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Injury Problems, Closer Problems

So much to discuss here. Hopefully the Wash Post doesn't rent Internet space on a per-word basis. Leads are getting blown and closers are shaky and outfielders are reporting late to work (because of charity events!) and the DL is piling high enough to reach the clouds. And it's only April 18. Yikes.

First, the injury news. The Roger Bernadina injury is serious. The outfielder, while making a circus catch in the eighth inning, fractured his right ankle. After the game, the Nats placed Bernadina on the 15-day DL; they will recall Justin Maxwell from Class AAA Syracuse for Sunday's game. Maxwell will serve mostly the same role as Bernadina: a defensive specialist who comes off the bench. All the tests on Bernadina's ankle haven't come back yet, so the team doesn't know the full severity of the injury. But it looks like he'll be out months, not weeks.

By the way, because the team wants Elijah Dukes to get the regular at bats in CF, the Nats did not promote Lastings Milledge. Nor did they really consider it. Milledge could be in Syracuse for a while.

"The guy coming in, he's going to be a backup player," Acting GM Mike Rizzo said. "I didn't want Milledge to be a backup player. He needs to get his at bats every day down there. That's the reason we brought up Bernadina, and it's the reason why we're bringing up Maxwell. It gives you a defensive guy that can play center, and a guy that is going to come off the bench."


Okay, now Joel Hanrahan. He blew a save for the second day in a row, and the Nats have a problem. They have a team that can build leads and a closer who cannot save them. Until Hanrahan figures things out, Washington is left to deal with some gut-wrenching losses. Obviously I'm writing about the closer situation for tomorrow's print edition, but here are four talking points in the interim.

1.) Hanrahan remains the team's closer. Manny Acta said so. Rizzo said so. This makes sense only because Washington really has no backup plan. Sure, you could try Tavarez, but he took the loss today. You could try Beimel, the team's best reliever, but that removes your eighth inning guy, fixing one problem and opening another. Really, the Nats committed to Hanrahan long ago. And they are committed to him for better or worse. If Hanrahan falters, Washington is stuck without a legit contingency plan.

2.) Rizzo called the bullpen a "concern." He elaborates: "Well, yeah, we're blowing a lot of games in the ninth inning. We've played well enough to win four or five games. And yeah, there's a concern in the bullpen. But Hanrahan is our guy. He's got a good arm. He's got good stuff. He's a young closer, and you've got to go through growing pains. But if I looked you in the face and said I'm not concerned about the bullpen -- I can't say that. We've put ourselves in position to win several games here and we haven't done it. But Joel gets the ball tomorrow in the ninth inning with the lead."

3.) Two of the vets I spoke with after this game were both able to talk for three or so minutes without once casting blame on Hanrahan. In fact, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn found every way to find blame with their own effort -- despite the fact that the lineup scored six runs in the first two innings against Josh Johnson, the erstwhile NL ERA leader. Said Zim: "When we get ahead 6-0, 5-0, we need to kind of step on their throat rather than saying, OK, we're ahead, blah-blah-blah and just kind of try and coast. It's not like we're trying to do that, but we need that killer instinct, I guess."

4.) I've never heard Manny Acta step farther away from the positivism. He (and the rest of the clubhouse) was fairly devastated after this loss. "This is very disappointing and discouraging. It's deflating. There is nothing worse in the game than to be winning for eight innings, do everything right, and then lose it in the ninth. That really just sucks the energy out of everybody. But, you know, he's our closer. He'll bounce back. And we're going to continue to give him the opportunity."

Bonus.) Just because it's on my mind. Wil Ledezma (9.53 ERA) has shown little so far to help his job security. Jason Bergmann, still unscored upon in Syracuse, looks deserving of a spot here. Not a closer's spot, but a spot.


Here is what Acta said about Dukes, who showed up late at the ballpark today and consequently was fined and benched. "He was late for work, he broke a team rule, and we are going to change the culture here -- regardless of how well a guy is playing," Acta said. "And it was a bizarre situation, because he was doing something that we encourage our players to do: He was out in the community doing something for some Little League program and just showed up late to work. He was very remorseful about it. He felt bad, but we have to lay the law on whoever."

By Chico Harlan  |  April 18, 2009; 6:25 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Bernadina Leaves With Injury [UPDATE]
Next: Today's Lineups (*)


That's too bad about Bernadina - my best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to him. As for Dukes: Manny refuses to bench Milledge for completely missing a mandatory meeting (and I can guarantee LM was not doing charity work, especially since the team was on the road at the time), but Dukes is a few minutes late because of a charity event and he gets benched. I'm not sure what to make of this, because part of me is glad to Manny is laying down the law, but it really appears that Manny gave a lot of favortism to Milledge. I'm glad we don't have to worry about that anymore, at least not for now.

Posted by: BGinVA | April 18, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Dead-Man-Walking Manny sez: "But, you know, he's our closer. He'll bounce back. And we're going to continue to give him the opportunity."

Does Manny have a clue that he himself is running out of "opportunities?" One or two more affairs like this, the U.S. unemployment picture gets increased by one.

Bring up Tim Foli. Please. You can even have Bergmann drive him here.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 18, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

>There is nothing worse in the game than to be winning for eight innings, do everything right, and then lose it in the ninth.

