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A Must-Win On Sunday?

With tonight's 5-3 loss against Atlanta, the Nats are now 0-5. Only one other MLB team, the Cleveland Indians, is still winless. And the Nationals face the very real prospect of appearing 0-6 for their home opener on Monday. The short-term question, then, centers on how the team will cope with the deepening concerns/pressures. Sure, every team, during the course of a season, will have a five- or six-game losing streak. But not many of those streaks begin at the front end of the year, when all results are magnified. And not many of those streaks involve teams trying to recover from 102-loss seasons.

After this latest defeat, Manny Acta brought his team together (just informally; not a big team meeting or anything) and told the players, basically, not to worry. The season is too long to be over yet. They should keep their heads up, Acta said.

Speaking later to the media, Acta said, "I think it's way too early [for concern]. If somebody who's played baseball at any level can get frustrated by five games, they're really in the long business. They throw that word around (frustration) because it sounds -- that's the first word that comes out of their mouth. But it's a very strong word, and I doubt that if anybody has been around the game long enough, you can't get frustrated by five games."

OK, so when do you admit concern? For ballplayers looking at such a long season, that becomes a mental trick. What if you dub tomorrow's game a must-win... and then lose it? What happens with those remaining 156 games?

Well, ask Adam Dunn. While his manager was making safer statements (Ex.: "I guarantee you we're not going to go 0-for-April," Acta said) Dunn came pretty darn close to calling tomorrow's game a must-win:

"We need to come out tomorrow, put all these last fives games behind us, and get a win," Dunn said. "I think tomorrow is a game we need to win."

By Chico Harlan  |  April 11, 2009; 11:28 PM ET
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Next: What Does The Winless Start Mean?


"If somebody who's played baseball at any level can get frustrated by five games, they're really in the long business."

I'm Donna Chang.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | April 11, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

What? Did he type the long thing?

Posted by: AlexL925 | April 11, 2009 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Chico, I saw the interview with Acta on MASN after the game. Was that you asking the "frustration" question? Whoever asked it was stammering quite a bit. I really don't take Acta to be an intimidating interview.

Posted by: AlexL925 | April 12, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

""If somebody who's played baseball at any level can get frustrated by five games, they're really in the long business."

I'm Donna Chang.

Posted by: Ted_Striker "

People have been saying for a while now that the Nats need to start making a splash in the Pacific Rim. Maybe this is the first step.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 12, 2009 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Sure, I know it's too early to panic, But having been a Washington baseball fan for 50+ years, I have to wonder on this Easter morning if God really wanted there to be baseball in DC.

On a lesser plane, I need to look up how long we went with Brandon Watson in CF.

And in the complaining mode, why wasn't Lannan's 2-2 pitch to Schaeffer a strike???

Posted by: nats24 | April 12, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

I'm worried.

I don't think you have to be a marketing genius at any level to know that any 100+ loss team that comes into it's home opener with ZERO wins after one week of new league in for a marketing disaster.

For a team still relatively unknown in a town full of baseball skeptics, playing in a ghost-town part of the city, all the while losing to EVERYONE who shows up to play....making any guess on how many empty seats TV viewers will be seeing on most nights is folly. (but no worries---no one seems to be watching on TV either!)
I suggest Stan urgently contact the Marlins and find out how a team with no money and no fans still puts together a league leading team.
And please be quick. I am one of those true fans who has serious long term franchise worries...but will still be there on Opening Day.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 12, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

I'm not frustrated about 0-5. I'm frustrated that Shawn Hill has more wins than the Nats entire rotation.

Posted by: QuakerWildcat | April 12, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

Oh. And I don't think the 5 man outfield is any longer a problem.

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 12, 2009 1:08 AM | Report abuse

"I gaurantee we are not going to go 0 for April".....way to set the bar high Manny!

Would 1-20 make him happier? This is exactly why Acta must go.....Adam Dunn could do better as a player has been done before!

Posted by: JayBeee | April 12, 2009 6:33 AM | Report abuse

I wish Scott Olsen wasn't on the hill on the day of a "must-win."

Man, I can't believe we got rid of Bonifacio for Olsen and a guy who's spending his season on the bench.

When do Strasburg and Zimmermann show up?? They hold the keys to all of my optimism for the future.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 12, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Alt Line Up Suggestion for Today

Johnson 1B
Guz SS
Willingham LF
Dunn RF
Zim 3B
Kearns CF
Gonzales 2B
Neives C

Posted by: JayBeee | April 12, 2009 7:27 AM | Report abuse

Yes it's a must win, cause I need to be assured they won't go 0-162.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 12, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Well I'll be darned...the sun did come up this morning. Hopefully Manny will find all his eggs this morning and the players will find a win this afternoon. New motto....a win for april or bust.

