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Post-Game Notes

The Nats actually considered canceling this afternoon's game. We learned more details after the 9-8 loss. Here's what happened, in essence: After receiving the news that Harry Kalas had died, Nationals officials approached their Phillies counterparts with a question: What do you want to do? Although it was never explicitly stated, the Nationals were prepared to call off the game -- and send some 40,000 fans home -- if the Phillies felt they could not play.

"We said, 'What do you think is appropriate?'" said Nationals President Stan Kasten. "We never went into, 'What should we do? What shouldn't we do?' There's no manual for what to do in these circumstances, that close to the beginning of the game when 40,000 people are already in their seats.

"Ultimately it was our call but we wanted to know the wishes of the Phillies before we decided, and I'm sure we would have acceded to their wishes if they felt strongly--and especially if the [players] felt strongly."

Phillies President David Montgomery said the team was appreciative of the Nationals' sensitivity.

"But Harry would have wanted us to play," Montgomery said.


*

Cristian Guzman has a left hamstring strain, and will be reevaluated tomorrow. Though Manager Manny Acta called the injury "better than we anticipated," Guzman was unable to guess how much time he might miss. Guzman strained his hamstring during his final at bat; he first felt the tweak while leaving the batter's box, and when he turned the corner at first base, he felt it pop again.

"I try to do good for the team, and then this happens," Guzman said. "I want to be out there every day."

*

Today's attendance: 40,386. A Nationals Park record, and a sellout.

*

I'm writing much more about the lefty-right decision-making in today's seventh inning for my gamer, so expect more to come on this topic. But after today's game, Acta defended his decision to let Saul Rivera pitch against the lefty-heavy middle of the Philadelpia order. "You can't bring a lefty in there just to bring a lefty," Acta said. "Saul, other than probably [Joel] Hanrahan, anybody who has more than one year of service, Saul has better numbers against lefties than any of them. He pitches real good against Victorino. Real good against Utley too. It's just part of the game. He hit both of them."

Lifetime, righties hit .273 against Rivera. Lefties hit just .254 against him. Of course the gap between those numbers isn't anywhere near as big as the gap in R/L stats for Ryan Howard. Especially slugging percentage. Facing righties, Howard is better than Ted Williams. Give him a lefty, and he's more like Garret Anderson.

By Chico Harlan  |  April 13, 2009; 7:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

Ironic on the day that our 2B makes like a hockey goalie in the field, Orlando Hudson, who was out there all winter waiting to sign with somebody, goes 4-5 with a cycle for the Dodgers. Not sure if he would have chosen the Nats over LA, but...

By the way, RIP Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych...

Posted by: baltova1 | April 13, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the question was whether Rivera should've pitched against Victorino or Utley, it's whether he should've pitched against Howard. It's a tie ballgame, you've got two more lefties in your bullpen, and Rivera has just plunked two batters. How do you not bring in a lefty to face Howard? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Posted by: WMPete | April 13, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Manny cost the Nats this game with his robotic, uncreative management of the bullpen.

Chico, I look forward to reading what you have to write about this, because I really think Manny deserves to be criticized heavily. I heard his post-game answers, they were ridiculous. It's like he doesn't want to have to think in the dugout, he just wants to put his decisions on autopilot. To the Nats' detriment, Manny habitually relies on his 7th inning guy/8th inning guy/9th inning guy plan, with little room for adjustment. That leads to situations like today. There was no reason to pull Tavares with 2 out in the 6th. Let him finish that inning. Then put Hinckley (or Beimel) in to pitch the 7th, and maybe even the 8th as well if he has good stuff.

A problem with the way that Manny handles the bullpen is that, even under a best-case scenario, Manny is counting on too many of his relievers to be "on" for each game. Today, if things had gone exactly according to Manny's plan (and assuming the Nats scored to take a lead), he was counting on 5 relievers all having good stuff today: Tavares, Hinckley, Rivera, Beimel, Hanrahan. Not surprisingly, one guy in his rotation today didn't. And what if the Nats don't score and the game goes into extra innings? Then, Manny has burned almost all of his shaky bullpen based on his "rotation." He uses it as a crutch to avoid making actual decisions, and that's just a cop-out. Does Manny have any actual tactical skills? High time for him to show them, or he won't be much longer for DC.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | April 13, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

2nd: Ibanez reaches on Hernandez's error and later scores. Cabrera walks the 7 and 8 hitters to force in a run. Runs given away: Two.

4th: Feliz singles and takes second on Dunn's error. A subsequent grounder to short would have erased Feliz at second. Instead, Feliz jogs home when Rollins doubles. Runs given away: One.

