Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: AdamKilgoreWP and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Sports and Redskins  |  RSS

Defense Wins Championships, Loses Openers

In a way, going back to the early innings of yesterday's Opener and talking about defense is a bit like going back to a flaming car wreck and talking about stains on the upholstery. The Nationals lost yesterday for reasons far beyond their Rawlings. John Lannan couldn't throw strikes. Florida's Hanley Ramirez, the perennial Washington killer, hit a grand slam and finished with 5 RBI. By the time the Nats started chipping away at Marlins' starter Ricky Nolasco, they were already in a 6-0 hole.

It's dangerous to draw too many conclusions -- or even a few conclusions -- from the Opener. (Remember 2008, after all. The fairy tale lasted all of one day.) But this much is certain: The miscues Washington made on defense were not blips on a radar screen. They have an unnatural Adam Dunn in left, a still-developing Lastings Milledge in center, and a below-average Ronnie Belliard at second. With strong defensive players at all of those positions, the Nats would have been in yesterday's game all the way until the end.

In the name of Ron Jaworski, I'll linguistically spot-shadow each play in question.

First inning: With Emilio Bonifacio on second in a still-scoreless game, Florida's No. 2 hitter, John Baker, slapped a liner to left. To catch it, Dunn would have needed to backtrack about 10 yards or so from where he had been positioned. But his first step was in, and by the time Dunn realized the path of the ball, it sailed over his head. "I didn't know the ball was hit as good as it was hit, and the wind was blowing out," Dunn said. "I froze, and decided to charge it, and that wasn't the right move." If Dunn had made the play, Bonifacio still probably would have scored later in the inning, but Baker would have never reached. Just a rough estimate: the miscue (not ruled an error) probably cost the Nats a run.

Second inning: By this point, Lannan was looking a little better, and was facing No. 8 hitter Cameron Maybin. If Maybin made an out, Lannan had a 1-2-3 inning. Just as sweet, he could begin the third inning by facing Florida pitcher Ricky Nolasco. Well, Maybin bounded a ball toward Belliard at second. Belliard let the ball take a hop about 1-1/2 feet in front of his glove, and he couldn't corral it. Maybin reached. (This is the sort of play Anderson Hernandez will make, no problem.) Lannan had to strike out Nolasco to end the inning. The error didn't directly cost the Nats any runs, but it meant that Bonifacio started off the third. And once he reaches first with no outs -- exactly what happened -- he's almost a certainty to score. Which is, again, exactly what happened.

Fourth inning: This was the inside-the-park home run hit just beyond Milledge's range. Any suggestion that Milledge should have caught the ball is unfair. It would have required a terrific play -- tracking a ball lofted over his head. But these are the exact plays that change games. Sometimes, you need a terrific play. Austin Kearns, in right field, had several excellent catches yesterday that probably saved the Nats two or three runs. Well, this one cost them. When Milledge came up short in his attempt for the Bonifacio flyball, he scrambled to recovery and rushed a throw to the relay man, Belliard. By then, it was too late. Bonifacio had turned on the jets. And the little guy had a two-run, inside-the-park home run.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 7, 2009; 8:42 AM ET
 
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Dunn/Bonifacio
Next: Opening Day Syndrome: Over-Thinking

Comments

For the record, the fairy tale lasted 3.75 games last year, not just one!

Posted by: terps67 | April 7, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I'm incredibly frustrated with Milledge. He's all "potential" and no production. I don't have a good feeling that the production will ever come.
I can't believe he missed the team meeting yesterday. That's inexcusable. Put Dukes in CF!

Posted by: usmc53 | April 7, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Chico - very fair. I watched the game on replay last night. Folks here will blame Milledge, but realistically, there are only a few CF's who have both the native talent and the experience necessary to make that play. The thing I fault Milledge for is diving - I often think he tries to do too much. Rather than dive and make the the spectacular play, if he just tracks the ball down and picks it up, he maybe holds Bonifacio to a double or a triple. Sometimes damage control is better than going for the spectacular play.

Dunn's miscue was what you're going to get when you have a DH playing LF - he gave up one there and got them back later. Such is Donkey Life. Belliard has been overrated at 2b for at least a year - he'd be on my short list of guys to shop around. Hopefully, Hernandez gets back soon, but with Belliard and Harris as the backup 2b men, it's obvious that they need MI depth more than anything else.

Hopefully, there's a Kearns-and-Belliard or Willingham-and-something deal soon.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | April 7, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

You forgot Zimmerman's misplays.

