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"Over And Over And Over And Over"

I just filed my game story, which should probably come attached with a surgeon's general warning. This is just brutal, brutal baseball. Tonight's game featured 11 walks by Nats pitchers. A few didn't end up being costly, but that's not the point: A team can only defy the odds for so long. It was downright improbable that Washington entered the ninth inning, having already walked nine guys, in a tie. Julian Tavarez came on in the ninth and walked two more -- more than a footnote in St. Louis's five-run frame.

Asked after the game how he could fix his bullpen's problems, Manny Acta shrugged his shoulders and guessed, "Plan Z?"

"It's embarrassing," he added soon after. "This is not Philadelphia, where a guy might be scared of throwing a pitch over the plate and a guy hitting it out. This is a pretty fair ballpark, and it's not gonna work. It's top-to-bottom. They just are walking themselves into trouble. Over and over and over and over. Walking guys after 0-2 counts, walking guys in the bottom of the order. You shouldn't be afraid... you're pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can be intimidating right now?"

I don't even know why I did this, creating the graphic below. Maybe I did it for the same reason that mathematicians create proofs -- to show something self-evident: In this case, that walks are harmful. Anyway, here's the breakdown of the walks issued to St. Louis hitters tonight:

Walked by CABRERA
1. Colby Rasmus (1st inning) -- scored
2. Chris Duncan (1st inning) -- stranded on first
3. Jason LaRue (2nd inning) -- stranded on second
4. Albert Pujols (3rd inning) -- stranded on third
5. Rick Ankiel (5th inning) -- stranded on first

Walked by HINCKLEY
6. Ryan Ludwick (7th inning) -- scored

Walked by KENSING
7. Duncan (7th inning) -- stranded on first

Walked by WELLS
8. Khalil Greene (8th inning) -- stranded on third
9. Skip Schumaker (8th inning) -- stranded on second

Walked by TAVAREZ
10. Chris Duncan (9th inning) -- scored
11. Joe Thurston (9th inning) -- scored

By Chico Harlan  |  April 30, 2009; 11:54 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Beimel Is Healthy And Waiting To Return
Next: Video of Boz on WPLWIC [Update]


I ended up having to go to a dinner tonight, so I missed the game. I'm sure my TV did not mind, as it would would have had a beer bottle smashed through it if I had been home. I did - unfortunately - turn on my car radio on the way home as the game was in the top of the 9th. The first play I heard was Hanarahan giving up a run via balk (at least that's a new one)before he even had a chance to throw a pitch. As I listened, I felt bad for Charlie and Dave. I can only imagine them jumping ship for a better gig as soon as they're able.

We're coming into a new month, and I hope we have a new team to show for it. April is behind us, so let's leave it there. I still say Manny is gone by the All-Star Break unless things improve really soon, and by really soon, I mean by this weekend. Taking 3 out of 4 from St. Louis would be a huge morale boost which would be most welcome at this point. We'll see...

Posted by: BGinVA | May 1, 2009 12:01 AM | Report abuse

from previous thread....might be worth asking manny and the saint about this, chico.

A point for consideration regarding the buillpen. There are too many very recently converted starters down there, guys who are used to having real relief pitchers bail them out in tight spots. Hinckley, Hanrahan and Mock were converted last year and Wells has been a starter most of his career. Starting pitchers generally aren't in the games at crunch time and I don't see the mental toughness needed to get key late-inning outs from most of the above mentioned guys.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 30, 2009 11:51 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: leetee1955 | May 1, 2009 12:03 AM | Report abuse

for all of you axe axta advocates, do you honestly think that the lerners are going to pay manny for most of the rest of this year NOT to manage this team?

Posted by: surly_w | May 1, 2009 12:07 AM | Report abuse

that's not even counting the HBPs.

Posted by: NatsNut | May 1, 2009 12:10 AM | Report abuse

"for all of you axe axta advocates, do you honestly think that the lerners are going to pay manny for most of the rest of this year NOT to manage this team?"


How true ... making Manny watch the Nats play every day for the rest of the season would be punishment. Firing him might be an act of mercy.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | May 1, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Plan Z - Manny Acta is going to put Znn in the Bullpen! Somebody stop the guy! What is he thinking?

Posted by: swang30 | May 1, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Not Manny then who? God knows... Lerners pay for Manny and someone else? Yeah right... maybe when there's 3 days left in the season... Promote someone you've got already? And that would be who?

What tells me that Manny just doesn't have the goods is that he knows there's lot of talk about showin' him the door but that doesn't seem to be motivating him to change anything. When he talks it's "those bullpen guys" (and granted they do suck bad) not WE and OUR it's THEM. Gotta have accountability before you can fix the problem. He just sounds like a guy saying what he can to save his job.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 1, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Yeah! I loved that "Plan Z" comment. How rediculous. Manny MIGHT have had plan A but that's all he had.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 1, 2009 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Sounds as if Manny is pulling his hair out.