They kicked the ball all over the place during the game and he wants to blame the closer?? FIRE ACTA that excuse making bump of a human being. What a penultimate loser. Fee simple stupid. He has this devious way of blaming the players if you look at what he says. If he screws something up, 'we played the percentages and it didn't work out'. Code: I made the right decision. 'We're leaving too many guys on base' = Code: the players are to blame. What a low life man I'm so sick of that loser. I was at the game last night, and he's so lame, I didn't even know he got thrown out for another four innings!!!!

Posted by: Brue | April 18, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you, Brue. Manny has that unique blend of an uninspiring personality combined with poor judgment. His annointing of Thrilledge as the leadoff man-CF and Joel "Three-run home run" Hanrahan as closer speaks volumes about his ability to rate talent. But mostly he's just an uninspiring figure. I picked 57 wins for this team, and I may be way, way north of reality. 40-and-122, anyone?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 18, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

"This if fine.......The best news is Manny got the message from the Milledge case the blew. If he had handled this correctly with Milledge than Dukes might have not needed his own lesson.

I like that adults are now running the show. Acta has been far to lose with the team for 3 years now.

It will be interesting to see who takes over next year as Manager.

Posted by: JayBeee "

In fairness to Acta, both Milledge and Dukes were sat down last year when they arrived late on a game day. Milledge I believe more than once. At the time, Acta said that he did not have many rules, but being on time was one of them. Milledge and Dukes both missed starts because they failed to comply with the rule.

However, Milledge's offense this year was to arrive late to a mandatory meeting the day before opening day. While some say he should have lost his opening day start on account of this, technically he was not in violation of the "show up late on game day, don't start" rule. So I don't fault Acta for penalizing Milledge by fining him instead of making him sit out the following day.

The broader point is that Acta had rules and enforced them last year, too. This Dukes incident today was not an instance of him all of a sudden cracking down after having been too loose before.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 18, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Good lord,don't try to say Tavarez doesn't deserve to close because he took the loss today, he pitched a scoreless 10th and has been the most reliable next to Beimel. But Tavarez shouldn't close, he should be the eight inning set up man, a role he has flourished in before, and Beimel should close, it is so simple I have no idea why they are not doing this.

Posted by: skippy1999 | April 18, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

the lerner family may have spent the money for the team, but the nats are OWNED by the marlins. when will the axe be dropped on manny axta?

Posted by: surly_w | April 18, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

You could leave Beimel in for the ninth once he's pitched the eighth.

Nah, that'd make too much sense.

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 18, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I was at the game today. It was a crushing, humiliating defeat, the kind that leads to managers being shown the door. I know it's standard practice these days to pull your starter after six or seven innings but Olsen was in command and didn't seem to be tiring. Despite the great play by Bernandina the team lacked focus in the field - the three errors showed that. Manny Acta seems like a good baseball man without a lot of talent to work with, but the Nats are acting like like they don't care both on and off the field, and maybe it's time for a change.

Posted by: waxtadpole1 | April 18, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

One of the maor problems I have not only with Acta but many other major league managers is that they lack the imagination and fortitude to break the mold that has homogenized baseball during the past two decades especially where pitching is concerned. The idea that any pitcher in the bullpen beside maybe Beimel should have an explicit "role" on a team that is 60-111 the past two years is ludicrous. How can Manny continue to go to the bridge with "Hang It Up There" Hanrahan as his closer after what he's seen with his own eyes. Last year during his OJT Hanrahan converted 75 percent of his saves. On a real team, that could be the difference between winning 86 games instead of 95 games. Right now when your teram is scuffling for wins you can't afford to uneqivocally state that Hanrhan is your closer when Beimel has pitched much better in head-to-head appearances. Why does the manager of a one-win team need to even designate a closer? Go with who's getting the job done. Hanrahan may have the raw stuff of a closer, but if Acta wants to flame out as a manager steadfastly relying on Hanrahan that's his business. Last year when Trey Hillman took the Kansas City job, he was asked about assigning roles in his bullpen. Hillman said he would have to see who had the fortitude to face the fire before making any decisions. When Manny states that Milledge is his leadoff hitter and center fielder while seeing he has currently lacks the aptitude for either job and that Hanrahan is his closer, it makes him look foolish when he has to move on to ther possible solutions. It also undermines his creditability with his players and fans when he has to recant his position. Should Manny be a big league manager? Yes, but with a more stable and veteran roster. Right now, he's not the legacy manager for this team.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 18, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Gotta feel bad for Hanrahan. He must be sick about those blown saves.

Ooops. Sorry, that wasn't a semi-literate hate filled spewing of invective directed at whichever Nat(s) I've chosen to hold responsible for everything bad that happens. Don't know what got into me.

Posted by: joebleux | April 18, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Very well thought-out post, leetee1955. I wish Manny would read it. Does Hanrahan go for the hat trick Sunday?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 18, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Wait, wait, wait. The Nats FINED Dukes for being tardy since he was participating in a community service event at a Little League program? Good lord, that's just ridiculous. What's next, fining and suspending Ryan Zimmerman because he was late due to participating in community service event at a local food bank? So much for the Nationals attempting to grow the sport amongst youngsters...

Posted by: thisismydcsportsopinion | April 18, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

"Gotta feel bad for Hanrahan. He must be sick about those blown saves.

Ooops. Sorry, that wasn't a semi-literate hate filled spewing of invective directed at whichever Nat(s) I've chosen to hold responsible for everything bad that happens. Don't know what got into me"

I feel bad for him too, no pitcher goes out there wanting to fail, they all want to do well. The problem is that he isn't doing well, he in fact is doing very badly, and for his and the team's sake they probably need to try something different with the closer role.