And I have to admit that after the missed team meeting I am starting to be in the concerned camp regarding Milledge.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Even if one didn't have any preconceptions based on Milledge's history, it would be reasonable to conclude that showing up late on Opening Day to a team WITH FIVE OUTFIELDERS and a veteran major leaguer riding the bench is a dumb move.

I think Acta missed an opportunity to send a message not only to Milledge but to the entire team. He should have benched Milledge and started either Dukes or Willingham. And I'd have gone with the latter, based on his production during spring training. If you're gonna take the position that Kearns played his way into the lineup, then you have to give some acknowledgment to what Willingham did.

Whether Milledge should or shouldn't have caught Bonifacio's drive is entirely beside this point.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 7, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"And I have to admit that after the missed team meeting I am starting to be in the concerned camp regarding Milledge."

He missed the team meeting on Sunday - a workout day - not yesterday's game day. He was reportedly there for the actual workout on Sunday. And he was fined for missing the meeting. Perhaps that's Acta's stated penalty for non-game day offenses, with benching for game day offenses. Don't let the rants of haters like JayBeee skew your perspective.

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

And thus the vapor of spring training optimism for this new season vanished into the air for good. Reality bites.

Posted by: Wallpass | April 7, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

"The bright side…..Dunn’s comments show he understands the problem and is willing to lead if anyone is willing to follow him and not Acta."

Here are Dunn's comments, taken from Boswell's column this morning:

"This is a young team. They're just really excited to get the new season started. You never want to lose, but if we were going to, I'm glad it was like that," said Dunn, who has six home runs and 15 RBI the past five Opening Days. "Everybody will get their focus back. You'll see a different team tomorrow . . . I'm glad that one is over. This is not how we are going to play this year."

Really, aside from the accent it was delivered in I see no difference between this and something Acta would say after such a game. Might there be some non-baseball-related prejudice at play in all this Acta hate?

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"He should have benched Milledge and started either Dukes or Willingham."

The one thing worth noting on this is that Willingham never, ever, ever would have made that play. Or a bunch of others.

We remember that we don't have a glut of outfielders, we have a glut of corner outfielders, right?

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

@spamcastin:

You are right -- I read the article carelessly. LM missed Sunday's meeting, not Monday's.

Not sure I wouldn't have benched him anyway, to send the same message. I agree it's a less serious offense, but given LM's history and what we know about his personality, it isn't a good sign.

BTW, I was at the game Saturday with someone who knew LM socially. This guy's work causes him to spend time with a lot of self-obsessed celebs, but he said LM was uniquely obnoxious, a total jerk. It's hearsay, I admit; take it for what it's worth.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 7, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

@Section 506: That's why I said I'd have started Dukes in CF over Milledge.

But I'm not convinced that Willingham would be a major step down in the field from Milledge -- he looked pretty good on Saturday -- and my main point was the message-sending, not the outcome of a single game.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 7, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

>And I have to admit that after the missed team meeting I am starting to be in the concerned camp regarding Milledge.

The ridiculous thing about that is they were on the road, so all he had to do is go from the hotel to the park. It's not like he was at home and got caught up in doing something and was late. On the road there's nothing to do but show up to the park.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Interesting story, Meridian. Who did he think was the most annoying?

For my part, I'm not looking for friends on the ball team. Just people that don't cheat and play well.

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Might we also consider the possibility that fining Milledge was a more severe penalty than benching him? If he is as arrogant as some have suggested, then he might have reconciled be benched as more of a loss for the team than him.

Posted by: lowcountry | April 7, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

First and foremost Milledge and Dunn should have been playing back since it is much easier to come in on a ball than to retreat and try to catch it.Second: Lannan can't possibly be the #1 starter,after what i witnessed yesterday inability to throw first pitch strikes,not holding runners, and if that is the case this staff and team are in a lot of trouble.I ts only one game but i didn't like the fact that the bullpen came in and performed like pyromaniacs,i know Bonifacio looked like Ricky Henderson yesterday but he did the same thing first few weeks after we got him last season this is a marathon not a sprint and i'm still not crazy about Acta.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 7, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Fire half of them and then trade everyone who wasn't fired

Posted by: Brian_ | April 7, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

"On the road there's nothing to do but show up to the park."

Or oversleep, say if the hotel front desk screws up your wakeup call or your alarm doesn't go off. But that never happens, of course.

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"I think Acta missed an opportunity to send a message not only to Milledge but to the entire team."

