kotter.

Bye EJax, glad you want to stay and it was nice knowing.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

LaRoche on a fair deal.

peric said...

more specifically, the inability to stretch the rotation without Stras. The loss falls squarely on Rizzo, who I think will eventually resign or be fired.

Totally delusional and clearly never to be seen anywhere on these blogs during the 50-60 win seasons when the rotation was made up of journeyman hurlers and AAAA pitchers who couldn't get a fastball into the low 90's led by the only guy who actually could do that because he knew how to pitch, and that was Livo.

Ownership, the front office, Davey and the coaches were all on board with the plan they developed for Strasburg which is the same plan used for Jordan Zimmermann ... in use for Sammy Solils, Nate Karns, McGready, Cole Kimball, etc, and etc.

This is why you are an idiot. You make an assumption that this plan had the prescience to foresee the Nats in the postseason ... you assume that it is a plan that is specifically only for Stephen Strasburg. You assume a lot because you don't know what's going on.

Please go back to Arbutus. Thank you.

peric said...

The nats had the matchup they wanted in the situation they wanted. There were no mistakes made in the dugout. Sometimes the other guy wins.

Or who had something left after the previous night's game, the previous games and the 162 game season ... if it was a choice between EJax and Mattheus can we fault Davey for going with the guy who had previous, and recent world series experience doing exactly what he did for the team on the other side of the diamond? That was why EJax was paid a great deal more on a 1 year deal to come for this team ...

rogieshan said...

Fearless off-season predictions:

1) Nats sign both Zack Greinke & Josh Hamilton

2) Nats allow LaRoche, EJax, Burnett & Flores to walk

3) Starters: Strasburg, Gonzales, Greinke, Zimmermann & Detwiler.

4) Werth - RF
Harper - CF
Zimmerman - 3b
Hamilton - LF
Morse - 1b
Desmond - SS
Espinosa - 2b
Suzuki - C

Steady Eddie said...

Steve -- agree on all @ your 3:41 and 3:42. Fair to ALR would have to be 3 years -- not sure what you could add contingently to a 2 year deal that would make it worthwhile for him to consider.

On the other hand, he said he'd take a Nats deal unless he gets offered "an extra two or three years" from someone else. Is someone else going to give him 4 or 5?
I wonder if he means two or three years more above an assumed minimum number of years for any deal.

peric said...

Not even sure I would chase down Bourn with the job Harp has done.

They'll probably use Bourn as a smoke screen and have the Riggleman-ites in the FO screaming to sign the guy ... but its not going to happen.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Big cat ask I deliver In each of his first 3 games in the AFL Rendo has gone 1 for 3. So he is 3 for 9 1 2B 4 BB 0 RBI. That is through last night.

peric said...

Hamilton is a left-handed bat ... to go with Harper ... but perhaps they decide to keep LaRoche and move Morse to the bench? No, they have too many really good prospects on the way ... Rendon and Goodwin ... plus Skole and Tyler Moore looks like he could be a Hamilton on the right-side.

And Rendon is still at third base last I looked.

Zim is still a possibility for first base in the near term.

Hamilton is an interesting idea but Texas now has big bucks from the TV deal it seems likely they will resign the guy and give him the five years he is is likely after.

NatsLady said...

No on Hamilton, yes on Greinke. I don't know if Texas will re-sign him, though. He is pretty much persona non grata there.

Anonymous said...

I'm not one to criticize or second guess. I have always contended that Lombardozzi has earned a shot at 2nd base. When Desi was down and Espi moved to short, Lombo did an adequate job at 2nd and was far more productive with the bat. I think Lombo has the mental approach and isn't bothered by the pressure of the moment as Espi seems to be. Further, Lombo has demonstrated the ability to realize the situation and adjust his swing accordingly, something that Espi seems lacking in ability or desire to do, always swinging for the capitol steps. I hope he gets a chance to win the job next year. What good is continuously striking out with the same approach accomplishing, I ask you?

rogieshan said...

Peric, I think Rizzo has proven from the Gio trade that he is not afraid to deal premium prospects to upgrade the major league roster. With ownership showing a willingness to spend, I've got believe Rizzo is going all in next season. The consequence of not finishing the job this year is that the team is less likely to go with unproven players in critical roles in 2013. Goodwin and Skole are clearly a few years away. Maybe Rendon can be next spring's Bryce Harper, but the pressure is now on for Davey & co. to deliver the ultimate prize.