(cymbal crash)

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | May 1, 2009 1:17 AM | Report abuse

I just don't know what to think anymore.

Every day, I write a story over at Bleacher Report, and every story carries an optimistic perspective.

And I really am optimistic; I look at the roster and I swear I see 75 wins. And yet, every night, when that last out is made, the team has done something else to embarass themselves, and peripherly, us.

Errors. Balks. Wild pitches. Passed balls. Excessive walks. Blown saves. Pickoffs at first base.

Guys, I'm sorry, but each of those lead back to the manager.

Don't think so? Do you think Elijah Dukes would have been picked off twice in three games by a right-hander if Frank Robinson was still around?

I wasn't a big fan of Frank, but my goodness, we wouldn't be having this sloppy play, and that means the team would be winning more games.

Frank won 81 games with a far less talented roster (except for the bullpen).

I don't want Frank back, but maybe it's time to get someone who'll put a little fear into these guys.

Posted by: rushfari | May 1, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

Can someone who's a better official scorer than I am please explain why the box score is showing Kensing with a Blown Save? I'm sitting here in Bratislava, Slovakia, and I can't quite figure that one out. Thx.

Posted by: eddinska1 | May 1, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

I just saw this post over at Ball Park Guy's. It captures everything:

The Nationals are the worst team in baseball. We all know that. Tonight versus the St Louis Cardinals, the Nationals looked like a Greenbelt men's softball team facing the Boston Red Sox.

If I had a paper bag at tonight's game, I wouldn't have cut eye holes in it and put it over my head. I would have used a rubber hose to seal it around my neck so I could suffocate myself. There are only two things I could not bear: the burning of the Constitution, and the disfiguring of the the game of baseball. The Nationals are doing the latter.

The reason I put "serious" in the title of this thread is because of Washington's baseball legacy. It is an unfair fact of life that people worldwide associate baseball with failure in Washington. When I meet a Swede (who's never been to America) in an airport in China to discuss construction projects in Africa, the Swede will say, in broken English, "You're a Nationals fan. No one goes to their games right?"

Most of the citizens of the District did not want baseball to return. They believed, in their fevered, manipulated anger, that the money to build the stadium was stolen from the excellent, accomplished DC schools. They are still angry, and would like baseball to fail.

Here's the disaster we're looking right in the face: the fact that the team is a joke, compounded by the fact that the team has gotten gets worse every year, compounded by our history, creates a "failure chic" that the absolute coolest thing to do in Washington is not be caught dead at a Nationals game.

We carry a burden no baseball carries: our legacy. The Detroit Tigers could lose 162 games in a season in their hollow, broken, de-populated city, and not become a national laughingstock. We have already become a national laughingstock.

We are looking at a rockslide. A self-enforcing, self-fulfilling disaster in the form of a general consensus that returning baseball to Washington was a mistake, and that going to see the Nationals at all is a waste of time and money.

No one goes to see the Harlem Globetrotters 10 or 20 times a year. One game every three or four years is enough, at least for a family with little children. It's a novelty; no one really cares about the team.

I believe if we keep doing what we're doing for one more month, the rockslide will start, and will bury the Nationals and baseball in Washington at the same time.

Posted by: ThinkingOne | May 1, 2009 1:43 AM | Report abuse

jumping jiminy christmas people. it's baseball. get over yourselves. there's no greater meaning, there's no conspiracy. it's a baseball team struggling with their relief pitchers.


Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | May 1, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

If only it were true. Conspiracy is probably not a bad term for what MLB did to this team. And while they haven't owned it for a couple years Jimbo was still around to make sure the bullpen was gutted. And the Dominican "academy" debacle... sure that's a normal scenario for a team (although it did help get rid of dips@#! so it wasn't all bad).

Washington is most definitely a town with very unique dynamics and while I wouldn't turn it into an international conspiracy they are certainly dynamics that have an impact on attendance.

Faced with the dismal reality of the long term harm this is doing to the franchise it seems like almost anyone would be better than Manny. You might not even do any worse giving the janitor a go.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | May 1, 2009 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Three of four from the Cards? Seriously? Yeah, that might help, but was mine the only section outright laughing when hanrahan had third stolen on him, in a four run game in the ninth? LaRusso just kicked dirt in Acta's face, in his own park, and Acta's boys just said 'thank you sir, may I have another?'

Posted by: joshuaostevens | May 1, 2009 4:42 AM | Report abuse

"Can someone who's a better official scorer than I am please explain why the box score is showing Kensing with a Blown Save?"