Posted by: skippy1999 | April 18, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

This whole Dukes episode with the fine and the benching would be laughable if it wasn't so pathetic. Somebody in management had to have arranged this event and Dukes agreed to participate. It was a win-win situation for the team by showing its presence in the community and for Dukes who has been working to rehab his persona. Maybe as a gesture Dukes probably lingered to sign autographs and have his picture taken with some of the participants. But because of the public reaction to Milledge's missing the Miami meeting, Acta may have felt he needed to show that he doesn't play favorites and fined and benched his starting center fielder. Dukes now may not want to to any more charity work because of what happened and Roger Bernadina cast in the role of innocent bystander is hospitalized with a fractured ankle. You can't make this stuff up.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 18, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Manny is not the problem. He was dealt a bunch of lemons the way JimBo put together the team over the winter. Rizzo is now trying to untangle the mess. Jimbo's maneuvers derailed "The Plan" by at least a year. And yes, the JimBo mismatches of players on the field will also affect the chemistry in the clubhouse. Rizzo and Manny have to resolve this quickly or 2009 will be a repeat of 2008. None of us want to see that.
So don't blame Manny just yet. He has a whole season to prove everyone right or wrong. But, two weeks into a season is way too soon to throw Manny overboard.

Posted by: tomfoc31 | April 18, 2009 9:26 PM | Report abuse

I am very impressed with Nationals fans. It would be very easy to angrily attack any and all wrongdoers within the organization and just vent.

Instead, there is comment after comment from fans disecting the problems and coming up with reasoned solutions.

Obviously, these greats fans don't work in government.

Posted by: rushfari | April 18, 2009 9:27 PM | Report abuse

"The problem is that he isn't doing well, he in fact is doing very badly, and for his and the team's sake they probably need to try something different with the closer role."

Maybe. I grew up with the Goose Gossage model of closer, so it's really hard for me to imagine anyone else in the pen as an effective in that role. Joel certainly couldn't have looked any worse the last two games, but I think given what we have out there, I'd extend a little more rope to a guy who can throw it up there at 95.

It's not like a few blown saves in April are likely to cost us a playoff spot.

Posted by: joebleux | April 18, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Chico, can you ask the question why they didn't bring Cory Paterson up instead of Bernadina and now Maxwell? If "The Plan" requires the young player to get playing time and whoever was going to be brought up is going to be a bench player, doesn't a seasoned MLB player like Cory Paterson make more sense for this role?

Posted by: tomfoc31 | April 18, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

NJ Line of the Year Award Goes to rushfari for this gem:

"Obviously, these greats fans don't work in government."

No, this isn't a site for your basic Ag Department GS 1 and a-half. They're too busy counting the soybean harvest in northwest Iowa.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 18, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

"I am very impressed with Nationals fans. It would be very easy to angrily attack any and all wrongdoers within the organization and just vent."

If this was in earnest, it's a very nice compliment, but I hope it wasn't. Because that whole post is some brilliant, A+ snark, if it's not meant to be true. The fact that I can't tell and it works both ways would give it the +.

Posted by: Section506 | April 18, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

I know that having a one run lead blown yesterday was bad and the three run lead blown today was much worse, but before we go after Manny and Joel's heads, I think the offence and the defence should take at least some of the blame. I know six runs should be enough to win a ball game, but we only had one hit after the second inning. Also, remember that if Nick Johnson (or Anderson Hernandez) would have caught the routine pop up in the fifth, the score would have been 6-5 after the ninth inning homer. So before we go head hunting, lets wait and see if everyone can settle down. I'm just as frustrated as everyone else, but remember that we're only ten games into a 162 game season.

Posted by: nathoo94 | April 18, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Acta's longevity with the club will likely be determined by how his team reacts and respects him in the clubhouse then the win/loss numbers. If he losses the clubhouse he goes especially since the win/loss numbers won't come close in protecting him. Any change that what happened today with Dukes is some how related to what happened last night. Wasn't Acta kicked out of the game arguing a strike that Dukes was about to protest. I thought Acta might have deflected the ump's attention away from Dukes and onto himself as a way to prevent a bigger problem a Dukes blow up would create. And if this is correct than maybe Acta fining/benching Dukes is a result of last night and not a little league game. Or maybe I am totally wrong and Acta is clueless after all. But I don't think so.

Posted by: riverpoint2 | April 18, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

"I thought Acta might have deflected the ump's attention away from Dukes "

I think there's no question about that. That's one thing (and maybe the only thing) guaranteed to bring Manny onto the field; and that is to protect a player. He did a similar thing when Lannan was getting into it with the first base umpire in his last start.

Posted by: joebleux | April 18, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Yup. Hanrahan blew the save. For the second time this year.

Against the team with the best record in the bigs.

Against a team that hits nothing but home runs.

Wasting an offensive effort where the team had exactly zero hits since a one-out hit by Zimmerman in the second inning.

In a game where the Nats committed three errors, leading to two unearned runs.

It's easy to scream "Off with his head!" during a 1-9 stretch. Perspective is harder acquire.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 18, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and by the way...

Go Terps!

