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A Long Homer, Another Loss


The above picture gives you the vantage point from Section 304 at Citizens Bank Park, where tonight Ryan Howard deposited a third-inning grand slam. Some twenty-something guy in a white jersey, seated in the first row of the third deck, caught the ball, and within seconds of pulling this miracle orb from the atmosphere, he was already on his cell phone, presumably buzzing with a good-luck high. I'd imagine there can't be 500 seats at CBP where the odds of grabbing a ball are less; after all, the Howard home run needed a 475-foot journey to get there. Surely, if our friend in Section 304 can go home with a baseball, perhaps the Nationals can cash in on their own infinitesimal odds and go home one of these days with a victory.

Well, not today.

The Nats lost 9-6. Yes, the usual. Adam Dunn committed two errors in right field. Anderson Hernandez botched an easy two-out grounder in the sixth that led directly to two runs and helped the Phillies pad their lead. The Nats scored six against ace Cole Hamels, and still Howard's two homers against Shairon Martis offset the effort.

So, let's perform the daily math ritual. The Nats have now lost five in a row, 14 of 16, 35 of 48 and... well, that's the whole season. Forty-eight games.

A few postmortem notes.

* In the annals of pitcher-batter match-ups, I'll always have a special love for Odalis Perez v. Albert Pujols. (Pujols is 14-for-23 with five homers, 15 RBI and nine walks against Perez.) That said, so long as Perez stays home in the Dominican, taking the tough love of the open market, Ryan Howard v. Shairon Martis is a fair replacement.

In 7 ABs against Martis, here are Howard's numbers:

3 H, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 Grand Slams

More notable, let's take a look at the three latest at bats:

April 27, fifth inning -- grand slam
May 30, second inning -- solo homer
May 30, third inning -- grand slam

* A little excerpt from the Manny Acta post-game Q&A...

Q: As the losses pile up, does it become harder to convince yourself that things can improve or will?

Well, we work hard to improve things. Yeah, we know we're losing a lot. It's tough, it's not easy on any of us. But what are we gonna do? There is no option. We're not going to quit.

Q: Again the defense was a problem for you guys. Why do you think that's been maybe the toughest thing for this team to overcome?

I can't pinpoint it. But in the case of Adam, I think everybody knew that if you want to put up with the 40 homers and 100-something RBIs, you know the defensive side of it. He tries hard. He plays wherever we ask him to play. But I don't think anybody didn't know that he's a power threat, an offensive player.

Q: The Hernandez error, was that just a lack of focus there?

Nothing lack of focus. The grass, the ball kind of snaked a little bit because of the way the grass is cut. It's a weird play when you're playing in the grass with Howard [because of the infield shift] and he just booted the ball.

* Ten of the Nats' last 11 games have been decided by three runs or fewer. I'm not quite sure what this means, other than the fact that some decent fielding would probably come in handy.

By Chico Harlan  |  May 30, 2009; 11:24 PM ET
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Next: Today's Lineups


Who here thinks Manny makes it past Monday, given the recent 2-9 homestand followed by (admit it now) an 0-6 road trip? With the Rockies canning Hurdle, that increases the pressure on our ownership to follow suit.

Posted by: BGinVA | May 30, 2009 11:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm really getting tired of his post game nonsense. I've been to postgame press conferences and can tell when the coach is good and when the coach has lost his touch. Bruce Boudreau (Caps for those less hockey inclined) has something we like to call accountability. Manny Acta has none. That's the difference between a good leader and a poor leader. Acta has to go.

Posted by: tengoalyrunr30 | May 30, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

We're getting close to the 1/3 mark. Which means, at this rate:

Adam Dunn will commit 18 errors, which is a lot for a guy who plays almost every game in the outfield. He would also have about 50 homers, 120 walks, and 130 RBI's.

Ryan Zimmerman will have about 200 hits.

One starter, Shairon Martics, will have more than 6 wins.

Their closer will have only 15 saves, although Ron Villone will pitch a total of 39 innings, all perfect.

They will not take infield practice well over 100 times (unless they change managers).