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 12, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

The Nats ownership has improved, and it is time the critics recognized this. The Nats have evolved from an organization that was not ready to make major league financial commitments to a solid small market major league franchise. Of course, this region is among the nation's half-dozen largest and we are the nation's most affluent region, so the Nats still have a long way to go.

However, the Dunn signing showed a willingness to open the wallets. True, the Nats are still very much toward the bottom of MLB in having a $20 million guy as their biggest financial commitment (almost all the clubs have made several bigger commitments larger than that one), but it is a step forward.

The Nats are learning that in order to get sandwich picks in upcoming drafts, you have to spend for players who will be attractive to other teams when their contracts expire. The Nats have no sandwich picks for the 2009 June draft, but a few more signings like Dunn will yield some of those in future years.

Moreover, the Nats are learning that if you trade for players who make some salary (like the Olsen and Willingham trade), it can have the potential to help the club. True, the Nats under the Lerners still have yet to make a trade for any player who makes a truly high salary by MLB standards, but the one trade they did make for modest salaries demonstrates movement in the right direction. If the Nats begin to trade for players making a good salary (like Soriano in the pre-Lerner years), such a strategy can yield prospects, like Jordan Zimmermann (compensation for Soriano leaving), to build the club. Maybe that can happen next off-season.

The Nats should have locked Ryan Zim up a long time ago, but at least they talked with Zim in earnest this off-season, another sign of life in this franchise.

Desptie the gratifying progress, there are some worrying signs. The Nats have signed their #1 draft picks at slot (Detwiler), but failed to sign another (Crow) when they had to pay a few hundred thousand more than they wanted. Nonetheless, this June will provide a new test for the Nats, and they will likely pass it, I'll bet.

As a poster above noted, Shawn Hill was let go to save a few hundred thousand, but who knows how that one will turn out?

The Nats are still too sensitive to saving small amounts of money when their future is at stake. Realistically, the Nats should not have been leading all of MLB in net profits at a time when they should have been building the club for the future.

So it's not perfect, but it is definitely getting a little better. I'm starting to get hopeful, despite the awful start.

Posted by: EdDC | April 12, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

"A Must Win On Sunday?" For the constituency, if not for the players.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 12, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Boni had three hits yesterday. I reccommend starting Lastings Mendoza in CF and leading off, as he also had a hat trick in the hitting department yesterday. Let's get 'er turned around, LM!!!

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 12, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

recommend, even.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 12, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

mean and petty, like someone with a vendetty:

Olsen was always ‘working’ on something in ST. Is he finished yet? Bring that 86 mph fatball, Scotty!

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 12, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

The title of your story in the Post today is "Without an Ace, Nats Remain in the Hole."

Chico - with all due respect, the Nats not only do not have an ace, they lack a major league pitching staff. If the Nats staff were merely mediocre, that would be a vast improvement. Manny can talk all about having 5 outfielders, he out to talk about having 5 starting pitchers.

By the way, does anyone think that Milledge is a centerfielder?

RNF in Fairfax

Posted by: rnfenili | April 12, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

From Chico's gamer:

"He said the right things," Adam Dunn said. [of Manny Acta's post-game talk]

And the flashpoints of Saturday night's defeat exposed a team under increasing duress, especially when Lastings Milledge, rung up on a check-swing strikeout in the fourth, tossed his helmet and spiked his bat to the dirt, drawing the ire of home plate umpire Chuck Meriwether. [Odd, though, that Chico fails to mention Lannan's run-ins with the umpires, one of which resulted in Manny Acta coming out for a lengthy conversation with the umps. Is Milledge really the only player under scrutiny right now? Why is that? Oh, wait, I forgot Shawn Hill...]

Posted by: nunof1 | April 12, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Carrying forward:

Catching up with comment reading from the past few days (I had a good idea of what I'd find here and didn't feel like scrolling through it all until now).

I will say that I'm surprised not to see some Nicky love after his defensive display last night.

I'll add to the congrats to kevinx.

I'll also add to the congrats for Shawn Hill. sigh.

I think the MASN fan commercials are funny. There's one that I've only seen part of because they keep starting it and then cutting to some other commercial/PSA. What's up with that?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 12, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 12, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Nice post and some good points, Ed.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 12, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of posts, new post, uh, poll up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 12, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

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