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 18, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Man,not what any of us wanted to hear on the Bernadina injury the kid could defitnitely cover some outfield territory. I not sure firing Acta is the answer at this point, that being said a manager cannot change his demeanor Acta can't be F.Robby or he'll lose the team entirely but these errors and blown saves are a bit unnerving(ya think).I thought Acta should have gone with a closer by committe last year with the situation and stats dictating lefty/righty choices, and now? Manny has got to show confidence in Hanrahan, while everyone is screaming off with both their heads after these last two debacles the clubhouse needs to circle the wagons and remember that the season is a marathon and not a sprint.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 18, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we should judge Hanrahan on the basis of two games. I don't recollect his having much playing time before these two games because he didn't have anything to save. Give the guy a chance--not an eternity, but a chance. And Chico pretty well spelled out why we don't have many options right now anyway.

Does anyone know if Bernadina gets major league "benefits" at this point? Or will he be treated as if he got the injury at Syracuse? I am just sick that he got hurt after just two games when he was doing so well & putting in such effort.

As for this comment: "NJ Line of the Year Award Goes to rushfari for this gem:
'Obviously, these greats fans don't work in government.'

"No, this isn't a site for your basic Ag Department GS 1 and a-half. They're too busy counting the soybean harvest in northwest Iowa."

Why the nasty crack about federal workers? Totally gratuitous. And yes, I am one.

Posted by: Section109 | April 18, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I can not blame Manny for the last two losses. Players have to perform as major league players. If we continue to strand runners in ideal situations such as the last two days then the spotlight has to shine on the middle of the order. Dunn has to get the runner home some way when it is runner on third with one out. Kearns is the only player that saved us from looking completely horrid today.

Now, as for Manny's comment that he will continue to play Hanrahan as the closer one can argue that Manny is playing the percentages. There is no possible way that Hanrahan can defy all odds and suck this bad for three outings in a row. Plus, the odds that Cabrera can maintain a lead into the seventh inning is not a likely prospect either.

When the relievers are throwing fast balls when they should be throwing junk and throwing junk when they should be throwing fast balls then the blame has to fall on the one calling the game. Is this the catcher or a coach? As Dibble and Knight pointed out--you just can't throw low inside fastballs to low inside fastball hitters. The mental part of baseball seems to be really slipping here.

Posted by: driley | April 18, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Firing Acta now will not fix the Nats. Keeping Acta will not fix the Nats. I think Acta has had a fair chance to show he is or is not a Manager who can lead a team from Spring Training to October. Most all the data from the past two years tells me he is a poor game manager, a poor clubhouse leader, a poor motivator and a poor talent evaluator. That is why Acta should be fired now....not because it will fix the team but because it will help the team improve over the next few years.

Posted by: JayBeee | April 18, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Well said, joebleux. 506, I also assumed that rushfari's comment was snark. I've not been reading the bulk of the comments in the past few days because I've developed an allergy to spleen-venting.


Gotta feel bad for Hanrahan. He must be sick about those blown saves.

Ooops. Sorry, that wasn't a semi-literate hate filled spewing of invective directed at whichever Nat(s) I've chosen to hold responsible for everything bad that happens. Don't know what got into me.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 18, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Dibble had a harsh comment about the way Bard was calling the game (something like, "I don't know what he's doing back there"). I don't know whether that was justified or just a pitcher's mentality (must be the catcher's fault), but I would much rather see Nieves back there.

I'll join the chorus of those pleasantly surprised by Dibble. Sometimes he goes a little over the top in homerism, but that's not all bad. I loved his "now go back to the dugout with your 8 strikeouts in 11 at-bats" shot at Bonifacio. His raw edges are a good compliment (or antidote) to Carpenter's blandness (kind of a milk and pepsi thing).

Posted by: joebleux | April 18, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

For the record, milk and Pepsi together would be really bad. Kids, don't try that at home.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 18, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we'll see how the homerism wears as we get used to it. After two years of Carpenter and Sutton lavishing praise on opposing teams, I'm okay with it for now. It doesn't seem to be a boosterism, though. He, all around, has the very fair assessments of an educated fan of the team. Which I'm okay with.

Posted by: Section506 | April 18, 2009 11:44 PM | Report abuse

I was listening to C&D, while digging up the yard, so I don't know when Dibble questioned Bard's pitch selection, but unless it was in the ninth inning, ummm, they had held it to three runs. What Hanrahan was doing grooving fastballs to home run hitters, well, I can't help you there.

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 18, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

I think Dibble said something like I don't know what Bard was calling for there, which to me could go either way (questioning Bard's pitch selection or Hanrahan's disregarding of same). Like joebleux, I would rather see Nieves behind the dish in such situations. And I said as much to my television set. A few times.

I'm really growing to like Dibble. I was visualizing him doing a slow burn while he listened to Carpenter's happy chatter about a pending Nats win in the top of the 9th. (I'm kind superstitious about stuff like that.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 18, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Dear Section 109.

It was a joke.

I was tipping my cap to Nats' fans who were going "above and beyond" in their interpretations of what happened on Saturday.

My dad (VOA), mom (GSA), brothers (DoD, DEA, Va. Supreme Court, and Navy dept.)have been government workers beginning in 1959. I guess you could say that I, as a teacher, also work for the government.

It was a joke. Most people paint government workers as people who do just enough but not more than is expected. I played to that stereotype.

No knock on government workers.

Posted by: rushfari | April 19, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

@rushfari: Most people paint government workers as people who do just enough but not more than is expected.

Now, where, oh, possibly where could one ever draw that impression? Around here? Oh, never. Not here.

Gotta run to the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles now. Think they're open?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 19, 2009 12:22 AM | Report abuse

Now, where, oh, possibly where could one ever draw that impression? Around here? Oh, never. Not here.

