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Guzman Returning, Gonzalez Departing

Though the roster move hasn't yet been made official, following tonight's 7-1 loss the Nationals announced their plan to activate SS Cristian Guzman and option error-prone SS Alberto Gonzalez to Class AAA Syracuse. Guzman, on the DL since April 14 (left hamstring), will be available for Wednesday's series-finale against the Phillies.

Guzman, typically, is known for passable defense -- nothing spectacular. But in relation, he'll be a drastic upgrade, because the Nationals are desperate for a shortstop who can make even three plays out of five. In tonight's loss, Gonzalez made his sixth error of the year, tying him for the big league lead with Texas's Elvis Andrus. Only a few weeks ago, Gonzalez had a reputation as a smooth defensive specialist; now, he'll get a chance to regroup in the minor leagues.

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

"He is a very good fielder," Acta said, "but he's had a rough time, especially the last homestand we had in DC. And tonight again, it cost us."

Gonzalez's error tonight came in the third inning, when Washington was already down 2-0. With two outs, Jayson Werth pounded a ground ball in the hole at short. Gonzalez couldn't field the ball cleanly, and then, with no chance to make the play at first, threw a wild fastball to first base anyway. Nats pitcher John Lannan responded by walking Raul Ibanez on four pitches and serving up a homer to Pedro Feliz. All three of those runs were unearned.

After this game, Acta called his team's defense "horrendous," adding, "it's just not what we were expecting when we came out of spring training. Especially the guys we have not playing good defense are guys that are supposed to be very good defensive players. You know, it has to get better. Because it's really not helping right now."

By Chico Harlan  |  April 28, 2009; 10:59 PM ET
 
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Comments

I've said this before when they were on a losing streak.

They all need to get together before the game tomorrow and play putt-putt golf or something. Something to lighten 'em up a bit.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 28, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Folks, it is very simple. The reporters need to do a better job of questioning the direction of the franchise. To be fair, your comments on Kasten's earlier plea for Philly fans to come to Nats Park was spot on so there is some hope. Unfortunately, the direction won't change with Manny and he must go. We respect him as a solid individual but the team is going nowhere and there needs to be a change. In any other major sports town, there would be a number of articles about this obvious change.

Posted by: jbjabyrne | April 29, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Hey Chico, was that you that Lannan blew off with the Utley question? Hahaha, he was not pleased.

Posted by: Section506 | April 29, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

Luckily, I had to work late and missed the game. But I caught some when I was walking by a TV and the closed captioning read "Buttley."

Sounds about right!

Posted by: Section506 | April 29, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

>After this game, Acta...oink oink.... You know, it has to get better. Because it's really not helping right now."

No, man, YOU aren't helping right now.

Please put him out of my misery

Posted by: Brue | April 29, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Does this mean Cintron and his .000 average are sticking around? That weakens the bench considerably...

Posted by: BGinVA | April 29, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse

>>Bowden, w/r/t his bullpen, was counting on a pipedream.

What does W/R/T mean?

Posted by: dovelevine | April 29, 2009 1:12 AM | Report abuse

w/r/t = with respect to, or with regard to

Posted by: absoluteflatness | April 29, 2009 1:21 AM | Report abuse

How bizarre about AG's glove troubles...he looked like such a plus for us last season when his buddy EB was still here. I really hope he gets it back together 'cause he's got a bat off the bench it would be a shame to lose.

And how sad (even bullpen infamy aside) that defensively, this team inexplicably appears to be trying to play its manager out of a job. And that some 'fans' would like nothing better than to hasten him taking the fall. But both groups (as well as ownership, who might not deserve him) should be careful what they wish for...

These players are paid to be professionals and need to TIGHTEN THE ____ UP and show more pride/responsibility in the way they handle their ____ in the field. There's no reason and no excuse -- including an imploding bullpen -- why this team should be bad defensively. That they are -- often tragi-comically so -- is the kind of ___ which leads to a drop in ballpark attendence and creates a vicious circle of poor morale that gets good managers fired. Guys need to take it upon themselves not to let the unprofessional showing continue: hard work and focus will start winning some games (even with a shaky pen) and earn respectability. Let's go Nats!