Calatito2 said...

Let see point

1. The Nats were in first place since week 2 , so Rizzo have enough time to realize this was going to be a special year and manage the golden 160 innings in a different way.But is was his way or the hard way . All season long we send people down to the disable list when we need a space in the roster . .He got Lannan in AAA ready to go all year long and use him to replace Jesus in some games . I always wonder what will have happen if Jesus hurt a leg or something that need a trip to the disable list , that was going to be the end of the season ? because you are scare to stop him and get him back to pitch? I dont think so , so why never tried to get him into the end of the season when it was clear for a long part of the season that we were going to play important games all the way to the end . The other point about , well did it with Zimmerman , dont hold water because we spent the whole season 20 games behind .

The point about Detwiller replacing him in the rotation don't hold water because Jesus will have pitch games 1 and 5 , instead of just game 4 as Detwiller did , a kid can see that .

Last night during the game I was looking for a telescope to see if somehow , somebody kidnap half of the bullpen , when I saw Mr Jackson running to the mound .

About the lineup , I guess the order from Rizzo to Davey was to used the same guys over and over , no matter what because they need the experience, for the magical year that is going to be 2013.

sm13 said...

I would worry that Grinke could mess up the clubhouse chemistry. I'd rather see Rizzo look for a better character guy with a 95 MPH fastball in the trade market - David Price?

rogieshan said...

NatsLady, yeah, Hamilton is a tricky proposition, but maybe another change of scenery and the big love of Davey Johnson can put him in a good place to perform.

I also have to ask, what would it take for you to change your opinion of Ross Detwiler?

JT, I'm with you. I understand why Davey chose to stick with his boys, but I really thought Lombo would prove to be the unsung, playoff hero for this team and he never got the chance. (Isn't it always the singles-and-doubles guys who come through?) I hope Davey & management re-evaluate that position moving forward and consider implementing a more balanced approach to the offense.

NatsLady said...

sm13, my understanding is Geinke was great in the clubhouse and much liked by his teammates.

baseballswami said...

Staying totally away from national sports media today, but the locals have all done some tremendous work today. The poignant interview with Drew, thoughtful examination of what happened, big picture approach has been admirable. Talking here, with friends and family, reading writers I respect has been really good. Once you get to the ten teams in the post season, only one team will go home NOT devastated.The other nine, it's just a matter of how long you can prolong it. 20 Teams never got there at all, 2 more were out in a day. We were one of the elite 8. We are out now, along with the upstarts A's and O's and the division winning Reds. Only four standing and 3 of those will go home unhappy. The odds are not great for any team. We ended up in pretty good company this last week.

NatsLady said...

rogie, I'm neutral on Detwiler. I'm happy he gave us the good start in the postseason. I just don't have the notion that he's "consistent and reliable." Perfectly willing to give him the chance next season to show that he is.

original Nats Fan said...

my heart is broken
is it spring yet?

baseballswami said...

Stras, Gio,(the good gio,that is), JZim,
(hopefully the beast JZ that we saw Thursday), and Det,(the Det from Thursday also). Good start on a rotation, don't you think? I don't remember anyone at all posting that they think EJax will return. John Lannan? You know, I think he would have been useful this last week. Michael Gonzalez and Christian Garcia barely pitched. Lannan might have been a nice little stopper. Who knows? Water under the bridge. No use crying over spilled milk. Feel free to add cliches here__________.

Jim Webster said...

Pitchers and catchers reporting date in 2012 was February 20. If that date holds for 2013, we have four months and one week to go.

NatsJack: How's the weather look for February?

Anonymous said...

Swami, yes its true what you say, but we fans are greedy....are we not? I think a lot of this is just a first time playoff team not knowing how to close the deal. Its a tough learning experience, but to be sure, learn they will. No guarantees the Nats will just throw on the unis next spring and waltz back in the postseason though. The NL East is no cakewalk. The Braves, Phillies and Mets I think will all be in the mix next season. Only the Marlins do I think will not factor in the postseason rush. I hope Rizzo and company take a good look and make wise decisions this off season to improve the roster. See some of ya in Viera in the spring...its nice there.

baseballswami said...