Give me an instance where Acta has disciplined a player by benching. It didn't happen with FLOP and I doubt it will happen with Lastings.

Posted by: dclifer | April 7, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

>Really, aside from the accent it was delivered in I see no difference between this and something Acta would say after such a game. Might there be some non-baseball-related prejudice at play in all this Acta hate?

Lol. Look, I don't know which Acta you're talking about, but the guy sitting on the bench in a coma with his arms crossed every night, the one that doesn't like to bunt even though they're in the NL, with his team making the same mistakes over and over, expecially defensively, the team that can't steal bases, the one who thinks that arguing with umpires is beneath him, the one that put Milledge in the 3rd spot last year and blamed it on injuries, and now the one who's putting the same guy in the leadoff spot for no apparent reason - that's the guy I'm talking about. The team will win in spite of him, not because of him. Just watch how uneven their performance will be, that's a major indicator. Good managers only let teams slide so far. Bad managers have no limit in that respect. He's already pissed off two out of three of his best offensive players. Just sit back and watch how toxic it gets. They quit on him last year in the middle of a 12 game skid, around June.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"First and foremost Milledge and Dunn should have been playing back since it is much easier to come in on a ball than to retreat and try to catch it."

Then blame the coaches who are the ones positioning the fielders before each play. Last year Acta did that himself, but this year he has delegated the task. I believe it is Grissom's job to set the outfield positions.

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

> Give me an instance where Acta has disciplined a player by benching.

Both Milledge and Dukes were pulled out of the starting lineup last year on days when they showed up late.

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I found Zimmerman's error(s) more alarming than either Dunn's or Milledge's. On both of the balls hit over the outfielder's heads, you could argue that it would have been an above average play if they'd caught it.

Zim, on the other hand, botched a completely routine play with one of his Knoblauchian horror-show throws (and on top of that, Nick failed to bail him out). And the ensuing bunt that he mishandled is his forte; a difficult play he usually makes look easy.

Posted by: joebleux | April 7, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

> Lol. Look, I don't know which Acta you're talking about, but the guy sitting on the bench in a coma with his arms crossed every night, the one that doesn't like to bunt even though they're in the NL
------------------------------------------

So how many bunt plays would Acta have had to put on yesterday for them not to have lost that game?

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I give Kearns credit for a solid game yesterday. We will see how long he keeps it up. However, I don't remember "several excellent catches." I remember one, where he caught the one going back at the wall.

Will soon be time to sit Milledge if he keeps this up.

Anderson Hernandez cannot get back soon enough.

Posted by: kfisher32 | April 7, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Dunn, Kearns (CF), Willingham (RF) should be the OF today.

Who would have guessed that Milledge was a jerk in person......missed the coaches first meeting of the season.....setting the tone meeting.....and many of you make excuses for him as well as Acta.

I did not fault Milledge on the inside the park HR ball. It was a tough play but one that most MLB CF's make more of the time. He is just not a CFer.

I do fault him at lead off......HOW CAN YOU SWING AT THE FIRST PITCH OF THE GAME AND HIT A 5 HOPPER TO 2nd Base? Was that your pitch....the one you were sitting on waiting for? Is that what you do with the pitch your sitting on?

Go ahead make more excuses for poor Lastings........now in his 7th year of pro ball......Dunn is going to set him straight sooner than later....some thing Acta should have done by sitting is ass on the bench for a week. You do not miss the managers first meeting.....Period.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 7, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I've seen Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury make that play in centerfield, now that I think about it even Bobby Kielty has made a play like that for the Red Sox, I think the above poster is right, there is better coaching from the Sox on where to position yourself in the field maybe?

Posted by: skippy1999 | April 7, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Brian,

What was your take on Milledge's lead off AB?

What would you expect a MLB Manager to do faced with a starter who did not attend your team meeting where you set the tone for the season to come?

Posted by: JayBeee | April 7, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Granted, this team isn't super-talented, but the roster/lineup decisions mgmt. and Manny are making will continue to hurt the team's chances to win games.

Milledge in CF - probably wrong

Milledge batting first - certainly a mistake

Hernandez/Belliard/Harris on the roster - no need; move Belliard

Flores/Nieves/Bard on the roster - puhleeezze; move one (which is evidently the plan to make room for J.Zimm-but wouldn't you have rather had Bergmann yesterday than a third catcher?)

Bullpen staff - chosen for "inventory" reasons instead of who can get hitters out. Unfortunately, with this young and mediocre starting staff, I can envision many days like yesterday when we're in the pen very early. Maybe we should just carry an extra arm anyway. Manny (and Frank before him, for that matter) overuses the bullpen, and I'm sure will again this year to protect Lannan, Martis, and Zimm. Let's just prepare for it.

