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A Quick Return To The Norm

Washington's dalliance with winning baseball lasted a mere day. They lost this afternoon to the Mets, 7-0, snapping a one-game, um, winning streak. The Nats are now 15-40, good for a .273 winning percentage and a 118-loss pace. But hey, if you're looking for the bright side, at least the team that beat them today featured a lineup composed one-third of ex-Nats -- Livan Hernandez, Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

(Side note: Using the ex-player degrees-of-connectivity clause, this broken-hearted Pittsburgher still claims a share of the 2001 World Series trophy. That year, ex-Buccos Jay Bell, Midre Cummings and Tony Womack all figured into Arizona's two-run bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. It's not like people were dancing on Carson Street, but hey, a lot of losing sends you to desperate places. Pittsburgh won't get any closer to a championship any time soon.)

OK, so today's game.

* This one was largely decided in the first inning, where Craig Stammen issued five runs, threw two wild pitches and walked two. The wildness was particularly troubling, because it comes in a week where new pitching coach Steve McCatty has talked about aggressiveness -- and a willingness to throw strikes, no matter the result -- as the highest measurement of pitching worth.

Well, Stammen gets credit for at least this much:

He was a different pitcher after the first. And he almost made up for the horrid start.

Compare for yourself.

First inning: 1 IP, 5 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 K, 32 pitches, 15 strikes.
Next four innings: 4 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 55 pitches, 34 strikes.

* Austin Kearns might have good intangibles, but right now, he's having trouble with his tangibles. A typical snapshot: With two on and one out in the bottom of the sixth, the Nats still down "only" 5-0, Kearns came up against Hernandez. He bounced into an easy 6-4-3 double play. It bears mentioning that Kearns has now gone an entire month -- since May 7 -- without an RBI. Today, he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.

* No matter Livan Hernandez's pedigree -- the guy does have 152 career wins -- he's little more than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter now. Somehow, he's an ace only against his former team.

Less than two weeks ago, on May 26, Hernandez had the best start of his season against the Nats at Citi Field, throwing a one-run complete game.

Today, he had to settle for his second-best start of the season. His final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K.

"He was on today again against us," Manny Acta said. "We have a lot of young hitters, and when he's on, he can just prey on those young guys, just tease them with those pitches just barely off the strike zone... and the guys just keep going after it."

Wait, did Acta say his lineup had a bunch of young guys? Who, exactly? Cristian Guzman debuted in the big leagues in 1999. Nick Johnson, in 2001. Ryan Zimmerman, in 2005. Adam Dunn, in 2001. Austin Kearns, in 2002. Josh Bard, in 2002. The only players you could reasonably pass off as inexperienced are Elijah Dukes and Anderson Hernandez. And Dukes was an everyday player last year.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 7, 2009; 5:56 PM ET
 
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Comments

Well, we categorized the first inning as horrible, and the rest of the game as just lackadaisical - Stammem overall did look good from the second inning on, and we are really getting to like Anderson Hernandez, both fielding and hitting. He's getting like Christian Guzman - won't ever be a power hitter, but pretty good at getting a hit to keep things moving.

Posted by: Traveler8 | June 7, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

>"He was on today again against us," Manny Acta said. "We have a lot of young hitters, and when he's on, he can just prey on those young guys, just tease them with those pitches just barely off the strike zone... and the guys just keep going after it."

Wait, did Acta say his lineup had a bunch of young guys? Who, exactly?

He's out of his mind. Probably the most nominal human being in a power position I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: Brue | June 7, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU CHICO,

It is way past time the fans and media to call Acta on this BS he feeds us night after night. He is sleep walking through the job. Just saying whatever he thinks sound good. Not even watching the game or thinking about why he is the worst manager in baseball.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 7, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

>Not even watching the game or thinking about why he is the worst manager in baseball.