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | April 29, 2009 3:52 AM | Report abuse

Ray Knight had a good observation on the Nats errors and the fact that errors are up around the league. No one takes infield practice anymore. Everyone would take batting practice three hours before the game, go back to the clubhouse and eat, then come out take infield practice. This was epecially helpful while on the road to get everyone aclimated to an opposing team's infield and also the outfield. But like in the NBA, where everyone doesn't shoot free throws anymore, no one takes infield. I don't understand this..

Posted by: bromisky | April 29, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

The Nats demeanor last night was like clubbed baby seals. The loss on Monday was devastating in so many ways, especially when the carry-over effects were observed last night. Once again the Nats can only hope not to be swept, again.

Here is to Guzman, under-appreciated while he is on the team, but sorely missed when not in the lineup. My second toast is to Belliard, may you rest peacefully on the pines.

Posted by: driley | April 29, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to know more about why taking infield practice fell out of favor.

Did baseball evolve a theory that it was wearing players (and arms) out over the course of a long season? Is it a change in the culture, the same sort of change that has led to coddled pitchers who can't/won't complete games?

I don't recall batting practice being three hours before game time. I routinely used to watch BP and infield practice at Yankee Stadium as a kid in the 1960s, and I'm pretty sure I didn't get there three hours in advance. It may be that BP was shorter, and indeed perhaps it was to lengthen BP that infield practice was curtailed and eventually abolished.

In any case, I agree that the Nats clearly need it, especially on the road.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 29, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

"Ray Knight had a good observation on the Nats errors and the fact that errors are up around the league."

Faulty premise. League fielding percentages have steadily risen over time, and the figure hasn't dropped this season (.984).

But he's right on the specific point, and so is Dibble: _the Nats_ should be taking all the infield practice in the world. I'm not really a strident fire-Manny-now person, but it's true that his team never seems ready to start the season. He's not tough enough to grind them into shape.

Posted by: JhonnyBheGhood | April 29, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

The puzzling part to me is that while many, many people have said it over the past few years, no one seems to do anything about it: The Nationals need to take infield practice on a daily basis. I realize that this is not standard operating procedure in the major leagues any longer, but it it badly needed so why, why, why is it not done.

I believe there are some teams that do take incfield still and if so, it must not be prohibited by the players association. I realize it adds an hour of onfield activity to the work day, but this is a young team - they certainly should have the energy for it. Who decides not to do it and who decides to do it? I would think that if Manny felt it was necessary, he could dictate that infield practice was held - at least on days before night games.

And if there are vocal members of the team opposed to it, surely there must be some recognition that the current results are such that they need to try harder.

Why is someone like Johnson, Zimmerman, or even Belliard not calling a team meeting and taking the action into their own hands?

Who on this team has the work ethic, leadership skills, and wisdom to take this on-field performance issue seriously enough?

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 29, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"Who on this team has the work ethic, leadership skills, and wisdom to take this on-field performance issue seriously enough?"

Rhetorical question, I presume.

A fish rots from the head:
-This is a shock that the bullpen was questionable going into the season? Huh? Perhaps I missed something, but hasn't the discussion been around young unproven starting pitchers (and bringing them along) and a weak bullpen? The head of that fish is gone, and hopefully Riz is trying to make the best of the situation that he's in.
-The other fish head has zippy fire to demonstrate. There was a brief flash of anger/disappointment/impatience during bullpen shakeup #1, but with the every day veterans on this team, you now need a fresh managerial approach to get them motivated to perform at a higher level.

Anyone collecting names of candidates? I saw Davey Johnson as a name mentioned (questionable as that is) but a name nevertheless. Adding Bobby Valentine to the list: it'll be entertaining watching him drive ownership batty.

Posted by: joemktg2 | April 29, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

I crunched some numbers regarding Lannan's alleged run support:

Lannan has started five games this year.

In three of those starts (totalling 15 IP), the Nats did not score a single run while he was in the game.

In the other two starts (totalling 12-1/3 IP), they scored four runs.

In other words, when Lannan is pitching, the other teams' pitchers have an ERA against the Nats of 1.32.

Sandy Koufax would have a losing record with that kind of run support.

BTW, Ray Knight came up with what is arguably the stupidest statement I've heard all year. After he and Johnny Holliday got done reading excerpts from some blogs that were pretty harshly critical about the bullpen, Hanrahan, and Jim Bowden, Knight said the bullpen problems were "nobody's fault."