7th: Rivera hits Victorino and Utley with pitches before Howard homers. (Should have hit Howard with another pitch -- it would have been less costly.) Runs given away: Two.

8th: Bruntlett "doubles" when Dunn is slow and clumsy getting the ball back to the infield. On a groundout that should have erased Bruntlett at second (if only the left fielder had held him to a single), he goes to third and then scores on a sac fly. Runs given away: One.

That's six runs given away with poor pitching and sloppy defense. Stan, Rizzo, Manny, are you listening? That sucks.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | April 13, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

I think I've got to agree with CiL on this one - Manny does a good job with the players (the everyday guys & the bench), but has shown questionable skill in reading or handling pitchers.

He seemingly is a slave to pitch counts, and chews up relievers like so many sunflower seeds. Manny has proven to be a fairly decent delegator - why can't he trust Knorr to let a couple of pitchers get up, then tell him if a bullpen pitcher "just doesn't have it" today.

Posted by: BinM | April 13, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

@SilverSpring8:

Dunn is what he is - I think he was rated as -16.8 Runs Allowed/Produced in 2008. Cabrera is not gifted athletically (Can't hit, and doesn't field his position well). Hernandez's game in the field today was an anomaly - He's historically a plus-glove at 2B.

Today was just another example of how the little things turns this team from a winner into a loser. With the right breaks on less than a handful of plays, the Nationals' could be 3-4, rather than 0-7.

Posted by: BinM | April 13, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Manny being Manny, did any of you hear the post game presser? laughable this guy hasn't got a clue and Silver Spring8 you are right on, this team has beaten itself at least twice so far this season if not more Rob Dibble said something in his post game comments and that was certain players are too comfortable not in fear of losing their jobs and that seems to be true ever since Manny took over.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 13, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

now we're taking Rob Dibble's advice on how to run this club? he's been here what, 15 minutes? gimme a break.

Manny Acta didn't kick ground balls today.

Manny Acta didn't boot one in left field either.

Manny Acta didn't walk two runs in.

Manny Acta didn't hit two batters before giving up a home run to the NL's leading home run hitter.

it's all Manny's fault? gimme a break.

Posted by: bottomfeeders10 | April 13, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Tough one today. The offense is much improved but, our defense, pitching, and fundamentals are a disaster right now.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 13, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Losing is contagious. Acta's job IS TO find a way to end this before the season ends up in a shambles.

Even though its early its time to shake things up Manny before 8 becomes 10 becomes 15 losses in a row.

Posted by: periculum | April 13, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm generally an admirer of Manny's approach, but sitting in the upper deck today, my first reaction when he brought in Rivera is what is he thinking? Particularly since the club made a big deal of carrying three lefties because the Nats need to play NY & Phila 18 times each. There were all sorts of better options.
1) Let Tavarez pitch to Rollins & have Hinckley start the 7th
2) Let Hinckley hit & have him pitch the 7th
3) Bring in Beimel to start the 7th
4) Bring in Ledezma to start the 7th
5) Bring in either Ledezma or Beimel to pitch to Howard after the two HBPs
Sure, Rivera is responsible, but Manny didn't put him in the position to be successful, or at least to avoid being unsuccessful. The rest of it is stuff that happens in the run of the game. Hernandez isn't going to mess up 3 plays in a game again & maybe he's affected by not having a 2 game rehab assignment. Dunn is what he is.

Posted by: chiefwj | April 13, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

"Cabrera is not gifted athletically (Can't hit, and doesn't field his position well). "

But at least he can bunt, as he showed today. More than you can say about most Nats pitchers. The former Shawn Hill is about the only other one I can think of who could lay down a sac bunt when needed. Okay, maybe Olsen did yesterday too. But that's about it.

Posted by: nunof1 | April 13, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

"Today's attendance: 40,386. A Nationals Park record, and a sellout."

And from my perspective in the park, not all that many Phillies fans, relatively speaking. Certainly not many loud ones - even at the points in the game when they had every reason to be loud. Certainly nothing like what we saw at the 2007 Eli Saslow Bowl, the penultimate game at RFK. So it looks like all the brouhaha over Kasten's radio comments in Philly was all so much noise, doesn't it?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 13, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Can't agree with CiL that Manny cost the Nats the game. One can definitely question why Saul was still in there, but the game was lost with poor defense and missed opportunities.

Posted by: LetTeddyWin_com | April 13, 2009 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes is a bigtime talent. He's really busting his ass out there too. DO NOT MAKE HIM SIT ON THE BENCH, MANNY!