Oh yeah, then there's the too many OF's problem - Willingham is probably our second best bat - after Dunn (that's proven at the mlb level - either him or Nick), but he's 5th on the depth chart.

Let's make some moves. Soon. Please.

Posted by: macman3 | April 7, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

dclifer, re. players having been benched by Acta, I recall at least two incidents (Milledge last April and Dukes last August), both for being late.

Re. a possible prejudice aspect to Acta hate, I do recall a comment referencing his accent recently. It was not germane to the argument being advanced, as far as I recall.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Beaten to the punch again re. the benchings. Oh well, that's what I get for crafting my posts so slowly.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Of all the Acta criticisms, the "he doesn't like to bunt" one bugs me the most. It's not that Acta doesn't "like" bunting - it's that he is aware that a team is more likely to score more runs with a runner on first and no outs than with a runner on second and one out. There *are* times when it makes sense to bunt (late in a close game with a terrible hitter when you can move a runner over from second to third). But NL, AL, whatever other L, bunting is rarely smart baseball. If you want to learn more, go out and buy Baseball Between the Numbers and read the chapter on bunting. I guarantee you Acta already has, and that's why he doesn't go all bunt-crazy. Not because he doesn't "like" it, but because it is an unsound strategy.

Posted by: Section220 | April 7, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

There are 161 games to go. Call me crazy but, I'm not ready to hit the panic button just yet. We were 3-0 last year before the wheels completely fell off.

I'm disappointed that Milledge missed a meeting, even on an off day. Inexcuseable, in my opinion. I think he really enjoys playing the game but, I do think he is young, immature and a little self absorbed. I'm hoping that this year is one that helps him grow as a person and a baseball player.

Hernandez can't get back soon enough for me either. I really like Belliard as a bench player, not as a starter.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 7, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Acta's comment's are inexcusable. Maybe his team is not sloppy but they played sloppy yesterday. He holds no one accountable. This team does not respect itself. It is obvious from the way they play. We all know that Lopez was somewhat of cancer but he may have right about this team. This team does not respect itself. How do you explain signing a retread like Tavares who publicly states that the only reason he signed with the Nats was because there was no one else. This guy should be cut. We do not need that attitude.

Milledge should have been benched yesterday. He refuses to conform to team rules insisting in doing everything his way. Enough with this crap! If he refuses to conform then trade him or send him down to Syracuse until he understands what it means to play for a team. His play yesterday was worse than bad. It was unacceptable. He is not a professional ballplayer!!
If they wish to keep him on the major league roster then Acta should have a separate rule for Milledge where he must arrive 60 minutes before the rest of the team is required to arrive. That way he would be on time. If wants to be treated like a child then treat him like one. If wants to be treated differently then treat him differently.

As another poster implied, Acta is setting the standards so low that the team ends up playing to that mediocre level. He is right.

Fix it now - Acta. This will not get better on its own. You are the manager, act like one. I know Robinson would not put with Milledge's crap.


For those who did not read it you should read Zuckerman's column in the Times today.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 7, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"What was your take on Milledge's lead off AB?"

Well, isn't his greatest offense not hitting the ball? If he had swung at the first pitch and drilled it, there would be something else to pick at.

Even if swinging at that first pitch was still a poor strategy.

The biggest problem around here is we analyze every strategy based solely on results.

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Also, re. Lopez not having benched, Acta pulled him from a game in 2007 after he did not run out a ground ball. He'd done the same to Church earlier that year.

In June of last year Lopez made the following comments after having been benched for several games (whatever, Felipe):

"Nobody communicates around here; everything's a mystery," López said. "Nothing's wrong with me. I'm fine. . . . I just came off an 11-game hitting streak while I was on the road, and now I'm on the bench. Take a guess. I don't know what happened. Because I made an error? I really don't understand it."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

How great is it that we're arguing about real games now???

Posted by: Avar | April 7, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I think they have to move Milledge while they can, but even now, they'd be lucky to get anything of real value in return. The time to move him was before the season.

We just need to do what the Marlins do. Unfortunately, they got one over on us with the Olsen deal. Olsen and Willingham will be out of baseball in four years. Even without Bonifacio, it'll likely end up being a steal for the Marlins.

Posted by: Zornado | April 7, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. `Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round."