Sounds to me like someone who wants to keep his job at all costs.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 29, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Chico - your article today alluded to Lannan's ability to get groundball after groundball and then get pummeled for homers. Actually, that trend was apparent last year. He was 5th in the NL in groundball percentage (behind Lowe, Webb, Cook, and Jimenez) but near the worst in HR/FB, with a freakishly bad rate near 20%. Typical starters are in the low teens, I believe. I'm doing this from memory, but I think it is all on his Hardball Times page.

As for Gonzalez, it is strange, but I also believe he had some horrible defenisve metrics during one of his times repalcing Jeter. Again, from memory, this time from Fangraphs. Maybe it is just a case of the the yips, or one mistake cascading into doubt and overthinking.

Someone suggested this team needs a sports psychologist. I assume that's pretty common now. There are a few who are former players, like Bob Tewksbury (who is in the employ of a team known for it medical staff).

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Guzman-Johnson-Zimmerman-Dunn-Dukes-Kearns-Flores-Hernandez-Pitcher

GREAT lineup.
Maybe they can start to turn it around tonight.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 29, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

"Does this mean Cintron and his .000 average are sticking around? That weakens the bench considerably...

Posted by: BGinVA | April 29, 2009 1:02 AM | Report abuse "
---------
BGinVA - Cintron is a replacement player, while Gonzalez is a guy who is messed up now but a good fielder. Better to have AG play and get his confidence back and to have Cintron seated firmly on the pine to play only for double switches and in game injuries and ejections. Cintron also historically has hit for average. That actually is his one skill. His .000 is a short sample size problem.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

"Guzman-Johnson-Zimmerman-Dunn-Dukes-Kearns-Flores-Hernandez-Pitcher

GREAT lineup."

usmc53: relative to past lineups from the past few years, it may be great. Compared to other major league teams, it is (at best) fair. With a fair starting rotation and a fair bullpen, it may be a .500 ball club. But with the current starting rotation and a Triple A bullpen, you get what you pay for.

Posted by: joemktg2 | April 29, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

joemtg2: What can I say? I'm a hopeless optimist when it comes to this baseball team. Usually, until around mid-season, I always find ways to convince myself that we're about to turn it around.

Posted by: usmc53 | April 29, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

2008 Lannan GB% - 54.2 (5th among NL qualifiers)

2008 Lannan HR/FB% - 17.5% (worst among NL qualifiers)

2009 Lannan GB% - 56.4% (currently 4th)
2009 Lannan HR/FB% - 35.7% (currently 3d worst).

Too soon to trust the HR/FB stat. But it does show the rough start.

Lannan I think is a command and control soft tosser who gets his groundballs through hitting spots and keeping batters off balance. When his misses, he can get taken deep.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

USMC53 - you are not a hopeless optimist about the batting order. That is a terrific NL order, with only the 8th spot weak.

While not a "work the count" leadoff hitter, Guz does what a good leadoff hitter should do - he gets on. He may walk only 3 - 4% of the time, but if you add that to a .315+ average, his OBP gets into above average range.

2 - 5 is hard to argue with. Even Zimmerman has been effective as a #3 hitter so far.

Kearns has had a decent start, and Flores has driven in runs.

I'm not saying the team should not be criticized. It's just it'd be nice if it were accurate. Beat the heck out of the bullpen, wonder about the OF and backup SS gloves, but let's focus on problems and not confuse them with pluses.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Talking about infield practice. A gold glover like David Wright takes grounders by way of a fungo bat. This gives him very little reaction time and is another reason he stays sharp defensively. At the very least, the nats should take full infield practice the first game of every series they play, road and home.

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

usmc53: May I suggest being optimistic about offense (hitting and baserunning), hopeful about defense, and ignorant about everything else? It may help with the potential moodswing.

How about this for a tagline?: "NatsTown: Where the Blissfully Ignorant Reside. Ostriches Welcome."