Games starting. Anyone up for watching? Even on my best day I have trouble watching the New York Posers. And you just know what all of the commentators will be talking about.......don't know if I can do it. Maybe just keep track on game day.

baseballswami said...

My son lives in Florida and goes to spring training every year. I am a church musician and it's usually Easter-ish time and I can't get away. I think this might be his last year there, and I think the Nats might be moving after this year, too. I am determined to find a way to get there in 2013. Long range planning.

Anonymous said...

I'm now hoping for a black and orange world series, Tigers and Giants, giddiup!

NatsLady said...

The Detroit announcers are good, as are the NY radio announcers (one of whom is female.) I doubt they will talk much about the Nats, they have their own challenges. I won't be listening to the national people for a long time.

Dave said...

I'm sure somebody has posted this link somewhere in this thread or previously, but at the risk or repeating:

You've got to see the video clip of Drew with the media. (The link is to Nats Enquirer, which has the clip.)

The phrase "a stand-up guy" doesn't begin to cover it. It's important to hear his tone of voice. He knows exactly what happened, but he does not sound defeated.

natsfan1a said...

Swami, I doubt that I'll be watching the ALCS, but I do plan to watch the NLCS starting tomorrow. I'll be prepared to hit the mute button at a moment's notice. :-)

I'm in the same boat as far as national/local media. I'm dipping my toe into the latter bit by bit, and the Storen piece was touching. Grateful to have NI folks here to share in processing it all.

peric said...

Goodwin and Skole are clearly a few years away.

1 to 2 or less Rogleshan that is why they are playing in the AFL this fall. To get a good gauge on when exactly they might be ready.

peric said...

The Nats can no longer rely on Werth to be a middle of the order bat. So, losing Morse and LaRoche without replacing them is extremely risky. Certainly there's Tyler Moore and Skole and Goodwin are within a year or two of competing for a spot ...

1. Werth Rf
2. Harper CF
3. Zimmerman 1B
4. Morse/Moore/Bernadina LF
5. Desmond SS
6. Espinosa 2B
7. Rendon 3B
8. Ramos/Suzuki C

peric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
peric said...

Lannan might have been a nice little stopper.

Davey went with the matchups and that meant right-handers. If anything I fear Lannan would have been a sitting duck against the Cards.

Davey used the lefties in the blow=outs to avoiid wasting his right handers so that they could pitch another ... with the exception of Gio and Detwiler of course.

This scenario fit acquiring a talent like EJax like a glove. That didn't work for Davey and Mike Rizzo. Not sure but since he is no longer a Boras client I rather doubt he'll be back.

NatsFanSinceStart said...

As some may think, I seriously doubt if Rzim could even play first base -- can't get away from his arm problems.

I do like Rogiesham's trades and lineup, although I believe there is no way we sign either Greinke or Hamilton. Hamilton is reportedly clubhouse poison and greinke is a contract whore with a volatile personality: two traits I believe are not tops on Rizzo's list.

I assume AJax is allowed to walk: as much as i like and admire him, no wonder that no one cares to lock him with a long term deal. I fear LaRoche is being cut loose -- maybe not unwise. At 32, he may never have a better year -- diminishing returns, perhaps? A one year deal might work. He surely was valuable to the Nats this year, but I think Rizzo needs to clear a bit of the deck to promote some worthy players. Unfortunately, ALR is in the way.

This is going to be a tough off-season, but it sure will be fun passing the time waiting for and watching the moves Rizzo does make.

Good year, Nats. Thank YOu!!!!

baseballswami said...

My DVR is full of shows. Eh, I would rather be watching the Nats. Guess I will start catching up.

Whynat said...

Tomorrow I'm getting my post-season souvenir for myself - a 2012 NL East Division Championship shirt. Held off till now, cause I spend way too much on my Nats habit, and was only gonna get one, wherever the Nats ended this amazing season.

Sure, it could have turned out different. After Thursday, I thought it would.

It's a team sport. The Nats beat out the Phils and the Braves over a whole season. They could not unseat the 2011 Champs. That's how it looked on the field over five gripping days of baseball, and that's how it ended. I'm good with that.

Looking forward to wearing my Div. Champion shirt to the first home series with the Phils in 2013, and cheering for the Boys, when we take a run at the 2012 Champs whoever they may be! (I think I will adopt the Giants for now)

Section 109 DC said...