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I knew that somebody would point out the Zuckerman piece. Since we're talking about the O.P., old-time Senators fans might want to check out the piece on George Washington Case Jr.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I agree, Avar. It's nice to have something different to argue about. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Curiouser and curiouser, 506.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Quite frankly the Nationals deserve to reap what they've sowed here. Bad defense is correctable by changing to the right players, but instead they opted to go with less defense (Dunn) and more offense.

The way the team is currently set up, the formula for any chance at success should be strong defense to cover for young pitchers, and then enough timely hitting to win games 3-2, 4-3. Instead you'll see them losing games 6-3, 4-2.

And I think it's time they seriously look at whether Acta is the right manager for this bunch. I think he is too laissez-faire and unemotional - just like the Nats play. They need a fire-breather to inject some energy.

Posted by: SavedByZero | April 7, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVED BY ZEEEEEEEEEEEEEROOO!!!

Also, it's "sown." And you blame the construction of the team and come up with the solution to reevaluate the man who doesn't determine that.

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Zornado,

Are you really judging the Olsen/Willingham for Boni deal after 1 game? That is a little premature isn't it.

I recall Boni having a great what, 2 weeks when he first got year last year and then he couldn't hit if you put it on a tee.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 7, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

He can't hit breaking balls and Lannan didn't have much break to his balls, even if he was breaking his balls out there.

BREAKING BALLS!

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

>But NL, AL, whatever other L, bunting is rarely smart baseball.

It's smart when you have a bunch of free-swingers with no plan who have trouble advancing runners. I suppose they could wait for Dunn to save the bacon every day, but sooner or later, they're going to pitch around him. They'll focus on letting Zimm get himself out, and let Nick hit his singles or whatever. There's no power around him. Now, if you had Willy and Dukes in there, you're talking 20+ homers and extra base power. If you walk somebody, you pay with them in the lineup.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse


With all the panic
Confusion fogs brain; is this
Redskins Insider?

Posted by: HaikuMan | April 7, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@Section 506

I thought my claim was clear, and that is that the front office is to blame. However, I also think Acta has exacerbated the situation as well. Acta was a front office decision too. Don't get me wrong, I think he could be an excellent manager, just not with a team of this makeup.

As I said yesterday, this franchise is headed in the wrong direction. 2005 was the best year and it's been downhill since - precipitously so since Acta's arrival

Posted by: SavedByZero | April 7, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

> It's smart when you have a bunch of free-swingers with no plan who have trouble advancing runners. I suppose they could wait for Dunn to save the bacon every day, but sooner or later, they're going to pitch around him. They'll focus on letting Zimm get himself out, and let Nick hit his singles or whatever. There's no power around him. Now, if you had Willy and Dukes in there, you're talking 20+ homers and extra base power. If you walk somebody, you pay with them in the lineup.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 10:42 AM |
___________________________________________

No. It's not. Bunting is giving up outs, and reducing the chance to score more runs, and that's true even with mediocre hitters (except, as I mentioned, in very particular game situations, where increasing the odds of scoring one run is more important than increasing the chances of scoring multiple runs). That's not my opinion, those are the facts.

I don't know how old you are, but I certainly grew up hearing that "get 'em on, get 'em over, and get 'em in!" was the winning baseball formula.

Well, we now know that the people who told us that were wrong about the "get 'em over" by bunting part.

I'm sure there are lots of fair criticisms to level at Acta. This isn't one of them.

Posted by: Section220 | April 7, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

> It's smart when you have a bunch of free-swingers with no plan who have trouble advancing runners.
-------------------------------------------

Other than Lannan who failed to execute his bunt attempt yesterday, which runners could have been advanced by bunts that would have resulted in them winning that game?

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, it seems clear that rules don't mean a lot. If you miss a meeting, any meeting, you get benched. That would also have solved the problem of 'who starts? Kearns or Dukes?'. Simple. They both do and Milledge sits. This ball club need to have some old fashioned discipline. Same thing when Dukes yelled at Acta, last year, even though it turned out Acta had misunderstood, And infraction of a rule be it poor behavior or lateness ends in sitting. If you yell at you manager you sit. It doesn't matter if the manager misunderstood, you slept in, your car broke down, the GM broke into your house and put your kid sister up for adoption. If you break a rule. You sit.

Dukes earned a spot in the starting line up last year, even if he had a rotten spring. Millege earned a shot but he is not a lead off hitter, or a center fielder. These decision need to made on what we have, not what we wish for people. Evaluate the tools at our disposal, use them as best we can and discard the rest.