Posted by: paulkp | May 30, 2009 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Acta: "Well, we work hard to improve things. Yeah, we know we're losing a lot. It's tough, it's not easy on any of us. But what are we gonna do? There is no option. We're not going to quit."

No, you don't work hard to improve things. You don't believe in infield practice during the season. You sit back and hope against hope that something better is going to happen. You stare dumbly at the field as if the lukewarm non-laser-beam of your gaze will somehow change something.

Not going to quit? You quit weeks ago. Please don't insult our intelligence.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | May 30, 2009 11:46 PM | Report abuse

My lord, is Acta for real? His spin is a joke or maybe the jokes on him.

Here's the truth, the organization is dysfuctional. What does that mean? It means that from top to bottom no one takes responsibility for anything. The Lerners take your money and then spoon out the pablem for StanK to sell. Rizzo plays it straight, "hey I'm only the interim GM" and Acta has no job beyond 5 Oct so essentially he is "deadman walking". The players do the best they can but have zero leadership when it comes to making adjustments and planning an attack. Dibble and Knight have said this repeatedly now for the past month.

Here's your challenge WAPO, go after the Lerners and go after them hard. Stop all of the Bozwell flip-flop stuff and do an indepth report to find out exactly why this has happened, and splash it on the front page, above the fold. PLEASE GET THE PUBLIC MAD, MAKE THE LERNERS SQUIRM FOR A WHILE, LET THEM KNOW THAT THEIR GONNA PAY DEARLY FOR THEIR ARROGANCE. Sorry for shouting but I'm looking at a stack of tickets that I can't even give away for free.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 30, 2009 11:48 PM | Report abuse


Mmm, I'm going to guess that that's against the WaPo's editorial policies, Tippy.

Posted by: Section506 | May 30, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

WaPo take the risk of alienating a major advertiser. The Nationals still splash those red ads all over the incredibly shrinking Post every week or so. You expect the Post to turn off that cash spigot? Surely you jest. We'll continue to get fed pablum. The only one on their staff who goes after people is Sally Jenkins, and she clearly doesn't give a whit.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | May 31, 2009 12:12 AM | Report abuse

The most perplexing thing about the Nats is the spastic display put on this season by Hernandez. Allegedly, he is a good defensive player -- a solid shortstop slumming at second base. He has not played well, making a lot of dumb plays that suggest a lack of focus.

Posted by: fischy | May 31, 2009 12:41 AM | Report abuse

The culture of this franchise must be changed ASAP -- Washington fans aren't going to put up with this ineptitude anymore. Ditch Acta, let Riggleman manage the team the rest of the year, then dismiss Rizzo, find a GM with real experience and let him select the manager for 2010. This dysfunctional organization needs a completely new direction, and yes, it's going to require a total housecleaning.

And while we're at it, tell Stan Kasten his services are no longer required; you don't treat this market like a northern Atlanta. Keep the presidents if you must, but end the stupid race -- that shtick has worn out its welcome. Quit the sideshow and give Washington something it hasn't seen senior citizens were in the knothole gang at Griffith Stadium -- a legit contender.

Frankly, I've had enough.

Posted by: VPaterno | May 31, 2009 1:40 AM | Report abuse

This is so just like when Glen Hanlon was coaching the Caps and in his post gamers he would drone on and on about “we’re just not good enough”, “what are you going to do, we’ll keep on trying”, “their players are better than our players”, etc. I think after a while the players start to believe it, or at least they believe that they don’t have to be good because the coach in on TV telling everyone they’re not good. And, then they got a coach that said “you know what, we have good players and I expect them to play like it and win.”

The Nats need the same thing to happen. They’re not great, but they should not this bad. They actually score plenty of runs to win games, but they need someone to hold them accountable and make them understand that all the mistakes and stupid stuff is unacceptable. I don’t know if the Nats could get a manager like that; not a jerk, just someone who makes it clear that this level of performance isn’t good enough.

They should not be this pathetic

Posted by: rgibson25 | May 31, 2009 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Hate to say it, but it's getting to the point when an opposing batter hits a ground ball straight at an infielder-not-named-Zimmerman, my sphincter constricts and I mutter, "Just field it right, just field it right" until the ball is safely in the hands of the put-out baseman.