He's got a shot at worst of all time. A real good one % wise. 15 and FORTY I don't think anyone's ever sucked on that before. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Posted by: Brue | June 7, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Wait, did Acta say his lineup had a bunch of young guys? Who, exactly? Cristian Guzman debuted in the big leagues in 1999. Nick Johnson, in 2001. Ryan Zimmerman, in 2005. Adam Dunn, in 2001. Austin Kearns, in 2002. Josh Bard, in 2002. The only players you could reasonably pass off as inexperienced are Elijah Dukes and Anderson Hernandez. And Dukes was an everyday player last year.

By Chico Harlan

Yes, that's absolutely why this idiot manager is such a fraud. He's trying to pass off this lineup of his as a bunch of rookies and young kids. No, Manny, that's your pitching staff. Your day-to-day lineup is actually littered with somewhat aging vets. Nice try. But we can read a roster and find the column where the players' ages are list. Can you?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 7, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Chico,

If you are man or reporter enough how about following up with Acta on this completely stupid excuses....Ask him directly the age and experience (ABs in MLB) of the lineup today and why he said what he did.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 7, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

BTW, Bill Ladson (Idiot) was ripping Acta and Kearns plenty on the post-game call-in show on WTOP. Basically says Acta is done, just a matter of time, and bye-bye Kearns, who could be Pattersoned any day now. As for Acta, what are we exactly waiting for? 15-and-50?

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 7, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

You guys are ruthless tonight. Correct, but ruthless. I guess Zim counts as a kid? After all this is only his 5th season.

Livan Hernandez seems to have our number. How come he was not this effective when he played for us? Maybe because he wasn't playing against us. Last I checked (this morning) the next worse team in MLB right now has 23 wins. We have what - 14! This is sad and frustrating.

Posted by: bigmook | June 7, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Sorry we have 15 wins.

Posted by: bigmook | June 7, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Great commentary about Acta's rationalization as to why his team was once again owned by Livan. Manny cannot even think of valid excuses anymore.

Posted by: skippy1999 | June 7, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

So does Manny get the axe before the All-Star break?

Posted by: bigmook | June 7, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Went to all three this weekend; Friday night was just a blur because as a STH who just about had enough, the Red Loft was filled with solitude and plenty of cold beer. Saturday night I'm downing cokes and dreaming of what can be. Sunday afternoon I'm surrounded by Mets Fans whooping it up and I'm tempted to return the loft and start all over again. Figured I have to go to work at 6AM so I just passed up the opportunity to wallow in my 7-0 despair.

Heard the post-gamer on the radio , glad people are really laying the wood on Acta. Enough of this crazy comment stuff. I'm sure Manny must hate the weekends because it looks like a ton more media loves to stick it to him. I hope Ladsen it right, imagine the joy in Nats Town when Kearns gets DFA'd and Manny is told to take a hike.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 7, 2009 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Traveler8. Thank you for trying to say something positive. We really need that. But when did Anderson Hernandez get hits to keep things moving? He was 0 for 4 both yesterday and today. Livan ate him alive. He has seemed to come out of his fog a bit the last couple of games. Did you mean Alberto Gonzalez? He is hitting well.

We sat and cheered the whole game - not easy when its over in the 1st. It was so bad that the Met fans in our section were nice to us.

Posted by: longhorn64 | June 7, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I have been an Acta supporter mostly. But after today's post-game remarks forget it! Our YOUNG hitters? Johnson, Guz, Zimm (5th yr.), Bard, Nieves, Kerns. I am really sick of hearing the same old excuses (and some new ones) night after night. There is no fire or motivation in the entire organization. Acta needs to be replaced NOW! Bring up Tim Foli, anyone with a little passion for the game! And while I'm ranting, get rid of Kasten!

Posted by: NickfromGermantown | June 7, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Not to overly defend Acta, but when he says those guys are young hitters, they are - compared to LIvan Hernandez. That's even true going by his published age, which who knows is how much less than his real age. And if you want to compare levels of experience instead of age, most of today's lineup was way less experienced at the MLB level than Livan.