Posted by: soundbloke | April 7, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Let's move on, shall we? Game 2...

Posted by: PattyinSJ | April 7, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

It's just one game. It's just one game. It's just one game.

There, I've said it threee times. Maybe now it will sink in.

Let's look and see how the Nats have done after each Opening Day since moving to DC:

2009: 0-1
2008: 1-0
2007: 0-1
2006: 0-1
2005: 0-1

So, the only time they've won the opener, they ended up losing 102 games. Granted, the other seasons weren't playoff-caliber, but at least they didn't lose 100+ games!

We can build on this!

Posted by: erocks33 | April 7, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"Well, it seems clear that rules don't mean a lot. If you miss a meeting, any meeting, you get benched."

What if that's not the rule? What if the rule is that you miss a meeting you get fined? Wouldn't you think it's more important that a manager applies whatever rules he sets fairly on all members of the team than that he waxes and wanes on severity depending on who commits the infraction?

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I will grant you that Lannan is not the #1 starter on a contender. He's a makeup guy, not a stuff guy, and ideally he's #3 in the rotation.

But to judge his ability to throw strikes on just one game is as misguided as to judge Bonifacio's ability to get on base by just one April performance. 57% of Lannan's first pitches were strikes last year. The guy can throw strikes. He just had a bad day.

As for holding runners on, man, when was the last time the Nats could claim to have a pitcher capable of that? Good point; Bonifacio's second steal was on Lannan, not Flores.

-----

Second: Lannan can't possibly be the #1 starter,after what i witnessed yesterday inability to throw first pitch strikes,not holding runners, and if that is the case this staff and team are in a lot of trouble.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 7, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

You got it, erocks!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

One of my favorite Onion articles of all time ran something like Week 5 of the NFL Season.

"Angry Philadelphia Fans Give Donovan McNabb Three Weeks to Win Super Bowl"

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

The Nats can go a long way to salve these wounds with a win tonight.

With Olsen starting, there's a real chance to show Florida what they lost in that trade. Here's hoping he tosses a gem in a 7-1 Nats win (evening out our runs for/runs against).

Bonifacio goes 0-3 with two strikeouts, while Willingham goes yard as a pinch hitter in the seventh.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 7, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

>I'm sure there are lots of fair criticisms to level at Acta.

Ok, name some. Let's see what you've got. I may have missed something. It's doubtful, but I may have. You could probably start with the fact that he's a self-serving apologist who has no cajones. Btw, Bowden hired this guy - out with the old!!!

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

>What if that's not the rule? What if the rule is that you miss a meeting you get fined? Wouldn't you think it's more important that a manager applies whatever rules he sets fairly on all members of the team than that he waxes and wanes on severity depending on who commits the infraction?

I think someone needs a timeout.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"I think someone needs a timeout."

Are you volunteering for it?

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

>Other than Lannan who failed to execute his bunt attempt yesterday, which runners could have been advanced by bunts that would have resulted in them winning that game?

I deal in problems, not symptoms.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

One down 161 to go. If y'all go at it like this after every game, you will not make it to June! Give it 25 to 30 games before you crank up the firemrizzo/macta.com web site. The significant thing to me is that the NATS scored 6 runs in a losing cause. The pitching staff/defense will not continually give up 12 runs (starting, probably tonight). Just do not change your tune too much tomorrow, if the NATS happen to win tonight.

Sec 204 Row K Seat 11

Posted by: adhardwick | April 7, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

No, I'm not judging the deal after one game. I judged it when it was made. I really couldn't care less about Bonifacio in the deal. It's just that the Marlins continue to restock and reload on deals such as this.

Olsen's velocity has gone down in two or three straight years. The Marlins likely saw something there and said adios. Hammer's bad back will contribute to his decline, and all of a sudden the immediate-to-short term gains we thought we were getting will be nothing. Meanwhile, the prospects we gave up may or may not amount to anything, but at least they'll still be assets in that timeframe that could be moved for other pieces or could eventually make the big squad. Bonifacio is just gravy in the deal.

The deal on the surface was lauded universally for the Nats. Well, if it's too good to be true...

Posted by: Zornado | April 7, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"2005 was the best year and it's been downhill since - precipitously so since Acta's arrival"

That's just inane. In 2007, the Nats were projected to have one of the worst teams of all time. They overachieved to 73 wins. In 2008, with a roster nearly as lousy as 2007's, they got clobbered with a ridiculous run of injuries. That's not an excuse; it's a fact -- if you look at team that has only two starters who manage to get to 138 games; that has no starting pitching to speak of; that has no first baseman for the entire season....if you look at that team and conclude that its performance is the manager's fault, then it's pretty clear that your criticism is based in something other than logic.