Posted by: Juan-John | May 31, 2009 3:07 AM | Report abuse

I followed the Expos from the late '70s on. From the highs of being in the best team in '94 to the lows of being gutted before they were sold.

Not once did I ever think of changing my loyalties and switch to another team. I agree with rgibson, they should not be this bad but no one really seems to be doing anything about this other than shuffling some bullpen guys from AAA to the majors and back.

It almost seems like the FO has quit on the team in many ways so I'm about to quit on this team too, something I thought I would never, ever say.

Posted by: derwink | May 31, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Hernandez error: that's a bullstuff excuse!! He was on his heels waiting for the ball, and when you do that AND NOT CHARGING THE BALL TO CREATE A GOOD HOP FOR YOURSELF, you run the damn risk of a bad hop!!! THAT'S A BASIC!!!!! Jeez: that's high school stuff!!!

What nonsense, and insulting that this "explanation" was given to the press corp and to us.

Posted by: joemktg2 | May 31, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Should Ryan Howard agree to compete at the All Star game in the home run derby, I'm wondering whether he might request Martis as his personal pitcher?

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 31, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

>Hernandez error: that's a bullstuff excuse!! He was on his heels waiting for the ball, and when you do that AND NOT CHARGING THE BALL TO CREATE A GOOD HOP FOR YOURSELF, you run the damn risk of a bad hop!!! THAT'S A BASIC!!!!! Jeez: that's high school stuff!!!

What nonsense, and insulting that this "explanation" was given to the press corp and to us.

You nailed it. That, and keeping your glove in contact with the ground and coming UP on the grounders like Zimm does. Even if your glove stays on the ground and the ball hops up, it'll hit the heel of the glove or your arm and you can keep it in front of you.
Simply amazing that nobody in the media can press any of Manny's buttons. How much ammo do you need? I would have wiped the floor with him by now. At least Dibble's going for it. He's 'insulted' by the team's approach to opposing hitters. So am I. Yeah let's keep trying to get the cleanup hitter out with stuff out over the plate. Manny excused that approach when Dibble asked him why during the game that they chose to pitch to Sheffield with a base open - Manny says that Castillo is a good hitter too. Castillo couldn't hit the ball out of the park if it was set on a tee, that's the difference. Yet they all look the same to Acta. How dumb can you get? I'm not even talking baseball intellect, just fee-simple common sense.
13-35. That's just not right. That's so far beyond the pale it's got its own category. Suck on it and like it and oh yeah StanK says they take American Express.

Posted by: Brue | May 31, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

The Nats are so embarrasing. The errors are happening every single night. You never see a team commit so many errors or look as pathetic as they do. What is it? I know Dunn is really limited in right field, though. Are they just not focusing? Not paying attention? What is the cause of all the errors? Or are they just really bad?

Posted by: rachel216 | May 31, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all the posters on here. This team has quit. Acta is feeding us BS with his excuses (the grass is cut funny). The press should call him on it. This team is not as bad as its record. The team is not playing. There is no leadership. etc. etc.

Who and where are all the minority owners? Lets get them involved in this mess. Someone needs to force a complete house cleaning. They need top notch baseball people from president on down. Gives these guys some equity and tell them to fix it.

This whole operation is bordering on the absurd. I have not seen a team this inept in any sport, ever.

I expect we will see major problems with our upcoming draft. Our drafting will not be the norm. We will draft for sign-ability, under the guise of the best player available on the our draft board. Our draft board will be different from all the other draft boards.

Posted by: mjames0 | May 31, 2009 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Nats fans should demand this team make changes - yeah that'll do it. This team is simply not any good. You can't coach defense, you can't do anything about pitchers who have been rushed to the big leagues (or don't belong there at all), you can't do anything about a farm system that is still years away from producing MLB ready talent, you can't do anything about years of WTF decisions made by the GM.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 31, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I agree mjames...the grass was cut funny? He's just giving his players an excuse.

What does he say to them as they come off the field after a play like that? "Don't worry about it, we all know the grass was cut funny. It's not your fault."

"It's OK if you make two errors, because we know you're going to hit 40 HRs for us."