Because under the save rule, if he had come in when he did and completed the game without allowing the tying or winning run(s) to score, he'd have been credited with a save. He blew that save by allowing the tying run to score. If he had pitched successfully then but been pulled in favor of another reliever before the end of the game, he'd have been credited with a hold and the later reliever would have the save opportunity to either complete or blow.

Rule 10.19 of the Rules of Baseball states "The official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all three of the following conditions:

1. He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team
2. He is not the winning pitcher
3. He satisfies one of the following conditions:
(a)He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning.
(b)He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, at bat or on deck
(c)He pitches for at least three innings

If the pitcher surrenders the lead at any point, he cannot get a save, but he may be credited as the winning pitcher if his team comes back to win. No more than one save may be credited in each game.

If a relief pitcher satisfies all of the criteria for a save, except he does not finish the game, he will often be credited with a hold (not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball)."

Posted by: nunof1 | May 1, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

Chico, Your game story is a crack-up. The baseball last night was horrid, of course, but Nats pitchers throw in the "general direction" of the strike zone, like a "John Stockton bounce pass," "sailed behind Albert Pujols"? You at least made me chuckle this morning.

Posted by: dcbatgirl | May 1, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Lots of abuse in here this morning. I suppose that most are fair weather fans. I'll stick with em thru thick and thin. She aint pretty, but she's mine.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 1, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

"She aint pretty, but she's mine."

Indeed - but let's be honest - she's UGLY.

Posted by: diogenes_quixote | May 1, 2009 8:28 AM | Report abuse

They are ugly but they are OURS. Play hard Nats, hang in there fans, everyone stay strong.

No whining.

Posted by: cabraman | May 1, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

As I say to my (many!) friends who bust my chops about the Nats, someday we will find this all funny.

Today, alas, is not that day.

Posted by: diogenes_quixote | May 1, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

At this point, I just don't know what to think.

I thought this team would score runs even before Dunn was picked up. I thought Milledge could be a leadoff hitter off of his 2d half performance last year. When Guz got hurt, I thought the infield defense would be quite good because Gonzalez was a better fielder.

I thought the rotation was short a veteran starting pitcher, but was pleased they signed Odalis Perez. I was encouraged when it looked like Shawn Hill was throwing with his old motion and not hurting. I wanted to give Z'nn a good run in the minors before a call up.

I thought they could have used 2 relievers, but figured Dennys Reyes (with Beimel as Plan B) and a trade with Oakland involving Nick would be enough. I thought Rivera had been effective most of his career. I thought Hanrahan showed enough that he deserved a good trial (no, not that kind of trial). I thought Hinckley could be an adequate LOOGY.

There were a few things I think I was right about (Kearns bouncing back, Johnson playing well when healthy, FotF ready to break out), and maybe a few more that will turn out right (Dukes being an everyday OF, Lannan regressing but OK), and even a pleasant surprise or two (Guz really looking like a .320 hitter and playing middling defense), but by and large, I feel like a guy who scores less than 25% on a multiple choice test where each question has 4 choices.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 1, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Was at the game. Seventh inning, I remarked to my friends that considering how sloppy they were playing, it was a miracle we were tied. When the Cards got a couple of runners on base in the eighth, I said, "This is where we lose the game." My wife gave me a slapdown when they got out unscathed.

Then the ninth. Light booing when the one run got in, much more when the Cards scored two runs on an infield dribbler. That's when we got up and left, saying, "It's only a game, it's only a game, it's only a game..."

Eleven walks and four hit batters. Letting fifteen guys get on base without taking the bats off their shoulders is a recipe for disaster.

Only good thing we could say: at least our tickets were comps.

Posted by: gilbertbp | May 1, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

As someone who lived through the 1962 Mets -- whose first run scored against them came in on a balk, and who went 40-120 -- I thought I'd seen everything.

But I don't think even the '62 Mets had the succession of 9th inning meltdowns that the Nats have had in April.

While I'm not prepared to get all melodramatic like ThinkingOne and say this portends the end of baseball in Washington, it is adding to the rapidly accumulating negative image this team has developed inside and outside baseball just since 2005, even leaving aside the bad karma of baseball in Washington in the many decades prior.

I continue to believe this is a basically good team with one very big problem. If that weren't the case, they wouldn't so frequently be tied or ahead going into the ninth.

But that one very big problem is killing them, tearing their heart out, and devastating the fan base. Something dramatic has to be done, even if it has only a limited chance of success.

Is it firing Manny? Another bullpen purge? Some other option? I don't know. I don't think any of us knows. Manny is clearly frustrated and out of buttons to push.