Posted by: joemktg2 | April 29, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Re. the issue of batting and infield practice, I thought I remembered a recent response on Acta's MASN blog that spoke to this point. This is from an April 20 Q&A. Full text of the Q&A is available via the link below the snippet:

Every other aspect of the game that you are asking about, we work on every day. We don't show up to the game at 6:50 p.m. like many of the fans do. The coaching staff is in by 12:30-1:00 p.m. and players start rolling in between 2:00 and 3:30. We do extra work in the cages and on the field until it is time to start the stretch as a team; then we work on fundamentals at least once a homestand (which very few teams do); then we hit batting practice; during batting practice when our outfielders and infielders aren't hitting, they are taking ground balls and fly balls under coaches' supervision. Our pitchers have side sessions with Randy and do PFP (Pitchers Fielding Practice) on a daily basis... I guess you can see that the young guys are starting to pitch better already.

http://masnsports.com/2009/04/answering-the-fans.html

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh, i'll take that back about Kearns.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

And the reaosn I took back what I said about Kearns was the stat page flashed his 2008 stats rathe than his April stats. Can anyoen seriously complain about a .900+ OPS? He is not the problem in the order now.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Will there also be a pessimists tagline, joemkting? No doubt some here would be happy to come up with suggestions. ;-)

On another note, for those who might like to wax nostalgic about an earlier venom target as a change up from focusing on current ones like Acta, Rizzo, the Lerners, and fans whose moods don't swing in conjunction with one's own, the OP has a piece on what JimBo's up to these days.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

After the game I call the managerial job "HORRENDOUS" Adding this is not what a major league manager looks like, maybe a little league. Especially the guy is supposed to be a good manager but just can't manage. you know it WILL NOT GET BETTER MANNY. A new manger is the first order of business. Not one that talks in circles after the game!!!

Posted by: KGG769 | April 29, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

From baseball insider, AL and NL Wraps. At least we're not the only ones:

"Boston pitcher Javier Lopez committed a costly error while covering first..."

"Lopez's error was Boston's third of the game."

"...thanks in large part to an error by Tigers center fielder Josh Anderson."

"Nelson Cruz atones for a costly error in the fifth inning..."

Posted by: NatsNut | April 29, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Chico / Tracee - Add this to the morning reading.
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/zimmermans-17-gamer/#comments

Someone actually thinks a Nat who is going well will sustain it.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | April 29, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

It's the culture of today's athlete as to why ballplayers don't take infield,they feel entitled the money,the attention, i.e.look at Strasburg already being hailed as a saviour and he hasn't thrown one pitch in the big leagues it's the agent's,demanding crazy money for their clients,look at NFL and the rookie salaries before they play one down!! As far as the Nats are concerned nothing will change until we get a new manager this team is better than the team of 2005 the difference? F.Robby nobody dared mess with Frank, and his coaching staff was old school but Stan( "i am not a racist)Kasten infamous first words uttered on the John Thompson show after he fired Frank.Kasten wasn't interested in keeping anybody that was going to question he and Jimbo's authority that's why Manny was a safe hire, happy to have the job do what he's told and so it goes, this franchise needs a manager that has a fire in his belly not a go along to get along yes man.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 29, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

For those who think that the Nats or MLB teams these days don't do infield practice you need to get to a game early and watch BP very closely.

Guys are working on it, trust me. They shag fly balls and grounders hit by guys in the cage and you will see coaches working with players individually or in very small groups.

It's not the clear the field everyone get in their position and the coach hits it stuff like they do in LL or Babe Ruth but it is worked on pretty much every day.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 29, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I like Manny as much as anyone, but there has to come a time when him job security is questioned. This is the pros afterall!

Posted by: Tom8 | April 29, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Gonzalez couldn't field the ball cleanly, and then, with no chance to make the play at first, threw a wild fastball to first base anyway. Nats pitcher John Lannan responded by walking Raul Ibanez on four pitches and serving up a homer to Pedro Feliz. All three of those runs were unearned.
{}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

This seems to be Lannan's M.O. lately. Gets flustered by an umpire call or error and then instead of regrouping he digs his own hole.

Tough to watch him fall apart. He is a much better pitcher than this and would hope the "Saint" can work on his mental side of the game.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 29, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

BTW, Ray Knight came up with what is arguably the stupidest statement I've heard all year. After he and Johnny Holliday got done reading excerpts from some blogs that were pretty harshly critical about the bullpen, Hanrahan, and Jim Bowden, Knight said the bullpen problems were "nobody's fault."