I haven’t posted for ages for reasons I won’t bore you with, but I want to thank everyone (well, almost everyone) for wisdom, constructive comments, and lack of negativity. The way this postseason ended was even more devastating than I could have imagined. Reading your comments is indeed somewhat therapeutic, and thank you Mark for all your terrific posts. I must say most of the neighbors and family I’ve talked to have been disappointed and sad but supportive of the team, so maybe there are fewer haters than I thought. Thanks for the links to the excellent Post article on Storen to his admirable appearance with the press.
Good also to see the stoving. Remember the film about the Expos, “Nos Amours”? I believe I remember Gary Carter talking about spring training and saying that in February “all sins are forgiven.” Well, I don’t think what the team committed were "sins," but it helps me to think of fresh starts and new perspectives. I think the seven offseason weddings will help too. Life will go on.
Go Nats, you gave us a wonderful season and far more improvement than I would have thought possible.

baseballswami said...

Anyone else at loose ends? I have been literally planning my life around what time the games are. Now there is a void. Sleep will definitely fill some of it. I hope MASN does some kind of year in review show of the Nats's season. I would love that.

sjm308 said...

Made it home safely
Ride did nothing to ease how upset I am with how the season ended.
Reading those I consider insightful here did help some and Peric, you are one of those.

We have much more to look forward to than ever before and it will be interesting and exciting to see what Rizzo does.

I would not mind keeping Laroche if it was just two years but I don't think that will happen. I would also actually like Jackson for another two years as our young arms develop but again, I am guessing that will also not occur. Grienke would be wonderful and we would have the strongest rotation in our brief history. That does not make things a lock (see Rangers, Texas & Angels, California).

I trust Rizzo & Davey and yet I don't see anything wrong with questioning decisions. The one guy I would look to trade and he is well thought of on this blog is Morse. That would mean we have kept LaRoche and I think Tyler Moore is ready for the next step. I also want very much to keep Lombardozi but I also want to see how Espinoza handles a very difficult ending to his year. Lots to be excited about but for now, I am still pretty much deflated.

Feel, I also got that stupid email about World Series tickets and I am not sure what to do with the ones for this season. I realize they are bogus but since I did not get to see one single playoff game, I am thinking of framing them and putting them next to my Harmon Killebrew autographed 8x10/Topps rookie card that are framed

No baseball for this fan tonight, like I said, it still hurts.

Go Nats

JayB said...

Danny Espinoza struck out over 190 times this year......that is unbelievable....a second baseman hitting 7th......He is not on my team if I am Rizzo. How Davey decided to play him instead of Lombo I will never know.....What was the upside of having strike out over and over again in the Playoffs?

JaneB said...

Can't let the above comment be the last in this thread. You didn't believe in Desi, when Davey did. Then he turned into Desi. Espi will become better next year. And even with all those strike outs, his WAR was incredibly high because of his defense.

MicheleS said...

I haven't read anything, literally, I am avoiding all of it, so this is me doing the emotional dump.

Mark, Chase, Amanda, thanks for everything this year. You all have been great with your coverage and everything that you have given us. In case you haven't noticed, you have helped developed the fan base of this team.

Mrs Z/Brian, thanks for sharing Mark with us, we really appreciate it. Brian, eat you Wheaties and learn to hit a curve ball.

To our Boys on the Team. Wow, this has been a wild ride. A thoroughly enjoyable one. These guys have provided us with some amazing times. i am so happy with the make up with the people on the field and off the field as well. I want Davey back and I hope Rizzo just shoots the middle finger to the rest of the MLB. I know the Stras decision was hard, but I believe the right one. This off season is going to be interesting. I want ALR back, but I have faith in the FO to make the tough choices.

If anyone is critical of where we are and the performance on the field. Please go flush your head down the toilet. No One is perfect and it pains me when I see the vitrol directed at Drew or any of the other players. Our boys played their tails off this year and overcame so many injuries and obstacles.

Is their room for improvement? Sure, but I plan on relishing how far we have come. I look at our future and see nothing but more great times ahead.

Friday was a gut punch for us, but did any one really think we would be here? None of us did.

Thanks to my fellow Insiders. You have been just great and have added to the fan experience. See you in spring training!