Posted by: joebleux | April 7, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"That's not an excuse; it's a fact"

Those have no place here.

Posted by: Section506 | April 7, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

BTW ... did anyone watch on MASN2 yesterday? Was it me, or did it seem that everytime their lower-third score ticker came on, the rest of the screen looked to be shot through a gauze pad?

Also, did anyone else notice this (IMO, MAJOR) gaffe when Zimmerman came to the plate in the 1st ...

"Zimmerman is starting his 5th consecutive Opening Day"

If I'm not mistaken, he was drafted in June 2005, which would make 2006 his first Opening Day. '06+'07+'08+'09 = 4 consecutive Opening Days.

How the heck does that statement get on the air? MASN stinks.

Posted by: erocks33 | April 7, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Zornado,

Thanks for giving me some facts. Good to know you aren't speculating the future of that trade after just one game.

(Snark meter on overload)

Posted by: Section505203 | April 7, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Defend Acta all you want, but the guy is not ready for Prime Time, thats why he is here! There has been a persistent pattern of base running mistakes, countless errors, mental mistakes, bad positioning, quick hooks for pitchers who need to learn to work out of jams, blah, blah, blah. The Lerners are business people, they are quickly learning that their baseball version of the "shop foreman" isn't a position that you hire to provide OJT. If the team goes into a deep skid (frankly when you have to play your first 25+ against the NL East and then add in 18 against the AL East) you can't keep making excuses and bone-headed post game comments night after night. Hey look on the bright side, Bobby Valentine expects to be fired from the Yamauri Harpoons this summer and he'll be looking for work in the states. Hire him!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 7, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

>What if that's not the rule? What if the rule is that you miss a meeting you get fined? Wouldn't you think it's more important that a manager applies whatever rules he sets fairly on all members of the team than that he waxes and wanes on severity depending on who commits the infraction?

I think someone needs a timeout.

Posted by: Brue | April 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

To be fair Brue, he raised an interesting point. I/We don't know what action was taken. I do think that a good public flogging would have been fun though.

In other thoughts, sure we are all overly upset about one game but, it's more that it laid bare a little post-Bowden optimism we enjoyed that was a little unfounded.

We have a lot of decent players being fit into roles to which they are not naturally suited. Milledge isn't really a center fielder or a lead off hitter, Dunn just isn't a fielder at all, Kearns is not really a corner outfielder (because of his lack of offense), Belliard is a stretch at 2nd and Lannan is not an opening day starter. The most natural player we have is Dukes at right field.

These aren't really new problems, they just all got exposed at once. So we feel unhappy. In subsequent games they will probably get exposed a little less, until Rizzo fixes them. Until then we just need to remember that this just isn't a very good team.

Posted by: soundbloke | April 7, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Jesus wears a bracelet that reads WWLMD. “(Lastings Mendoza) guessed that he won't draw too many walks, ‘because now, they have to come after me ...’ ” Ooooooooooh. The fear in the hurlers’ eyes was palpable, as each realized in turn that his choices were limited and chilling: pitch to the Toolsy Tool.

Rizzo on Milledge: "I think he's really making an attempt to look at much more pitches and be selective at the plate."

Boni is electric; LM is chemical, rather like a Poopy-Port-a-Potty.

Chris Needham: “If he needs to throw to second, he throws to third. If he needs to take the extra base, he stops. If he needs to backup Dukes in the OF, he's napping on the grass. He was thrown out at least three (maybe more) times 6-5.”

"Nothing surprises me by what he does," Acta said … . "He is very talented. I think the people in D.C. and the Major Leagues are going to enjoy this guy for a long time." ESPN reported this morning that when Manager Manny Acta floated the idea of benching LM for missing the team meeting that the Toolsy Tool called Manny into HIS office for a talk.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 7, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Seriously?
___________________
Hey look on the bright side, Bobby Valentine expects to be fired from the Yamauri Harpoons this summer and he'll be looking for work in the states. Hire him!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 7, 2009 11:47 AM

Posted by: lowcountry | April 7, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

> To be fair Brue, he raised an interesting point. I/We don't know what action was taken.
-------------------------------------------

Yes we do. As was reported, Milledge was fined an undisclosed amount for showing up late to Sunday's meeting. Would those of you calling for Milledge's and/or Acta's head change your tune if you knew what the amount of the fine was?