Sounds to me like someone who wants to keep his job at all costs.

Posted by: gilbertbp | April 29, 2009 8:28 AM
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Didn't see that on Tuesday. On Monday after the bullpen blowup, Ray Knight was wailing so you could be right. It is tough to stay positive after a loss like Monday.

This team needs a 3 or 4 game winning streak going to get back on track.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | April 29, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

This is the aggravating thing about this team:

When they have the starting pitching, they don't have the bats.

When they have the bats, they don't have the bullpen.

When they have the bullpen, they don't have the gloves.

When they have the gloves, they don't have the starters.

Every aspect of the games the 2009 Nationals have done superbly sometime this season. It's not a case of every dog has his day, either, they're rated very well in all those categories. In some way they live up to their potential, every single game.

But never all at once. Never.

Posted by: Section506 | April 29, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

"It's not a case of every dog has his day, either, they're rated very well in all those categories."

Where are they rated very well in either bullpen or gloves (defense), 506? Your dreams?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

nice point, 506.

nunof, you're a neanderthal.

Posted by: NatsNut | April 29, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Rob Dibble who said it best at least three times last night. The reason why this team looks like a 100+ game loser is because they are comfortable with that. Wow, Rob you bring a breath of fresh air to the DC Sports airwaves. Are you listening WAPO, WASHTIMES? The local sports media needs to get involved here not just give this team a pass because your online research says that no one cares about the Nats or baseball in general. Yes it would be a streach to expect the local 24X7X365 Redskins blow-torch to chime in but that doesn't mean that the print guys can not be more critical. At least Dibble has the guts to tell it like it is. Come on Chico, Boz, Shiner go for the juggular, who cares what Kasten thinks, he has been able to hide under the media radar for long enough.

On the young pitching Dibble says they need to pound the strike zone and pitch inside, stop the nibbling becuase everytime your down 2-1 or 3-2 you have to come to the plate and in the bigs your a dead duck doing that.

Manny has no clue folks!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 29, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"nice point, 506.

nunof, you're a neanderthal."

I may be a neanderthal, but tell me. Where are the Nationals very well rated in either bullpen or defense? That's a serious question, "nice point, 506" or not. I haven't seen anywhere that rates this team highly in either of those aspects. Have you? If so, where?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 29, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

It is almost impossible to be out of it in the month of April, but, unfortunately, the Nats are there. Sad. This team does not know how to win. Trite, maybe, but true. They are used to losing already and you can see it on their faces and in their demeanors. That has to change. Someone, something has to light a fire under these guys. Frank Robinson, where are you when we need you? Oh yeah, you were treated like dirt and shown the door. Enjoy your new job.

Posted by: Wallpass | April 29, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I like "Buttley." Maybe that should be the player's new NJ name. Speaking of Mr. B., I enjoyed the part last night where he was obliged to take to the air to avoid Dunn's slide as much as or more than Dunn's HR.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Also, did anybody honestly believe before the season started that this team would be in it this year? Just saying.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Also, new post. Just saying.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

7.5 games out, in a pretty mediocre division, does not mean that a team is out of it. If we had better performances out of our bullpen, we'd be close to .500 (9-10, or so) at this point, and right in contention. I can think of at leaset 5 games we definitely should have won, if not for our 'pen (3 against FL, one against ATL at home, the 13-11 debacle the other night, not to mention the home opener).

If we keep hitting, and guys like Wells, Beimel, Bergmann, and Tavarez can somehow carry the relief pitching load, who's to say we can't string together some wins?

Posted by: usmc53 | April 29, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

No one thought we were going to the playoffs, but we did not expect the worst team in baseball either

Posted by: Tom8 | April 29, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I realize that, Tom, but my question related to comments about being out of it.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 29, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Some the best teachers I had while growing up were some of the toughest on me. A teacher who is your friend is not always the one who gets you most motivated. In fact, the friend will let you slide by saying you're doing great while not encouraging you to do better. This, I fear, the prevailing attitude with Manny Acta. He's a good person, a nice guy, and friends with everyone in the clubhouse. I would challenge anyone in the Phillies organization to say that Charlie Manuel is everyone's (or anyone's) friend.

Posted by: luv2bikva | April 29, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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