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At Least the Nats Are Trying Hard

Getting all of it out of my system before Write Only Good Things About the Nats Week begins....

It's frequently been said that the Nationals try hard. This is a good thing, if the alternative is trying soft. A decent portion of any fan base will, in fact, be satisfied by trying hard, especially by trying one's hardest, because you can't try any harder than that. Which means the only things holding you back would then be bad luck, cosmic curses and exploding sausages.

To some, though, "trying hard" is it's own kind of indictment. Because if you're trying quite hard and you're still as successful as a Kosher butcher in Dubai, then the effort is sort of irrelevant. I mean, George McGovern tried hard. Gilbert Arenas's knee cartilage has tried hard. The newspaper industry is smack in the middle of a particularly nasty bout of trying hard. Do or do not, one might say; there is no try.

Regardless, I scrolled back through the archives to make sure that through this entire ordeal of a season, the Nats have, in fact, been trying hard on defense. Those times, plus a few other explanations for poor defense or general badness, are collected below.

* Yesterday, Elijah Dukes allows two fly balls to land over his head.

"Well, in his defense, he's not a natural centerfielder," Manny Acta said. "Those balls were hit pretty good, and would I want him to catch every one of them? Yes. But he did make an effort."

* Yesterday afternoon, Manny Acta discusses his job status.

"They're playing hard," he said. "That series in Tampa was proof of it, and that's all we can ask for."

* June 10, Josh Willingham, playing out of position, drops a fly ball.

"I thought he did well," Manager Manny Acta said of Willingham's performance. "He had some good at bats. He read the ball good in the outfield. He dropped one, but it wasn't like he misplayed it. It takes a lot of character and courage for a guy like him to make the decision to take a few days and be out there game time and get it done."

* June 5, a blooped ball lands between Cristian Guzman and Adam Dunn in shallow left field.

"Guzman thought that the ball was far out there," Manny Acta said, "and the ball had some type of backspin and kept coming back (toward the infield). And he just, you know, was pointing at it thinking the ball was over there by Dunn, and we spoke to him and said, 'Go for every ball.' "

* June 2, Nats win!

"Those guys are trying," Manny Acta said. "It'll get better."

* May 31, the team takes extra infield practice.

"Isn't Nick a good first baseman?" Manny Acta asked. "He's got five errors. Isn't Zimmerman a great third baseman? He's got six. And they're working. So, you tell me? Keep on working. Keep on working."

* May 30, Adam Dunn makes two errors.

"He tries hard," Manny Acta said. "He plays wherever we ask him to play. But I don't think anybody didn't know that he's a power threat, an offensive player."

* May 30, Anderson Hernandez botches a grounder.

"Nothing lack of focus," Manny Acta said. "The grass, the ball kind of snaked a little bit because of the way the grass is cut. It's a weird play when you're playing in the grass with Howard [because of the infield shift] and he just booted the ball."

* May 20, Adam Dunn misses all available cutoff men and throws the ball into the ground.

"I think all of you guys are witnesses here," Manny Acta said. "These guys, they work hard on everything....[Dunn] works hard, he gives us the best, but here and there he's going to be short defensively."

* April 28, Alberto Gonzalez is optioned to the minors after a spate of errors.

"I don't know what happened," González said. "I'm still working."

* April 25, the Nats make three errors.

"You know, the plays that we're not making are not lack-of-effort plays," Adam Dunn said. "They're not plays for lack of fire...I think everyone is out there playing hard, it's just we're making mistakes that obviously a big league team should not make."

"I've been here for three years now, so I can control my emotions, because I know a lot of these kids -- or all of them -- are trying hard right now to do good," Acta said.

* April 12, the Nats lose after suffering two passed balls and a flyball lost in the sun.

"We're out there and everybody is playing hard, which is obviously a plus," Adam Dunn said. "I can safely say that nobody is not playing hard, because they are. The effort is there."

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 17, 2009; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Wow, did you really quote Yoda? Showing your colors, man.

The snark on this blog is rising to dangerous levels.