Depends on what part of the government, which agency, you work for. Some folks take government service very seriously. They choose to make less money put up with the BS associated with the bureacracy for the mission, for some its a vocation. Fewer than the past, true. Still, the bureacracy has more power than the so-called 4th estate. They are there after the politicians lose elections and are removed from office.

That said there are some agencies that are better run than others.

Posted by: priestholmes | April 19, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Bard is there because he is a switch hitter who can hit at times. Otherwise Nieves would be in there.

Posted by: priestholmes | April 19, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

@priestholmes "for some its a vocation."

I think you meant vacation.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 19, 2009 12:54 AM | Report abuse

That was about as painful as a loss that a fan can experience in April. Just PAINFUL!

Posted by: cabraman | April 19, 2009 1:21 AM | Report abuse

Well, Bergmann finally had a bad outing at Syracuse last night, for the record.

And for JiM, I, too, don't want to lose perspective, (after 50 years of losing), but these kind of losses rip your guts out.

Posted by: nats24 | April 19, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

> That is why Acta should be fired now....not because it will fix the team but because it will help the team improve over the next few years.

Wrong. The defense would improve immediately. Their situational execution would improve immediately. The team also would play nine innings instead of scoring a few runs and taking the rest of the day off. If they didn't, they'd get their ass chewed. The starters wouldn't be yanked prematurely, and the bullpen wouldn't get gassed. The starters are better than they showed in the first week - Lannan, Martis and Olsen all pitched well enough to win easily. Maybe the new manager wouldn't run 5 relievers out there every day, would stretch guys out and give them more time off in between outings. Maybe they wouldn't get injured as much because they'd be playing harder and paying more attention to what they're doing. Maybe the punishment for misbehaving would make sense (more honesty). If I was Dukes I'd have to be shaking my head that I got fined trying to help some poor kids from the ghetto out and ended up five minutes late. That's how resentments start. The point is to do it before the season goes in the tank. This season. A couple more weeks and it will be too late, and it's not fair to anybody - the fans or the players to let him stay.

Posted by: Brue | April 19, 2009 3:22 AM | Report abuse

So just how is firing Manny going to help Zimmerman and Gonzalez throw to first base?
How does Manny prevent batters from driving in runs when runners are in scoring position? How is Manny going to catch that run scoring pop up to the infield that Johnson missed?

"Maybe they wouldn't get injured as much because they'd be playing harder and paying more attention to what they're doing."

Bernadina got injured by going as hard as humanly possible after that fly ball. Blaming injuries on Manny is just sick, and wrong. Guz got injured by after going five for five--how much harder can he play?

The anti-Acta invective is getting shrill around here.

Maybe management is "getting it". Manny fought for his player Friday night and got thrown out. Milledge did get sent down and now when there is an opportunity to bring him back Maxwell gets brought up instead. Nick Johnson is first baseman and not Dunn--I think we can all see why.
Dukes gets bumped from the game because of a rules infraction--it may seem silly but it may have a larger, positive ripple in the clubhouse that lasts for the season.
I think the team would like to find someone else as the closer but after looking around there is no one else except Biemel. Getting those three outs in the eighth inning is as vital as getting them in the ninth even if not as dramatic and so we find ourselves in a box of our making.

Posted by: driley | April 19, 2009 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo says: "Hanrahan is our guy. He's got a good arm. He's got good stuff. He's a young closer, and you've got to go through growing pains." But, if Hanrahan rarely knows where his that good stuff is going in his pitches, i.e. the lack of command that has thwarted success throughout an almost 10 year pro career, then the Nats are dooming to losing plenty more games with him as closer. So why not try Beimel, in the absence of any alternative in the Nats's farm wasteland? Or, until the Nats can produce, from the farm or via trade or free agency, relief pitchers with both stuff, command and situational intelligence, use a closer by committee system until one person starts to consistently stand out and then give him the job. Major league closers should not be in the position except on merit. And while I'm at it, why pull mechanically a starter from the game after six or seven innings when he is still going strong after six or seven, as Olsen was yesterday? With a lead of 3 or more runs going into the eighth inning, and a starter still looking strong, why not wait until the he gives up an extra base hit r walks or hits a batter or two, and then bring in your most reliable reliever and maybe even let him pitch the ninth if he gets through a 1-2-3 eighth. Acta needs to start thinking outside the box of 21st century managerial conventional wisdom if his only semi-talented team is going to win some ball games.

Posted by: mx_heinrich | April 19, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

"With a lead of 3 or more runs going into the eighth inning, and a starter still looking strong, why not wait until the he gives up an extra base hit or walks or hits a batter or two . . ."

I don't want a 25-year-old throwing much more than 100 pitches an outing. (Talk to me again in a year or two, when he's 26 or 27.) Olsen did a good job in seven; let's try to conserve the asset he brings to the table.

". . . and then bring in your most reliable reliever and maybe even let him pitch the ninth if he gets through a 1-2-3 eighth."

Heresy! Next you'll say you want to win ball games or something. Preposterous.

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 19, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Dibble is growing on me too. A little heat to take the edge of Carpenter's saccharine goody two-shoes routine. He called out Carp on calling this game a win in the 8th, and Bard on the Hermida at bat - "no reason to throw a strike there" (hope I remember correctly)

Nothing looks worse than a closer losing consecutive games - or worse - agree that playing matchups might make more sense, but he's gotta publicly support Hanrahan now. And the generic managing strategy is to have a designated setup man and closer, and I have to admit, it works well overall. The Red Sox tried a committee approach a few years ago based on sabermetrics, and it didn't work out.