Posted by: natteringnabob | April 13, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

OK
We're seven games in.
Two general conclusions:
- Manny Acta has more to learn about winning than his young team has to learn about winning.
- Dukes is a Beast!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 13, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

I like Acta as a person - he is charasmatic and by all accounts a warm and good human being. He has very definate and it would seem inflexible philosophies about managing that include being even tempered and respectful and managing by probability. What is unclear to me is how good of a teacher and how much of a leader he is. For all I know he excels at both, but his results over the past two years have been poor. So far this year the overwheling problem has been poor pitching. I'm not sure a manager should be held accountable for giving up 12, 8, 6, 6, 5, 8, and 9 runs. Especially when you look at how quickly the team fell behind in many of those games.

Still, I am not certain how long a team can go 0-for the season before a change is simply unavoidable. Before they are forced to do something with Acta, I hope Rizzo and company figure out that they need to release Ledezma, drop a position player, and bring up Bergmann and Zimmermann. The Hill release looks simply stupid right now. He will be injurred by June 1, but we might have won a game or two by now if we still had him.

Posted by: natbiscuits | April 13, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Manny is one of those slavish followers of "Creeping LaRussaism" when it comes to using his pen. He's more guided by stats and potential matchups than trusting his own instincts. Wonder if he's micromanaging because his option hasn't been picked up?

Posted by: surly_w | April 13, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Disappointed in Dunn. His dinger was pretty impressive, but in the field he probably cost the team at least 2 and maybe 3 runs.
Plus, on that last sac fly, even though there was no chance of getting the runner, he nonchalanted (new vb.?) it back to the infield.
Didn't everybody see that Howard homer coming? Plunk. Plunk. Uh-oh.

Posted by: chime1211 | April 13, 2009 10:48 PM | Report abuse

>A problem with the way that Manny handles the bullpen is that, even under a best-case scenario, Manny is counting on too many of his relievers to be "on" for each game.

Yeah it all comes down to communication, you need to get creative like you said and talk to each guy in the bullpen and try to come up with some kind of schedule that would give other guys an automatic day off. Somebody's going to have to go two innings, but they only do it a couple of times a week as opposed to throwing one every single night like you're saying. Can't expect anything approaching creativity with Acta. He treats them like horses, run them until they need a break, then shuttle them right back in there, on and on until something breaks. How many we got on the DL now? IT'S 7 GAMES IN!!!!!

Posted by: Brue | April 13, 2009 10:52 PM | Report abuse

>Disappointed in Dunn. His dinger was pretty impressive, but in the field he probably cost the team at least 2 and maybe 3 runs.

Yeah I was too. He's got some Man-ny in him for sure. Maybe he's a superstar too. Who knows.

But good god can he hit. He looks primed to raise his average for good. You know .270- .280. You watch, he'll be more aggressive and have a lot more cheap hits off of balls than he did when he was working pitchers over for walks. I believe that's the mission with the Nats approach now. It's like Guzman, his main operative is to swing, and anything he feels like he can get the barrel on is a good pitch.

Posted by: Brue | April 13, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

With regard to Acta and managing relievers, we all applauded his programmatic and discuplined handling of the 2007 bullpen in light of Frank Robby's inexplicable and demanding handling of the 05 and 06 bullpens. However, talent is still the major factor. Bowden was reported as saying that relievers were commodities. So he traded away Majewski, Bray, Stanton, Rauch, Ayala, and others and drove away Cordero under the theory that he could find others like Shell, Hanrahan, etc.... But, the degradation has shown over time. Acta can only call on the pitchers he has on his team. He'd look brilliant if Rivera had come through. He called on him in the 7th. He would have gone to Beimel in the 8th and Hanrahan in the 9th if it had worked. Acording to the script, that would have been establishing a pattern of success. So he went with roles rather than matchups. I think it was a logical attempt. But a starter is going to have to take over sometime soon. Its kind of scarry having to rely on young Martis for the first one.

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

Sellout? Maybe, but there were plenty of no-shows. My section (206) was only about 3/4 full for most of the game.

Also, was the team running fewer Nats Express buses from RFK today, or was that my imagination? One hour (at 1:30) from parking to stadium. The post-game line for buses looked daunting but moved pretty well. At least we didn't get caught in the rain.

Too much negative, now for the positive (though due to bad pitching). How about those nice catches by Milledge and Dukes? I kept thinking that Milledge should just toss the ball to Dukes and let him throw it in.