Also, keep in mind that English is not Manny Acta's first language. How about getting a Spanish speaking reporter into those post-game pressers and see if they come away with the same impression of him as the English speaking reporters. I happened to watch Manny's video blog on MASN.com in both English and Spanish, and it's amazing how much more animated he is when he's speaking Spanish.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 7, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Missed Ladson's commentary on the radio. You mean he's finally given up on being a Manny apologist? Did love Manny's comment after yesterday's game about being "smart" for a day. Yup Manny, when things go perfectly and you don't have to make any decisions the whole game you're as smart as they come. Way to have your team fired up and ready again today...

Posted by: truke | June 7, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, right tomorrow is a day off. It is time to write about changing the coaching staff again.
Really the main problem I have is always pulling starting pitchers in the 5th inning no matter how well they are throwing if the team is behind. Don't worry about "loosing an at bat". This is the NL everyone looses that at bat. This move just sets up a chain of events that puts too much pressure on the bullpen and eventually causes it to implode. It also uses up your bench players way before they can really be affective in the game. It's like playing poker. If you show your hand too soon you give the other players an extreme advantage. And you loose 75% of the time not 50%.

Posted by: tomfoc31 | June 7, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

To bigmook, from the previous thread:

You make my point. Because the Nats have not spent up to MLB standards, they cannot afford to let go any of their meagre supply of quality players to trade for prospects.

If the Nats had acquired a normal amount--or preferably, an above-normal amount of quality players over the years of ownership under the Lerners, then the Nats WOULD have players to trade for prospects. That's one way to build, in addition to signing draft picks and signing international players (which the Nats also don't do).

The Nats could also sign free agents, and trade them for prospects (can you believe that Dunn is the ONLY free agent making a decent salary that the Lerners have signed)?

You can achieve a degree of respectability on the cheap--and the Lerners are very cheap--but you can't be this cheap. They go way too far in saving money. Signing the top draft pick is the most cost-effective way to build a team (i.e., the cheapest), and the Nats don't even do that!

Posted by: EdDC | June 7, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Padilla (.368 avg) looks more like he is ready for major league pitching than Patterson? Seth Bynum has 9 homeruns can play ss and 2b. Patterson? Padilla seems a lot more consistent ...

Not sure why Ladson thinks Patterson would be better than Kearns. I think they want someone who can hit. Padilla is the only one who appears to have "outgrown" AAA pitching.

Posted by: periculum | June 7, 2009 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is more animated when they speak Spanish...it's the nature of the language. You can be lazy (in terms of using your mouth) to speak English but not Spanish or French. With those two languages you really need to move your mouth to enunciate properly.

Has anyone kept a list of Manny-isms?

Grass was cut funny.
Threw too many sliders (when most were fastballs)
Young hitters

Posted by: derwink | June 7, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

One to 2 wins a month ... is that all one can expect from this team at this point?

Posted by: periculum | June 7, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Manny is running out of excuses but what is he supposed to do? Dope-slap people when they fall for Livo's junk? It's not like they don't know how he pitches. It requires patience and discipline and I don't know how you manage overeager hitters. Regardless of his career stats against Livo, Kearns is lost at the plate. His approach is totally inept and ineffective. The "overcrowded" outfield needs to be thinned again although that move is probably not Manny's to make. Yes, Manny will likely be gone by July but don't expect things to improve much. The tean is as likely to be motiveated by guilt over his firing as from a new manager but ownership has to prove it's doing something.