Posted by: Andymr | June 17, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Dan you forgot Nick misplaying that foul popup with 2 outs in Tampa Bay - next pitch homerun! and whoops there goes the tie! And having to watch the Pens win the cup at the same time - even 2 more plastic cups of cheap wine couldn't kill the pain

Posted by: sumplmg | June 17, 2009 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Both teams played hard my man(c)Rasheed Wallace. The sad part about the Nats is I don't even think a firing would do jack.

Posted by: rmobley12 | June 17, 2009 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm intrigued by your "Write Only Good Things About The Nats Week". Can't wait!

Posted by: misschatter | June 17, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Nats tried pretty hard tonight.

Remember my prediction: Nationals are taking this series in New York.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 17, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Re your "Write Only Good Things About The Nats Week" - Did you lose a bet or something?

The Nats do try hard. A friend said this morning that we should add a column in the books called "A" for almost. It would be full. There are so many games that are like tonight when we play great and then one thing happens and we lose. Tonight could have easily been in the A column, but thankfully it belongs in the W column.

Andymr is right though - a bit snarky.

Posted by: ilovethenats | June 17, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

So I'll bet that you are trying really hard, right, Dan? Attaboy!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 6:37 AM | Report abuse

Acta is the new Norv, except Norv's teams tried awfully hard.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 18, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

"Trying hard." I won't buy that until they at least stop making errors and start turning close outs into hits. That that won't come without extra practice, practice, practice. Practice taking fly balls. Practice taking grounders. And practice more. And more. And more. An average-skilled guy sarcastically nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" got the most hits ever because he tried hard. (Yeah, he gambled. He was still a guy who wrung every last bit out of himself on the diamond. Where's that kind of guy on this team?)

Try harder Nats. Take more BP, take more grounders and flyballs. Practice hitting the cutoff man. Use two hands to catch the ball. Practice gunning down runners trying to steal. Try harder.

Posted by: nitcat | June 18, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

> I'm intrigued by your "Write Only Good Things About The Nats Week". Can't wait!

What Steinberg means by "Write Only Good Things About The Nats Week" is the same thing the rest of us mean when we say we'll be on vacation next week. The Washington Post. If you don't get it, you don't get it. They were trying hard when they came up with that slogan.

Posted by: section417 | June 18, 2009 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Seems like Stein has been hanging out with LaCanfora too much lately. Enough with the Danny Downer. Yeah the team is bad, we get it. I've been booted from games for heckling the other team while opposing fans were allowed to stay and heckle our players. I've been lied to and jerked around by the Nats ticket office and one of Kasten's representatives regarding my season tickets. At this point I am beginning to hate the Nats but these Nats fail/bash posts just aren't your style. I like your bog but stick to what got you here....and baseball bogging isn't it.

Posted by: fushezzi | June 18, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Give the events of last night, start your new writing program about the NATS now!!

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | June 18, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Dan, but you've missed the flip side of the argument - what about when the Nats are trying TOO hard? What then?

That's one of Manny's ways of answering questions that annoys me, but really - it's not like he can say "well, sure, Guzzie's old and slow out there, but I keep running him out there, because, I mean, really, have you seen the rest of these guys? Not so much good at the the baseball, really."

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | June 18, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I think that we should make Write Only Good Things About the Nats Week a little more interesting by having Dan pledge to give money to the Nationals Dream Foundation or the ImpActa Foundation should he have a positivity fail during that week. What say you?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Apologies for the negativity. It does make my stomach hurt.

Natsfan1a1, sure, each time I give in to negativity next week, I'l donate as much to Manny's foundation as the Nats current win total, deal? I'll even let you be the judge of negativity.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | June 18, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Deal, Dan (virtual handshake), and thanks. I'm sure that every contribution helps. I assume that would be the season wins total on the date in question?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh no! No Steinz is REALLY going to start rooting against the Nats. Each win is going to cost him a buck!

Posted by: Barno1 | June 18, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Ka-ching! :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 18, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

The newspaper industry is smack in the middle of a particularly nasty bout of trying hard.

By Dan Steinberg | June 17, 2009; 4:37 PM ET

Kind of like page 6 today of my paper (Wow! Six whole sports pages). The "Tee Times" in the US Open Notebook only list half the players. I mean, what time does Tiger or Phil tee off? According to my paper, they aren't even in the tournament.




Posted by: jayrockers | June 18, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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