Posted by: derwink | May 31, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I agree about Hernandez. My son played 10u travel ball and was yanked from the game for an identical play. I yelled at the tv that they should do the same last night. At least Willie puts out when he's in the game. Hernandez is starting to remind me of Felipe. The players need to be held accountable, either from their teamates or the coaching staff.

Posted by: ccochran1 | May 31, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Wow, this team now has a legitimate shot of breaking the season loss record. You can't blame the bullpen over the last two weeks though.

Posted by: edr04 | May 31, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Manny really did say that? I'm losing respect for him as the days go by. No other manager in the league would EVER say that. The right response would be "That shouldn't happen, that was on him." Instead he says "the grass was cut funny." Are you kidding me?

The errors are inexcusable, other teams don't make errors like that. This team needs a major change. They are just going through the motions, they've given up and Manny doesn't seem to give a crap about it either. He just stands there with the same expression all game long. I honestly don't know how he does it. I can't even watch an entire inning without switching the channel cause every inning there's an error or something stupid happens. 13-35? That alone whould have Manny fired.

Posted by: rachel216 | May 31, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Have the players had a player's only team meeting?

Is there a leader on the team who will step up and say that their play is garbage?

Is someone going to take accountability?

Chico, who is the leader in the clubhouse? Is there one?

Posted by: derwink | May 31, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The more I'm thinking about the Funny Cut Grass excuse, the more po'd I'm getting. There is absolutely, positively no excuse plausible: ZERO!

What's next? The sun was in his eyes?

Completely unacceptable. Imagine if a manager gave this excuse in NYC: he'd be lit up.


Posted by: joemktg2 | May 31, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Gee, I sure hope the Nats win today so they can have a nice train ride home! That nice train ride to New York after a 2-9 homestand really did wonders for them, huh? Maybe if they can actually win one whole game today against the World Champs (and what an amazing, stupendous feat that would be!) that will give them some "momentum" for the upcoming homestand.

Giants have Lincecum, Johnson and Cain lined up to start against us next week. Then the Mets roll into town for the weekend. Though it is hard to imagine, this could get even uglier than it is now.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 31, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

My son and I have attended several Gnats games each season. We stopped going last year. I couldn't justify the expense considering the quality of play.

I tried to sell him on going to see the blOriOles, but he'd have none of it.

Yesterday my son came to me and said: Dad, can we go see an Orioles game?

You mean Gnats game?

No, dad. Orioles.

Posted by: MartinZook | May 31, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Why are any of you suprised at Manny's explanation's he's in over his head and it's the fault of the Lerner's and Stan Kasten(i'll leave Rizzo out of this for now)i said it a year ago he should have been gone at the end of last season along with Bowden and trust me Kasten ain't much better but he's got a piece of the action, and this goes back to MLB choosing the Lerners over the competeing group, the Lerners are ill equipped to run this franchise obviously not from a financial perspective but from a baseball perspective.The Nationals are fundamentally the worst team in MLB some of the error's we as fan's have seen are lauhgable and then to hear Acta's excuse's about the team and its lack of baseball fundamentals is pathetic. Say what you want about F.Robby(grumpy,old school,poor in game strategy,too tough on young pitchers)but this team would not be twenty plus games under.500 remember he took a less talented 05 squad kicking and screaming into first place by the all star break and if the team had a real GM and an owner who know's what would have happened. Right now the fans of this team are getting a minor league product at major league prices who will continue to come and support this team if the losing continues? I've been a fan of MLB for over forty years and i've seen some bad teams 62 63 Senators,62 Mets,100 loss Tigers of a few years back,but this team may break a record for losses if the Lerners don't wake up,you can see it on the field and in the dugout this team is on the verge of throwing in the towel if they haven't already.

Posted by: dargregmag | May 31, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

am i the only one who's still not totally negative on this team?

we've got bats. we've got acceptable, if not improving starting pitching (think ahead to july). if we can make some changes in the bullpen, or if someone can step up, and if defense can improve (even slightly), this is a team with a shot at going on some runs in the second half. we could play spoiler to the mets, or even better, the phillies.

personally, i'm not ready to pull the plug on acta. i'd like to see if he can make up some ground after the all-star break.

or, maybe i'm just irrationally optimistic.