Posted by: utec | April 19, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

When is SuperWillie Harris expected back? Need some bodies - JMax could go back to AAA.


Posted by: utec | April 19, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game yesterday. Nothing I can add that hasn't already been said about Manny, Hanrahan, et al, other than to add that I don't understand this relatively new idea that there is some kind of law that the "setup" man can't go two innings. Yesterday's experience was devastating.

What I wanted to comment on, especially in light of the Dukes incident, which seems to have the potential to further undercut what little efforts the Nationals seem to be making in cultivating good community relations, was the overzealous behavior of at least one usher during extra innings yesterday.

I will preface this by saying that no one has the "right" to sit in a sit other than the one for which they have paid. The issue here is from the standpoint of fan relations, not "rights."

A man and his evidently pregnant wife had taken seats in section 103, aka the bleachers, IN THE TENTH INNING. I don't know where they had tickets for; perhaps, like many people, they figured they'd hang out there and be a little closer to the exit. Many if not most people had left the game entirely by that time, and the section was virtually empty. No one else was sitting around them, no one was inconvenienced, no one's view was blocked.

An usher, very aggressively, demanded that they leave because they didn't have tickets for those seats. The guy said they moved there because the sun where they had been sitting was getting too strong for his wife. True? Who knows, and really, who cares.

IT WAS THE TENTH INNING. When you've got a team with one win and blowing leads, you ought to be grateful that ANYONE is willing to stick around and be tortured further. What possible purpose could there have been at that point in hassling these people?

The team needs to quietly get the word out to the ushers, especially in those outfield sections that people quite naturally will plop into for half an inning toward the end of the game en route to the exits, to back off. I'm not suggesting people be allowed down near the field, or the dugouts, or into the club areas (heaven forbid). Just a little common sense with those last few rows in left field.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 19, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

One sort of funny thing on an otherwise depressing day:

I'm not necessarily a member of the "Lerner's Are Cheap" club, but there was an example of harmless penny pinching on the plaza yesterday.

The band doing the pre-game entertaining was wearing Nationals jerseys, and when you walked around to the back, you saw the following names: Broadway, O'Connor, Speigner, Lopez.

As my grandmother would have said, why throw away a perfectly good shirt?

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 19, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Meridian1: They should have tried the seats below the Red Porch. An usher there actually INVITED me to take a seat as I was lurking there Friday night in the bottom of the ninth.

Posted by: Hendo1 | April 19, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

@Hendo1: It may be that this was one usher who took himself a little too seriously. Or maybe he'd been called out for being too lax in the past and was overcompensating. But when his supervisor got involved -- and it was here I lost track of what was going on so I didn't report it -- that would have been the time to set things right. I don't think they did, but I'm not sure.

Speaking of the vicinity of the Red Porch, I watched Bernadina's catch from the Beerpen. We couldn't see him come down but did see him go up. It was an example of why outfielders try to get to the wall first and THEN jump.

When he jumped, he was leaning back toward the wall. Even the launch looked really awkward and I knew he was going to come down badly (though I can't say I knew he'd break an ankle).

This isn't a criticism at all -- I admire how he threw himself into the play. But it's pretty clear to me, having also watched the replay a few times, that the gap under the padding was irrelevant. Though I do agree it needs to be fixed, and also evened out. When I was at Nationals Park for the opera last fall, I walked along the outfield wall to get an up close look and was surprised at the considerable variation in the height of that gap.

The whole thing is a lesson in the contingent nature of life. If Dukes shows up on time, Bernadina stays healthy. You never know.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 19, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Couldn't help noticing this from the AP report from Yankee Stadium yesterday:

"Even with the beautiful, 75-degree weather, the 1,800 Legends Suite seats in the first nine rows ringing the plate, which cost between $500 and $2,625 each, had long strings of empty chairs."

Seems it's not just the Lerners. Someday these guys are gonna realize they've overreached on these super-premium seats, swallow their pride, and respond to what the market is so clearly telling them.

BTW, lots of no-shows at yesterday's Nats game THROUGHOUT the lower stands (not just the perpetually empty Presidential sections). I love Saturday afternoon games this time of year, when nights are still chilly and the days are sparkling. But these days, so many families are so overscheduled on Saturdays with kids' soccer games and whatnot, maybe day games are a harder sell than they used to be. The Caps game yesterday didn't help, but I doubt it was a big factor.

It was a great day until the ninth inning.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 19, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

And now, for something completely different

The team's only 10 games into the season, and already has three players off the 25-man (Guzman, Harris, Bernadina) on the 14-day DL, and another three off the 40-man (D.Young, Casto, T.Young). This doesn't bode well.

Posted by: BinM | April 19, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Isn't it a 15-day DL?

No, I have nothing useful to say. Just puzzled by why BinM keeps saying 14.

Posted by: Scooter_ | April 19, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Someone earlier in the string asked about bringing up Patterson instead of Maxwell. The answer lies in the fact that Maxwell is on the 40-man, and Patterson isn't.

Willie has an oblique injury - comebacks from that type of injury are hard to predict. I'd guess it will be 30 days or more, rather than a short stay on the DL.

Posted by: BinM | April 19, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

@scooter - you're right. It's 15, not 14.