Posted by: SackMan | June 7, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

>>Also, keep in mind that English is not Manny Acta's first language

So that's the problem. None of the players actually understand him. When he tells Kearns to hit the ball, Kearns thinks he's saying close your eyes and wish upon a star. And when he tells Dunn to catch the ball, Dunn mistakingly thinks he says see how it feels if it bounces off your head.
It's all just lost in translation. Now we get it.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 7, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

BTW if Harlen had any stones he would've followed up that inane statement by Acta with a direct laser. Instead he did what he's done all season, which is let him skate. The guy doesn't ask one tough question, even when its basically been served up on a tee. Too bad.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 7, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Seth Bynum is toooooo!!!! old and a bad fielder in the minors. He has been in the minors for 9 years and no one is interested in him but people on this site. Patterson has also had his chance and was found wanting.

Posted by: natsguy | June 7, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Natsguy,

All the "young and comers" are still down with the P-nats unless they are pitchers. Burgess, Norris, all the rest. Not much in Harrisburg. Syracuse is playing better ... mostly with guys born between 1978 and 1982.

Kearns and Willingham have not been hitting all that great this year let's face it. Willingham's bat started to wake up and then he got sick. Watch him go 0-4, 0-5 and his average drop below .200 again.

Might as well give the guys down in Syracuse a chance. Even JD Martin who continues to do extremely well. They can't be any worst than what we've got up here. Unless Dmitri comes back and that looks highly unlikely. Which is why Nick will likely stay. It would be stupid to use Nick as a DH in Boston. The guy is a good fielder at 1st base.

Why not? What you "natsguy" got to lose? Again the real "prospects" as you define them aren't ready. Collin Willems? Where is he? Bringing them up makes no sense you could end up destroying them as they seem to have done with Hinckley and Hanrahan. Bringing them in too soon doesn't work now. They aren't orphans who no one expects anything from. They have owners. They have the Stan "the plan". They have young players and are rebuilding their minor league system. MORE IS expected. Either through the prospects, free agents, or whomever can do the job.

Posted by: periculum | June 7, 2009 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Stop blaming Acta; at this point it's Stan and the Lerners they see what's going on.Manny Acta has no business in the dugout,should have never been brought back after last year this is what pisses me off about this franchise their complete inability to recognize abject failure.Acta's going through the motions he knows the clock is ticking the crazy thing is Kasten and the Lerners act like everything's fine,i swear if i was still living back in DC i would try to gather a group and picket the home games until they make a change if nothing else it might get some publicity.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 7, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will about Manny Acta, but he's better at winning games than dargregmag is at using punctuation.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 7, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

It's gettin a little testy around here. 15-40 suck on it and like it

Posted by: Brue | June 7, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

>> if i was still living back in DC i would try to gather a group and picket the home games until they make a change if nothing else it might get some publicity.Posted by: dargregmag

Actually not a bad idea. They did the same thing at the Garden in NY until Isiah was finally canned.

>>what pisses me off about this franchise their complete inability to recognize abject failure.

Nails.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 7, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Tick Toc Tick Toc...............

Posted by: dovelevine | June 7, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, great, get rid of Manny. Change the GM, change the pitching coach. All good distractions from what is really going on. What's next--change the strength coach?

Posted by: EdDC | June 7, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

There is a reason that a player stays in the minor leagues for 9 years. They suck.

They are there for the prospects to have someone to play against. If you would bother to do your research you would know this. All you are doing is looking at stats from a minor league site and throwing names against the wall to see what sticks(sucks). Better to stay with the crap you know and wait for the prospects to mature.

All we can do for this year is hope they win more than 40 games.

Posted by: natsguy | June 7, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

EdDC,

Changing up the Bull Pen worked. Changing Hitting Coach has worked. Cutting as much of the Jimbo Dead wood is working....remember Milledge, Willy Mo, Lopez, Lo Duca.......Just keep cutting the non-performers. Cut Kearns, Cut Belliard, Cut Hanrahan, Trade Dunn to AL Team.....Firing Acta is just one step in a long list of things that must be done....let's get started.

Posted by: JayBeee | June 7, 2009 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Yeah JayBee if Rizzo hasn't thought about your suggestion's then we need to show him the door along with Manny.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 7, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I think we've stepped beyond speculating whether Manny will get fired. He will.