Chase/Mark.. you should add the clock to Pitchers and Catchers report back for us.

baseballswami said...

Danny is an issue. Just because Desi upped his game doesn't mean he will. I think 2013 will be a critical season for him. The organization won't wait forever for him to figure things out. He had had Davey taking an interest in him for a season and a half. Desi's problem sounds like it was his approach, Danny's seems to be mental- much harder to fix.

baseballswami said...

I also would love the countdown to pitchers and catchers . It will help me cope with this void.

baseballswami said...

Bored, bored, bored. Last week there were exciting games all over the place. Now - no Nats, only Yankees. yuck.

rogieshan said...

JayB, rest assured, I think once the post-mortem is completed on this season, Rizzo and Davey will seriously look at whether Espinosa is the right piece in the team's quest for a championship. His supporters see a complete player waiting-to-happen. Others - myself included - view him as a solid defensive player who is far too undisciplined and stubborn as a hitter to be able to contribute consistently on offense. All the flaws to his game were exposed and magnified in this playoff series. If Espinosa doesn't learn from this and find a different approach to his game, then don't be surprised if Davey gives up on his little "Iron Man."

Adrian said...

I went running through Silver Spring today and as I traversed the trail I saw fans. I saw fans talking to their significant others on a long walk and taking measure of the season: the ecstasy and the heartbreak. I saw school kids playing catch in the street, one of them wearing an Ian Desmond jersey and both of them overwhelmed with the joy of this beautiful game. I ran away with the distinct thought that this was a ride they wouldn't have traded for anything in the world. I saw a community of people united in the crazy journey this unlikely group of guys took us on this year. They weren't cursing Storen's name or rueing the day Strasburg was shut down. They were celebrating the amazing run we've had and taking stock of the fact that they got to watch something rare, something that reminds us that great things are possible for those who will reach for it.

So we came up short in the postseason but this is a team that fought for the best record in baseball and a team I was proud to call myself a fan of. Every minute.

We have the heartbreak of last night's loss but we also have the memory of Gio's first complete game shutout against the Cardinals. We remember Storen striking out three Dodgers in the top of the ninth to clinch our first post-season berth. We won't forget the electricity that coursed through our bodies when Jayson Werth punched a home run into the very fabric of the universe to force a game five. We have all of these memories - moments in time we'll forever be connected to and forever remember.

Thank you, Nats, for a great season and for teaching me what great baseball really is.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I just got home and see not many posts since early afternoon. No to Greinke in my opinion. Definitely no to Josh Hamilton and BJ Upton.

This team achieved much on great chemistry. I like Lohse and the team needs another RH outfielder who can give Bryce some days off. Still not sure what they will do with Danny Espinosa.

This off-season will be another test on "I want to stay" with Adam LaRoche.

Steady Eddie said...

JaneB and MicheleS, thanks for coming back here and sharing your as-always cogent and measured thoughts. While it's helpful to have the sense of proportion that Steve offered a couple of threads ago -- remember that nobody died there last night -- that so-sudden gut punch, seeming moments away from exultation that never came, is especially hard to take.

Sad for our guys who gave their all and for us, who rejoiced and deflated along there beside them; sobered by the degree of focused intensity necessary to maintain such an exalted level of performance consistently through the postseason; and a little bit annoyed still at the one-sided umping from Marquez that was a contributing (though it would overstate things to say "determining") factor in undermining our pitchers' capacity to get the job done.

If you look at the pitch F/X plots on (thanks, Kevin Rusch!) for the game, there were a fairly similar number of "generous strikes" (slightly outside the zone) given to both teams. But only the Nats pitchers got four or five clear strikes fully in the zone called balls. Most of those were near the bottom of the zone, which is where you especially want to be pitching to the Cards. Two of those subversively blown calls (subversive because what's a pitcher supposed to do if not throw strikes where it's hardest to hit them?) were on Drew, one of which was --crucially -- on his first pitch to Molina. A first pitch strike --<which is what Drew actually threw but was called a ball -- completely changes the tenor of that pivotal at bat.

What can you do? It's just one more thing that stinks.

baseballswami said...

Adrian- poetic . Thanks. The buzz has been amazing. I heard a weather report on the radio that said " if you are going to the game..." Never said which game because everyone knew. Things have changed for sure.

peric said...