Posted by: BinM | April 19, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I coach in Great Falls Little League and was there for Elijah Dukes' visit yesterday. I have young kids and honestly it's been hard for me to root for him based on what's reported about him. But everyone should know that Dukes represented himself and the team very, very well. He had a nice, calm attitude about him and made himself available to sign autographs (my neighbor's son got a good one on the Nats cap he brought just for that). When he spoke, he was fairly articulate, telling the kids to focus on having fun - that little league isn't life or death and that (he looked around) is clearly a great place to just enjoy yourself playing ball. He ended by telling all the kids that maybe someday one of them could grow up and take his job. I really got the impression that ED is gaining some perspective in life. Certainly, based on his bio, I'd say coming out to GF had the opportunity to bring out some bitterness based on how he grew up - I didn't perceive anything but positives. And on the schedule, it wasn't his fault at all. The thing didn't get started on time, then lasted too long. But ED had been asked to throw out the first pitch at the end of the ceremony. He patiently waited, spoke his words, and threw his first pitch. Then the league commissioner told everyone that ED had to leave to make it to the park on-time. Clearly it was close and I know it wasn't his fault.

I'm still skeptical on Dukes but I'm very glad to have one data point that's a big positive.

Posted by: natslifer | April 19, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

We have one of the lowest payrolls in the majors, one of the worst organizations as rated by those qualified to do it. There is always the hope of spring, but the reality is that this team was built to suck and that is what was apparent in Viera. And now there is no getting around the facts. Buying low does not do anything except buy you a lot of low. That is where we are as an organization. It is about the bottom line and spending the money to field a winner. Yankees 200 million. Nationals 60 million. Don't tell me about all the 90 million dollar teams competing for the pennant in between. They spend more money than the Nationals every year since 2005 and it shows. There is no free lunch, just a soup kitchen called Washington baseball.

Posted by: Juliasdad | April 19, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I was there Friday night and yesterday, there is no way I'm going to put myself thru another gut wrencher today.

Acta is "Dead Man Walking" there is no way Kasten or Rizzo are going to let this team continue down this path without some type of shake-up. Looking at the schedule they might be catching a break with the Braves coming in, but then again that might be only because it may rain on Monday or Tuesday.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 19, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps a joke since the Nats don't put anyone on it until they've already missed a start? I don't know either.

Posted by: Section506 | April 19, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"I don't understand this relatively new idea that there is some kind of law that the "setup" man can't go two innings. "

Maybe because the setup man in question (Beimel) had already pitched on Thursday night and Friday night (less than 24 hours before being called on again yesterday)? Perhaps there's a tradeoff there. By pitching only one inning in each of those games, maybe he's now available again today - which would be the fourth day in a row, so maybe not because Manny says he doesn't like to do that with relievers. Of course, that could apply with Hanrahan today as well, since he pitched Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 19, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"The Caps game yesterday didn't help, but I doubt it was a big factor."

I bet it was. There's lots of overlap between hard-core Caps fans and hard-core Nats fans. The kind of fans who have season tickets in one sport and will miss games to go to playoff games in the other sport.

What I couldn't figure out yesterday was the guy in an Ovechkin jersey who was sitting a couple of rows over from me. Okay, he's enough of a hockey fan to buy an Ovechkin sweater, but given the choice of watching a Caps playoff game (even on TV) and sitting in the cheap seats at a Nats game, he chooses the Nats? What's up with that?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 19, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

@natslifer: Thank you very much for the info about Dukes' visit. It's good to know what really happened and about the positive impression Dukes left.

Posted by: nats24 | April 19, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

>Blaming injuries on Manny is just sick, and wrong. Guz got injured by after going five for five--how much harder can he play?

There's something wrong with the training habits. Bernadina isn't the only one to get hurt. Belliard, Guzman, Harris - all in the first week. Let's take Belliard - he plays all winter - should he have taken a break so he wouldn't be worn out? This is at least the second winter in a row he's played. The rest of the guys, when they're at the Nats disposal, maybe aren't getting worked hard enough. You can use Dmitri as a test case in team oversight, but that would almost be cheating. Who knows whether Guzman was in shape to go every day the first week in the season without pulling something. That's all most pulled muscles are, not being in the right shape. What about Harris? Did he get enough PT in spring training or not? It goes on and on. That's the coach's responsibility, pure and simple. They lead the league in injuries last year - by a lot. Manny changes roles all the time because he gets desperate, and when the roles change, the preparation is supposed to change. Doesn't look like it is. It goes back to the manager.

Posted by: Brue | April 19, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

>So just how is firing Manny going to help Zimmerman and Gonzalez throw to first base?

The new guy can start by demanding some quality depth instead of a scrub like Gonzalez. Manny can't do that, and according to him, he never has "because my role is to coach the players they give me". A manager with some cache would be involved in acquisitions, at least in the conversation. Why? Because they wouldn't be worried about ruffling the front office's feathers because they aren't worried about their job security. Manny obviously is, whether he admits it or not. You think that Davey Johnson wouldn't stir up a storm at having 3 catchers on the roster? That affects your defense, because you have less players available on the bench for defensive substitutions, so you leave a starter in the game and become compromised. You can certainly find blame in Acta for not challening that. Who needs 3 catchers, especially the first week of the season? Ridiculous.

Posted by: Brue | April 19, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

"I'm not sure firing Acta is the answer . . ."

With this organization, I don't think there is an answer. It stinks from the top down.

If Zimmerman signs a long-term deal, after seeing what's going on, I will eat my 1954 Senators' "W" hat.