Posted by: chime1211 | April 13, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

If the Nationals lose out during the rest of this homestand (and I'd say there's a 50/50 chance), then a managerial change has to be made. I like Manny Acta and think he would do a fine job with a club of self-motivated veterans.

Hopefully things turn around. If not, this team at this time needs somebody with a little more of a fiery edge to him. That man is already in town. He knows the personnel. He's played and managed in the big leagues. He knows what it takes to earn that World Series ring he wears. And he most definitely would not tolerate some of the things that have happened on and off the field over the past week. Ray Knight would be a very logical choice to step in and change the atmosphere. Could Ray be working for MASN with just that idea looming in the back of his mind?

Posted by: DoctorJoe | April 13, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

<Ray Knight would be a very logical choice to step in and change the atmosphere.

You're kidding, right?

Posted by: chime1211 | April 13, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Chico. I was at the opener last year, when Zimmerman won it with a walk-off homer. I was there today, and should have witnessed a walkoff or game game-tying homer from Zimmerman, again.

Sure, Rivera cost us the game with his pitching, and the clumsiness from Dunn in left field did not help, either. But, Acta has to take his share of the blame.

That was a truly crappy job of game management. If Acta cannot even do that right -- if he cannot put his team in the best possible position to win the game, then he needs to go. I have been a huge fan of Acta until now. The Nats are not a good team. No manager could make a winner out of this sorry collection of misfits. But, they need a manager who knows the game.

Posted by: fischy | April 13, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

On a more serious note, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych is reported dead at 54, in a farm accident.
http://tinyurl.com/caqwxl

Posted by: CEvansJr | April 13, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Watching the replay, Dibble says that Dukes should be in the lineup - doesn't matter whether it's RF, CF, 1B or catcher.

Dukes at 1B. It's too bad his arm is way too valuable in the outfield. But backup 1B - the perfect reason to get him in the lineup imo

Posted by: Brue | April 14, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Dukes is the most talented player the Nationals have, a legitimate five-tool guy, albeit raw. He has got to play every day just to see how good he might be. Only somebody as blind and as brain-dead as Manny Acta could look at Dukes and Austin ".217" Kearns, and decide to start Kearns. Read Boz today: he sez they should send down Thrilledge. I say fire Manny, and the Thrilledge problem goes away because the new guy (Foli, Riggleman, Knight, whoever) will never play Octo Cinco on any regular basis. A 4th or 5th outfielder, at best.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 14, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

I have no comment about the game itself, but that was a classy action by Stan and the Lerners to talk to the Phillies. Props where props is due.

Posted by: swang30 | April 14, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Wow, this is something:

"The Nats' front office still refers to the zig-zag routes he runs to fly balls, like two more adventures yesterday, as "pass patterns" because he breaks in so many different directions."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/13/AR2009041303124.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns
-----------------------------------------

Read Boz today: he sez they should send down Thrilledge.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | April 14, 2009 12:44 AM

Posted by: AlexL925 | April 14, 2009 5:03 AM | Report abuse

Boz also said Joe Gibbs was going to re-up as Redskins coach -- on the very day that Gibbs re-retired.

Last week, Wilbon said Michigan State would give North Carolina all they could handle in the men's basketball championship game -- and Carolina was up 20 points in the first half.

Prediction, schmediction. I'm just sayin'.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | April 14, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

In the middle of the "rally" yesterday, right after Zimmy's dinger cuts it to one, a large portion of the stadium rose to its feet. There was genuine excitement, and real atmosphere.

Yet the guy behind me kept repeatedly poking me in the back and asking me to sit down, so he could see without having to stand up.

The pitching and defense certainly stink. But for many of the "fans" who only turn up on Opening Day, and can't be bothered to even stand up and cheer during a 9th inning rally- well, this team is exactly what they deserve.

Posted by: bryc3 | April 14, 2009 7:24 AM | Report abuse

ok, the bottom line is that manny probably isn't the nats legacy manager and that the team grossly overrated its bullpen. those guys are going to be fried by mother's day at the rate manny is using them.

Posted by: surly_w | April 14, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

oh yeah, the front office shouldn't be so willing to take on "project players" as it did under the jimbo reaign of error. this team is in danger of losing a significant portion of its fan base rather than spend money to fill out the squad with major league talent.