The dates you propose seem fairly accurate

I don't disagree and like you I am looking at the moves and it can be like looking at tea leaves in terms of roster construction. The fact that they decided to Jump up Goodwin past Potomac really surprised me. Didn't it surprise you? It also surprised me when they decided to bring Rendon back from the fractured ankle this year ... his play has been rough as a result. Rendon himself thought he would be off for the entire year and come back in the spring.

Rendon in AA made sense because the guy is an ace defensively and Davey seems impressed with his swing.

And Skole is going to Potomac again before Harrisburg. But he does seem more like a first baseman / DH at this stage. Marerro and Moore made some pretty rapid improvements at that position so ...

The rapid advancement makes me wonder if perhaps one or more or slated for starting slots in the lineup? Signing any free agent that might block them wouldn't make sense if its for more than a year at this point. Given the logjam already built up by players like Tyler Moore, Stephen Lombardozzi, and even Roger Bernadina ... and Chris Marerro is still out there as well ...

It does appear more likely (at least to me) that the Nats will first attempt to trade for a top of the rotation starter (as they did with Gio) that is under 30 and still has years of team control left. They may be positioning themselves to do that instead of using players for a starting slot.

I guess we'll see.

djinFl. said...

Ah, the MicheleS I needed to hear, some folks just say it so well.

"If anyone is critical of where we are and the performance on the field. Please go flush your head down the toilet. No One is perfect and it pains me when I see the vitrol directed at Drew or any of the other players. Our boys played their tails off this year and overcame so many injuries and obstacles."

Steady Eddie said...

Steve -- agree with your three "no's"-- chemistry is crucial. While I'm sure Grienke is a decent guy well liked by his teammates, the need for coaches etc. to tend to that kind of high maintenance personality, to keep him effectively on task, is a distraction from baseball matters and creates all kinds of opportunity cost problems in how the managerial staff has to spend time.

(very different from their tending to the particular needs of a Bryce, which are ultimately about learning baseball. Grienke doesn't need to learn pitching, beyond the need for everyone in every job to continue learning throughout their careers.)

peric said...

As some may think, I seriously doubt if Rzim could even play first base -- can't get away from his arm problems.

Someone (probably someone who read this blog) asked Rizzo that question directly on his 106.7 the FAN show. About Rendon at third base and Zim at first base. He danced around the question like Jack Flash on a candle stick. And Rizzo is usually pretty direct ...

peric said...

I'd rather see Rizzo look for a better character guy with a 95 MPH fastball in the trade market - David Price?

And to think they almost had Matt Moore who might have been better. But, yes, that would seem to be the move. The Nats left-handed prospects may not be available until 2015. Given that Purke hasn't had surgery (unless he had it and no one made it public). Solis is now like Strasburg and JZimm he is around 2 years to healthy.

Steady Eddie said...

Tigers up 2-0 in the bottom of the 6th, Yanks have bases loaded with one out, and first Granderson, then Martin, Ks on three pitches -- and the despicables in the Yankee Stadium crowd boos their own players lustily.

What despicable, entitled swine. They don't deserve a team, much less a winner, with behavior like that.

baseballswami said...

I think zim has had more if a challenge this year because his shoulder doesn't work properly. Seems like he has to force it to raise up and throw. Let's see how he throws with a fixed shoulder . His fielding is just so sweet over there.

peric said...

His fielding is just so sweet over there.

I don't know if you noticed but he stopped diving for ballst as he was doing at the beginning of the year ... as those led to the injury ...

They need his bat. He's still the best hitter they've got. They can't afford to be without it for extended periods of time due to injury.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I agree w/ NatsJack's suggestion that Goodwin may be leavin' on a jet plane. He's one of several guys in the chain who may be of more use as trade pieces than as future members of the lineup. Skole is another, and I see that being one reason both are in Arizona. No one (well, no one except Peric) can rationally believe either one will be ready next year for more than a September cup of java. So, much as some say AFL is players auditioning to avoid the Rule 5 draft, I imagine Rizzo thinking he'd like another team to fall in love with one or both of them -- it worked with Norris, obviously -- and demand one as part of a trade for another starting pitcher.

Tigers raking Yanks. Lesser of two evils.

baseballswami said...