Posted by: Waffle1 | May 31, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse


The bullpen has not been the problem lately.

Posted by: edr04 | May 31, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"personally, i'm not ready to pull the plug on acta. i'd like to see if he can make up some ground after the all-star break."

Are you predicting that he continues to lose ground (and games) until the All Star break? Why not start making up ground NOW?

Posted by: nunof1 | May 31, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

OK here I go again....Where are the Lerners? I mean, publicly? As I've said before, I think we all WANT to like 'em. Heck, bad as this team is, we still love THEM and that is truly an act of God. So please....step up, acknowledge our pain, give us a pep talk, reassure us that SOMEONE-other than the fans-really does give a hoot about where this franchise is and is heading....please! And waffle, I betcha each and every one of us, somewhere buried perhaps, is optimistic about our Nats. Or else why would we care enough to be as passionately upset? Someday....."Go Nats" won't be a forlorn prayer or a sarcastic comment. I say we win today! Yea....Go Nats!

Posted by: zendo | May 31, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse


you don't think the bullpen's a weak spot for this team?

Posted by: Waffle1 | May 31, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The cut grass excuse for Hernandez made me mad the minute I heard it. THAT was the misplay of the game -- and when Acta was originally asked about defense he went into spin about Dunn. Players are making plays like Hernandez did last night because they are not held accountable for making those kind of mistakes.

Really, I cannot imagine why Acta is still managing this club. Even if you are the biggest Acta apologist in the world, at this point, how is there even a reasonable argument for keeping him here? What's going to happen if there is a managerial change -- we're going to be 1-18 instead of 2-17??!?! It can't get worse.

The Hanlon analogy is a good one. The Caps were a team with a bunch of good players playing like they were expecting to lose. Boudreau came in and the entire culture changed, and the franchise is successful. But they made the coaching change before the season was entirely lost.

Posted by: raymitten | May 31, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Well that explains it. It's something our eyes couldn't catch, of course not, we're not trained to spot such things as funny cut grass. I submit that Acta should examine that grass before todays game and if any cute cut shennanigans are involved, to play the game under protest and demand a complete investigation of the Phillie groundcrew for conduct unbecoming of a major league mower. To think that citizens of the city of brotherly love would shrink to such doings and cutting the grass in such a way that it would only effect the visiting team is shocking to say the least. I'm calling for this investigation to begin right now!!

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 31, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Zendo, Boswell stated in his chat this past week that he has asked for an interview with Ted and/or Mark Lerner, and he has not yet gotten a response.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | May 31, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Every day, I go to sleep saying 'I just don't give a damn any more'. And every day I wake up saying 'you if they could only string a few wins together and trade (insert name)...'

Posted by: soundbloke | May 31, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Funny, now I yearn for a few games where the concept of defense is not a stranger to my team. I have given in to the inevitability that we will not win a series, but I can lower the bar to the standard of just a few well-played losses--the kind where I get to see major leaguers catch fly balls, field grounders, and field bunts without looking completely like little leaguers. I guess I am getting tired of the Adam Dunn show in right field, the Josh Willingham carnival in left field and the infield blooper movie that gets stuck on rewind. This team is the example of what happens when you pull free agents and trades out of hat--without any plan of actually building a team in mind. And the concept of managing this mess is beyond the talents of our current leadership.

Posted by: driley | May 31, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

It's never as bad as it looks....nor as good as it seems. The Gnatsxpos ARE on the road playing the world champs and just finished with a talented NY Mets team. Of course, with a lonnngggg list of problems like bad defense, spotty pitching, no clutch hitting, horrible coaching, and absolutely atrocious management, 130 losses is definitely within the realm of possibility. So after today, the homestand has 6 of their next 9 winnable, with SF and Cinti only so-so on the road. Lose ugly and the rest of the immediate schedule has the Mets again plus the AL East clubbers- Yanks, Bosox, Jays, and Rays before some relief with the Woerioles again. 16-46 at 62 game mark should be enough to send Manny packing....but who in their right mind wants to come in?

Posted by: JCinDC | May 31, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

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