Posted by: JohnRDC | April 19, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The Bernadina outfield catch/injury kind of reminded me of the Church catch/injury in Pittsburgh a couple years or so back. That was just when Church was starting to shine and entrench himself as a solid starter in the Nats outfield. It was downhill for him after that. On another note, I wish the starters when they were performing well would not be removed just because of a pitch count. How the heck did pitchers complete so many games in years past. I idea of removing a pitcher because the manager wants him to feel good and positive about his effort bewilders me. Unless he is complaining about being tired or showing signs of fatigue through observaiton, let him finish what he started. I just don't get it. I mean, what have they got to lose...they're 1 and 9 for gods sake.

Posted by: cokedispatch | April 19, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Natslifer for clarifying the Dukes situation having lived all over DC,MD,AND VA. unless he had a police escort he actually could be late through no fault of his own. I live in Atl. now(man i hate the south) and traffic on the interstate's down here is like nascar without the rules and since there is no state inspection of vehicles in the entire state of Ga. almost anything goes in term s of auto's on the road. We need this one today so we can have a little momentum going into the Braves series in DC, they haven't been playing well either having lost five in a row and ten zip yesterday to the Pirates. Lets play hard and play smart GO NATS!!.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 19, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Jesus Colome has to close in the 9th!!!!

Posted by: bonafe2106 | April 19, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't believe Elijah Dukes was benched for being 5 minutes late to practice for signing autographs for the Little League. Maybe it is time that we need a new leadership for the Nationals. Don't the fans matter, Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Acta? Isn't your team the one that is 1-9, with a .366 season last year, and an MLB-low of 9,000 viewers of your team's games on television? Surely you have more important issues than to keep an important player from playing because he is 5 minutes late signing Little League autographs. The problem here is not the signal that you are sending to Elijah Dukes and the Nationals players about discipline, but the signal that you are sending to the fans. If this incredibly petty incident is the type of thing that you are focusing on and jeopardizing games over, then the signal being sent is that you are not serious about winning baseball games. If you want baseball to stay in DC, you need to send a different signal. Fans want Nationals leaders who are serious about baseball and winning in this city. If the fans could get someone to sit out a game, guess who we would bench today. It wouldn't be Elijah Dukes.

Posted by: jeff-in-dc | April 19, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Don't blame Manny????? Who else do you blame. His lackluster managing has got to end. Look at all the errors that have plagued this team. This comes from not keeping strict rules and hard work. For over a year now we have watched Manny(remember he is a player's manager) treat players differently. Milledge needed discipline not hugs, but Dukes got discipline. Acta needs the ax. Don't claim this is Bowden. Come on. The mismanagement is on the field. Undisciplined team, errored fill team, wrong decisions. Just sickening.

Posted by: sazzwho | April 19, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Manny said that they were trying to "change the culture here..."

Well, here's an idea for "changing the culture":

Field a professional team.

Posted by: p1funk | April 19, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Benching Dukes for being late for doing charity work for Little League is absolutely absurd, what a message that will send to the kids he was working with. Talk about a culture that needs to be changed, perhaps the Nationals need a manager who can distinguish between somebody showing up late for no reason and somebody helping to get fans for the Nationals

Posted by: Nananance | April 19, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Acta is clearly in way, way, way over his head as a major-league manager. Fire his rear!!!!

Posted by: roje | April 19, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow. The hyperventilating on this board today is, well, breathtaking. Take a deep breath people. Okay, enough of the overworked metaphor.

If you're a real Nationals fan, then I hope you are looking at the big picture here. How important really is getting the bullpen into *just* the right configuration given the present talent, in order to squeeze an extra couple of wins out of a 60-win team (on paper, pre-season I mean)? Not important at all. Unless maybe you are the type that obsesses over protecting your projected macho pride against the specter of endangering the '62 Mets' record for futility. Personally, that is meaningless to me, and in fact might even be a fun point of perverse pride to point back to in future years if we put together a winning team here.

No, the #1 (#2, #3 and I would suggest ONLY) goal right now is building a good team for the long haul. That means NOT destroying the confidence of promising but clearly unpolished youngsters like Hanrahan. Give him the ball. When (not if) he blows another save, give him the ball again. Repeat unless it appears that too many bad games are actually hurting his confidence. The guy simply has the best arm of any reliever in the system, and he could be a pretty good one (not a Wagner or Rivera, but not even every winning team has to have one of them).

Play the youngsters, when they're ready. Okay, give Kearns a few more at bats on the off chance that you can build some trade value for him, but don't get unrealistic there. Other teams aren't stupid. Kearns has 4th OF (albeit a good one) written all over him - all the projections say so. Give Milledge a few more games in AAA to think about things, and then bring him up and put him in RF. Hope Dunn walks and smacks the heck out of the ball between now and July so we can get some good prospects for him. And then don't whine when we do that on some silly grounds that losing him means our big chance for 70-win glory are gone. This team has a long way to go to compete with the Mets, Phillies and Braves. If you think it can be done tinkering around the edges with a Joe Biemel instead of a Joel Hanrahan pitching the Magic Ninth Inning, you simply don't know baseball.

Oh, and once you trade Dunn, look at Maxwell in LF. That could be one heck of an atheletic OF. But that means he should be playing every day in AAA until the spot opens up. As soon as Harris comes back, down goes Maxwell, with a "see you soon". Please. Don't waste talent.

Thanks for listening. Washington Nationals, World Champs... in 2012.

Posted by: B2O2 | April 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

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