Posted by: spamcastin | April 7, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Again, not to deflect from my original point, and that is that the front office decisions *INCLUDING ACTA* have been suspect at best and downright laughable in some cases.

Acta is pertinent to the discussion in that he represents yet another questionable decision by this front office (a litany of which I won't list here).

Yes, it's only one game. But it sure looked like Game 163 of 2008 and not Game 1 of 2009.

Posted by: SavedByZero | April 7, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Its not the fact that we lost a game it is how we lost. It is more of what we saw last year. We are not a professional team. We have no pride. This is apparently fine with Acta.

If I am Acta I insist they cut Tavares and send Milledge down until he is ready to be part of the team.

Posted by: mjames0 | April 7, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It's a good thing that we all have relatively low expectations for this developing team, otherwise we might let a single opening day loss really get to us.

Posted by: BobLHead | April 7, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Oh spamcastin. Apparently we do know. Oops. If you don't mind I'm off to wipe the egg from my face.

Posted by: soundbloke | April 7, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

hehe, BobL. See you in the new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 7, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

One bad game does not a disastrous season make. But surely that doesn't mean that criticism is out of bounds. Now the wins and losses and stats count, and we have every right to expect that the best team will be put on the field and the players will do their best to live up to their potential.

It was nuts for LM to swing at the first pitch of the season, but maybe he was over excited. I'm more worried about 0-4 with 2 Ks and the failure to play conservatively on Bonifacio's inside the park-er. With the glut of outfielders on this team, including two on the bench who have some serious power, Manny should give Milledge (and Kearns for that matter) two to three weeks to produce before making a change.

Dunn is an awful fielder. Is anyone surprised? Of course not. But he can also crush the ball. I, for one, am prepared to accept that tradeoff. Four years of singles hitters in the cleanup spot were way more than enough.

The key in my mind is not whether Rizzo and Manny make all the right decisions. It's whether they are able to recognize when a wrong decision has been made (or a right decision isn't working out) and try something else. If Manny thinks Kearns won the RF job in ST, fine. But if Kearns stinks the place up for the next two or three weeks, make a move. If Rizzo wants to shape the opening day bullpen based on who has options left, fine. But if the guys who stayed are shelled the first two or three weeks of the season, then he better be giving Bergmann and Colome a shot, and soon.

If only similar options were available for the MASN broadcasting team.

Posted by: Section222 | April 7, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow. What a lot of negative comments! It's been a long time. People haven't had a chance to complain properly for ages! Okay! Let that bad air out. Take a deep breath. It's going to be all right. Repeat after me: this is a better team. Bowden's gone. We have Dunn. We're going to win today. It's a new season.

Feel better?

Posted by: nattydread1 | April 7, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

MJAMESO: I read Zuckerman's article in the Times he was one hundred percent right about Milledge and also about Zimm whom I think is way overated. I thought Milledge was way to casual in his approach last year and again in spring training this is where a guy like F.Robby is needed someone who will get in his sh#t and dare him to say something.I know its only one game but Acta should know better its the mindset that sets the tone for a season when you shrug stuff off like its no big deal that is how complacency sets in, with a history of losing not one aspect of losing baseball should be tolerated missed signs,missing the cutoff man,laying down a bunt,N-O-T-H-I-N-G!!!! thats the message that should have been conveyed to the team from day one of spring training and beyond.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 7, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Spamcasten

The amount of the fine irrelevant. The question to put to Milledge is - Do you want to be part of this team? We will give you a month in Syracuse to think about it. If you decide to you don't then we will try to move you. Put Dukes in CF. Additionally Milledge's demotion would help out morale in other ways.

If Acta keeps up with non-involvement strategy he will quickly lose the team, if he has not already.

To paraphrase another poster - "Yesterday was game 163 of 2008 and not game 1 of 2009."

Posted by: mjames0 | April 7, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

"The miscues Washington made on defense were not blips on a radar screen."

I'm confused. Does that mean they were real problems, or ephemeral, and inconsequential in the long run?

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 7, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Milledge would have caught the ball if he was in the right position and not playing 50ft behind 2nd base. Its not like if he had caught the ball he has the arm strength to throw out the runner tagging on 3rd. As usual poor judgement. Just like swinging at the first pitch opening the game... poor judgement. Dukes in CF Kearns in RF and bench Milledge or send him to the minors to work on his D down there and not give up costly runs with his lack of arm and judgement in the Pro's.

Posted by: NATSFAN10 | April 7, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company