All the players are starting to tweet their thanks to fans and plans to go home. Now it's final.

Steady Eddie said...

Peric, good observation re Zim's not diving for balls recently. Can't say I consciously had registered that but when you wrote it, I had a sense of at least subconsciously noticing.

But I don't think any of us can know that it "led to" the injury, but may have exacerbated it (there were reportedly multiple chips that need to be removed). But your basic point is certainly true -- he wasn't going to put his shoulder more at risk than it already is. What he does next year, assuming successful surgery soon, is anyone's guess. And that goes for whether or not he continues to have throwing problems as well as whether he resumes diving for balls.

Jimmy said...

I waited all day to look at anything Nats related. I expected so much second guessing that it made me ill to think about it.

Rizzo took a team from laughing stock to first in just a couple of years. As a former O's fan, that is nothing short of a miracle. It didn't happen overnight, but in reasonable (non-fluke) year-to-year increments, and we have a deep farm system ready to re-stock at any time.

Davey took what should have been a ten win jump from 2011 to 2012 and turned it into almost twenty and a division title. He took Desi under his wing (remember when Davey said the pop in Desi's swing reminded him of Cal?) and helped him become an all star short stop. He did this when so many fans wanted to give up on the guy.

I just don't know what some people expect. Only one team wins it all every year. That doesnt mean the other 29 need to blow it up and start all over. Unlike the aging Phillies, another year of age will be an improvement for our team in itself. I have no doubt the front office will do everything it can do to improve the team next year in a responsible way.

The way we got bounced from the playoffs was hard to swallow. I was all but ready to declare victory by the fifth inning. I listened to that ninth inning sitting in front of the radio with my forehead planted on the table in utter deflation. But you know what? I'm ok with a painful out. As I've said all along (with many others around here), 2013 is the year management was aiming for - anything in 2012 was a bonus, and we got a lot in 2012.

The 2013 team was going to be better than its 2012 counterpart regardless, but now I expect them to play with a huge chip on their shoulder. This team is going to be dangerous next year. The league is already on notice.

Thanks to the 2012 Nats for a great year of baseball. I've waited a long time to be able to say that to a team. Thanks to Mark and the NIers for a great season of thoughtful discussion. The anonymity of the internet can lead people to their basest of instincts, and dialog often denigrates into that which you find on the walls of a port-o-potty. It is a rare treasure to find communities like this one. Thanks to everyone that takes the time to add their thoughtful comments.

LoveDaNats said...

I've been successfully choking back tears for almost 24 hours now until I read MicheleS @ 8:25. Like most of you, I've been unable to watch, listen or read anything about last night. NI was the only place it felt safe to come. I know there are so many who felt punched in the gut and I share that with you. This will get better. I'm so grateful for the team we have and the season we just had. So much joy. And yeah, swami, I was planning my life around going to games or watching games. Don't know what to do with all my free time.
Thanks, Mark , for another great year. I know you are an "objective" reporter but please tell us your heart feels a bit stomped on right now too.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Just for the record Mark Texiera totally non team player move. Losing by 2 with no one on and 2 outs. CAbrera plaing almost behind second first 2 pitches on outside.

He should bunt to bring tieing run up. Eventually he walked but the bunt could have been terrible and he is on.Jose Valverde bailed him ou

Ibanez sreps up and tied it. unbelievable.

Valverde looked worse Drew last night as Tigers led 4-0. LEYLAND sent pitching coach out but kept Valverde in. Same mistake he made in game 4 against A's

rogieshan said...

Wow. Just wow.

I think it's an unwritten rule in baseball that once you bring your closer into a game to save, it belongs to him until he blows it.

Steady Eddie said...

Rogie said "It's an unwritten rule in baseball that once you bring your closer into a game to save, it belongs to him until he blows it."

You are correct in your description. Textbook example of ossified thinking in which function follows form even when it becomes dysfunctional. The kind of thing each period's traditionalists defend religiously despite dysfunction because everyone KNOWS that's how it's done. Until someone breaks the mold and does better with a new one, rinse and repeat.

That rigid a notion of closer is a trap, especially in the postseason where all teams are good and the winner is the team and manager who adapts best to the demands of the particular situation.

Joe Seamhead said...