Posted by: surly_w | April 14, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Just finished reading both Sheinin and Granpa Boz' columns and agree with both. The Nats have to show the (dwindling) Constuency that they are serious about fielding a major-league caliber team where jobs are earned, not given. Milledge seems to think that because he came up with the Mets, he is owed a spot on this team when a (long) refresher course at SYR is probably best both for the player and the team. And Dave is right when he talks about the breach of faith between the team and its fans. There are enough baseball-astute fans in this area who aren't going to shell out their hard-earned bucks to support a team that shows no signs of tangible on-field progress. I think the Lerners were bamboozled by the former general manager who might have told them that they didn't have to spend a lot of money to field a team, just like he did it in Cincinnati. The difference is that Cincinnati has a rock-solid, continuous history and baseball was returning to the immediate national capital area for the first time since 1971 and didn't have those deep-seated roots of fan loyalty in place. Couple the bad product on the field with a more atrocious radio signal that can't be heard throughout the region for all games, and pretty soon there's the recipe for estrangement between fan and team. The Nats have to realize that they blew the initial momentum of merely having a team in Washington and the Lerners seem to wield a shotgun where they should be doing everything possible to court their team's dwindling fan base. Statues are nice. Amenities are nice. But what will ultimately decide how many people come to Nats Park on a daily basis is the product on the field. Stan the Plan Man knows that fams vote with their wallets and without much progress shown in upgrading the on-field product those wallets will just stay home.

Posted by: leetee1955 | April 14, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

And yet he already has 11 walks this year, tied for tops in the bigs (Manny also has 11, but it's taken him eight games to get there).

-----

You watch, he'll be more aggressive and have a lot more cheap hits off of balls than he did when he was working pitchers over for walks.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 14, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I know that Milledge is a lightning rod for many who comment regularly here, but I got to the park early yesterday and noticed that Milledge spent a great deal of time working in center with Marquis Grissom on going back on balls hit over his head. As we all saw, he ended up having a pretty good game with the glove. I don't want to give up on the guy this early. On another topic, it would be great if someone in the rotation will be able to pitch into the seventh or eighth inning at some point in the homestand. Our guys in the pen are used way too much, and we'll burn them out before Memorial Day at this pace.

Posted by: VaNat | April 14, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm having a Nats comments sabbatical this morning, but I also saw the news about Fidrych last night. I thought this SI piece was good:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/joe_posnanski/04/14/fidrych.obit/index.html?eref=si_topstories

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 14, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

ESPN reported this morning that Toolsey Tool Lastings Mendoza called Manny into HIS office for a talk regarding the managing of the parent club and his Mendoza's) possible demotion to AAA Syracuse. Lastings suggested that a change of leadership at the major league level would be his preference: "I ain't ridin' no buses. My bus-ridin' days are over, man."

"Nothing surprises me by what he does," Acta said.

Lastings Menoza, still a legend in his own mind.

"Where some people have difficulty is when they're failing and the fans are all over them. I know how to get myself back into gear. No matter how many people in the world tell me I'm not good, I have confidence in myself. I know how good I am." http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/web/COM1037421/2/index.htm

ESPN further reports that in Lastings' right rear view mirror, objects are actually farther away than they appear.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 14, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The Elias Sports Bureau reports this morning that Lastings Mendoza once hit a home run on his back swing.

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 14, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Sorry to spoil the party, but it was clearly not a sellout.

The sections immediately behind the plate were 2/3 empty and the majority of people in those seats had been comped. In addition, there are a number of suites that remain unsold and are being used as comps as well.

IF you exclude the suites and the "Presidents" sections, I am prepared to accept the rest of the seats were sold (though a fair number under the scoreboard remained empty). But a sellout? No.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 14, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Lastings Mendoza has started 15 games since lame duck manager Manny Acta handed him the leadoff spot. He was hitting .282 at the time. Lastings Mendoza ignites the Nats’ offense in 2009! 8 for 62, 2 BB, 20K, 3R, .129, since the announcement. He earned it! Sorry Willingham ya bum ya! Dukes, you dead dawg!

Posted by: nova_g_man | April 14, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

As a STH and one who is feed up with Mr.Carnival Act and Mr. Passive Presence, I can never forgive Carni for making my afternoon in section 104 about as miserable a time that I have had to endure since 2005. Simply put the Filthy fans who made it to DC in time for the latest debacle are a vulger and abusive bunch. As far as Mr. Passive Presence, your SaberMetrics style of managing is costing you this team, its not funny anymore!

Manny Acta does not have this team prepared to win on a day in and day out basis, are you listening Mr. Rizzo?

Posted by: TippyCanoe | April 14, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Manny Acta is not reponsible for his players' performance. But he is responsible for choosing the pick of the litter. With a team in deep spiral of consecutive losses right out the gate its time to make some changes to shake things up. That is where the dividing line is between true major league managers and minor league managers who get promoted.

Posted by: periculum | April 14, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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