Posted by: Meridian1 | May 1, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I think if we had a true closer we'd be at least a .500 team. Hanrahan did fine as a 7th inning guy last year, and Beimel would probably do well as a setup man. We'd probably be better off with someone like the 100 year old Tom Gordon as closer (actually I shouldn't make fun of his age, since he's a few years younger than I am). And letting Shell go is looking more boneheaded every day. This isn't a team that's full of holes, it's a team with one gaping hole.

Posted by: p-man | May 1, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

If the team had stock now would be the time to Buy...

BUY LOW SELL HIGH.... The team can't get much lower than this

Fire Acta at the end of the season, draft Strasburg and another MLB ready guy at #10 this year and sign some more free agents...

I am a bit concerned about our "pipeline" though. We seem to be only focused on the Domincans which have proven to lie (age), cheat (steroids) and essentially steal money. When Cuba and Japan consistently do well in the WBC, why aren't the Nats focusing their attention there?

I'm also starting to sour on some of our drafted prospects, such as Michael Burgess, who simply K's too much and can't hit much over .200

Posted by: PNatsFan | May 1, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The good news is there will be LOTS of great seats available after the All-Star Break. Not like they're not available now, or anything...

Posted by: kingrob76 | May 1, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

when the cards stole third in the ninth, the batter should have gotten one in the ear

Posted by: bford1kb | May 1, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Tell Steven Shell you're sorry--you were wrong and beg him to re-sign.Then recall Jesus Colome and give Gary Glover a shot. At least they can Throw STRIKES! Then ship out Cabrera,Hanrahan and Rivera(I think he's done).

Posted by: ripndot | May 1, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy this is grim. I am hoping Beimel's return will help. Any reason why he wdn't make a good closer? I don't think the bullpen is as bad as they're playing now--I suspect they're all totally freaked out. It doesn't make any sense that Saint wd do a great job for all these years and then suddenly not do a good job. Maybe we need an exorcism. Maybe we shd all give a contribution to the Dream Foundation (good karma, you know). At any rate, thank you to the folks who have been as positive as possible(thank you cokedispatch and cabraman and anyone else I missed)--this is our team and I think support and belief that things can get better are more constructive than negativity.

Posted by: Section109 | May 1, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I think it's funny that I'm seeing the 5 stages of grief with this team on these message boards (

1-Denial: "They can't be as bad as last year" (Mostly pre-season hope)

2- Anger: (I'm not sure I really have to exemplify this, but just for fun) "Trade Millege!"; "Fire Manny!"; "The Lerner's are cheap!"; "Kasten's a moron"

3- Bargaining: "I think if we had a true closer we'd be at least a .500 team."; "I can't believe we're as bad as we look"

4- Depression: "At this point, I just don't know what to think."

5- Acceptance: "jumping jiminy christmas people. it's baseball. get over yourselves. it's a baseball team struggling with their relief pitchers."; "As I say to my (many!) friends who bust my chops about the Nats, someday we will find this all funny."; "They are ugly but they are OURS. Play hard Nats, hang in there fans, everyone stay strong."

I'd say as a fanbase we're moving past stage 2 (anger) and are well into stage 3 (depression). As evidenced above, a few of us are more advanced, with a few even in Stage 5 (acceptance). All this and we're barely out of April!

Posted by: cheeseburger53 | May 1, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Manny "Man Act" Acta is always a great quote..."You shouldn't be afraid... you're pitching for a last-place team in a half-empty stadium. What can be intimidating right now?"

Look on the bright side, y'all...the Nats' offense is not abysmal anymore, now they're just a lackluster version of the Texas Rangers!

The Nats' issues with pitching were inevitable when they decided to cut loose all the old Expos remnants. They had a superb closer in Chad Cordero but random, freak-occurrence injuries derailed his career. Then, they traded Rauch away, probably the team's best reliever--another sign that the Nats are going to tank to build a contender--I call this the 'Tampa Bay Rays model'. Like the Rays, the Nats are starting from scratch so they will continue to be godawful until their pitching develops. As we can see, Zimmermann is the first example of the homegrown talent (hopefully) paying off, and keep an eye on Balester. Just pray the Nats land Strasburg and the offense will soon have a pitching staff to make up for all that wasted run support.

Look at it this way: when your functional 'ace' for all intents and purposes is John Lannan, you are NOT going to sniff .500 ball. When your closer blows three save opportunities in 4 days, you are NOT going to sniff .500 ball. When your bullpen is as horrifyingly bad as the Nats' bullpen, you are NOT going to sniff .500 ball...we'll be lucky if the Nats even have a 4-game winning streak, honestly. Just keep hope that Manny will stay optimistic...and doesn't put a bullet in his head.

Posted by: Crunkenstein | May 1, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

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