Weird. I just realized that I haven't read, watched, or listened to one iota of press about last night's game outside of this blog, except Phil Woods right after the game.Why would I listen to the half-assed dribble from media " experts" that don't have more then a small fraction of familiarlarity of the Washington Nationals in comparison to most of us? It's time to move on. I hope to catch up on some personal stuff that I have neglected, and to get off of the strict sausage and beer diet that I have seemed to have been on for weeks.
Thanks all around for the (mostly) great posts today. GYFNG!!!

Cwj said...

I agree with everything Swami has said today.
At least there's one level head "The Day After".

I'm appalled by some of the other comments, mostly by bandwagon fans who didn't follow the Nats until August 2012. (blow up a 98 game winning team because of one loss? Turn good guy Storen into a goat? For heavens sake!)

Congrats on a great season Nats!
See you in ST.

rogieshan said...

Thanks for elaborating on that point, Steady Eddie. (I even learned a new word, "ossified." - thank you.) It is a trap, as you say, but one that is perpetuated by both managers and players. Pitchers, in general, have a mindset that their roles must be defined to help them mentally and physically set out a daily routine. I can certainly understand the need for it over the grind of a long, regular schedule, but in the playoffs a more pragmatic system should be employed - much like how post-season hockey is such a vastly different game than during the regular season). I thought it was interesting this year when Jim Tracy implemented an 70-75 pitch limit for his starting pitchers. It was fairly radical.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Yankees come back 4 runs down in the 9th to tie it and push the game to extras. Jeter breaks his ankle and Yankees lose.

baseballswami said...

Although I hate to see anyone get hurt, the Yankees will parlay this into a Lifetime Movie. Last year the Phils ended with Howard on the ground in pain , now Jeter. That's a higher level of heartbreak than losing the game. At least our guys went home as healthy as a team can be at the end of a long season.

baseballswami said...

Reminds me of one of my son's coaches who , in his post game chat, used to mention as the very first thing that no one got hurt. That made losing seem secondary.

sjm308 said...

MichelleS - so glad to "hear" your voice on here and I am so sorry we didn't get to meet at least once more this season.

Like others, I am not going to read anything national and will probably stay away from talk radio tomorrow as well.

Between most of the comments here and what Mark and the Post have written I am slowly looking back at what was a defining season in Baseball in Washington DC. We will now be considered one of the favorites in the National League and not just for a season or two.

Mark has been terrific for years now. I am wondering if the Post will continue what I think has been terrific coverage for the last few weeks. I realize they will be back in "Redskin" mode now but wouldn't it be great to have two beat reporters plus Boz, Svirugla and other columnists putting information out daily. If you get a chance, read Mike Wise on Drew Storen the moments after the game. Very poignant and makes me appreciate Drew that much more.

So, I will unpack, start to get the yard back in shape. My son will be over to re-cap the three playoff games I missed and give me my red towel. I was pleased to see he remembered 222 and I am guessing he also will remember Michelle and Wonk from the time we spent. He is a wonderful young man and its an added plus that he loves going to baseball with his dad.

Go Nats!!

natsfan1a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
natsfan1a said...

Thanks for the countdown clock, Mark and CSN. :-)

Glad that you made it back safe and sound, sjm.

Didn't watch the ALCS game, but sorry to hear of any injury to a player.

natsfan1a said...

btw, I had a boo-hoo moment when reading the Boz piece to my husband the other day. Also liked the Storen piece and Thom Loverro's column. Still not reading national media. I also currently have the Animal Planet kitten cam at the top of my bookmarks. :-)

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

baseballswami, hard to imagine the Yankees can step up without Jeter but time will tell.

Manassas Nats' Fan said...

Indeed all managers are real bone headed when it comes to closers.

Once you see he doesnt have it such as after walking Molina and Craig, Mattheus needed to be summonsed

Davey is nrmal in that he did what they all do they wait til to late

Diane said...

I had wondered about the Nats using Storen in a blowout as well. Nats Lady raised an interesting point that he volunteered for the job to save other people. Maybe.

My own theory is different. It was certainly documented that Bryce Harper was ill with strep throat and fever and that Stammen had the same ailment. But Stammen pitched in 4 out of 5 games, even while ill. I wonder if there were more ailing guys on the Nats than what was documented. Given that riding on an airplane in close quarters is great for spreading disease and could Storen and Harper had spread it to other folks

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