So here's the question: who's the new manager? I've heard Bobby Valentine might be interested. Ray Knight? The USA manager who once managed the O's and Indians (I'm spacing on his name but I can see his face very clearly). Thoughts?

Posted by: bgreene4 | June 7, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Bgreene4, you're thinking of Davey Johnson, and you can forget it. He's not interested in the full-time grind. You mention Knight, and that's got to be the same question with him. Does he want it? Does he want the travel, the grind, the pressures of trying to fix what has got to be the most dysfunctional club in the bigs? He's surprisingly good and glib on TV, and jawing with Johnny Holliday has got to be calmer than trying to get Stammen, Hanrahan et al to find the strike zone. Still, he's intriguing to me. I'd go for Tim Foli, Syracuse mgr, in a heartbeat. But Knight brings even more credibility, gravitas and big league experience. If he's at all interested--and why he is even in this market, if he doesn't have some curiosity about the club?--he's my first call. Anybody listening, StanK? Lerners? Rizzo?
Who's in charge here anyway? 15-and-40, gents. Your move...

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 7, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Ah, it's great to see how nunof1's contrarianism sets people off. I'm sure Manny knows exactly what he's saying, and it's become BS in any language. As was said about Moe Berg, a Nats backup catcher in the '30s (and later a very good spy on our side): "He speaks seven languages, and he can't hit in any of them.''

Doesn't Gonzalez deserve a try at 2B, given AH's recent struggles at the plate?

Posted by: nats24 | June 8, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

I think bgreene4 meant Mike Hargrove.

Posted by: baltova1 | June 8, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

"But Knight brings even more credibility, gravitas and big league experience. If he's at all interested--and why he is even in this market, if he doesn't have some curiosity about the club?--he's my first call. Anybody listening, StanK? Lerners? Rizzo?"

You realize of course that you just wasted a paragraph arguing that they hire another of JimBo's ex-Reds as the next manager?

Hey, they're still looking for a permanent GM, aren't they? Wel there's this guy out in California, does a radio show, and I think I saw him on TV last week. Sounded like he knew what he was talking about too. Blanking on the name right now, but do you think he'd be interested?

Posted by: nunof1 | June 8, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

I'll post the full transcript of Rizzo's presser a bit later, but here is the Cliffs Notes synopsis


Still waiting.........................

Posted by: theredskin | June 8, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

I just read the notebook piece about the Nats "relishing" the return of Olsen. Relishing the return of a player with a 7 ERA? I would much rather see Detwiler and Stammen pitch than Olsen. At least the Nats have a chance to win with these two young pitchers. And for those who will bring out the "innings eater" cliche, check yourself for fleas. Olsen used his hundred pitches mostly by the fifth inning with five runs given up. Not my idea of a useful starter.

But then again this team is managed by cliches anyways.

Posted by: driley | June 8, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Anyone watch the UVa team win the series against Ol' Miss on ESPN? This team plays great defense, great pitching, great base running. The contrast between the UVa brand of baseball and what the Nats are showing on the field of play is like night and day, pleasure and pain. The Nats are the example of a Plan gone completely haywire--young pitching with no defense behind them. Having a 15-40 record is the real bottom line for this club. That is the truth that the management has to address. The Stanspeak and "The Plan" spin is jolting to hear at this point. In another year the pitching may be better but the defense will just as horrid. But what do I know about building a winning team?

Posted by: driley | June 8, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Natsguy,

If you were so smart you would realize that management and the team look like a bunch of idiots for paying Kearns and Willingham, and even Olson.

Career minor leaguers? Back in the olden days many guys spent 9 years in the minors before coming up.

Gee, wouldn't it make more sense to bring someone up who is doing really well against the creme della creme of your "prospects" like Padilla? Or Martin? The appear to be ***MOTIVATED*** to do well, to help their team win. That's all that I ask for. It would be far more entertaining to see them play, root for them knowing they are trying their best ... at this point. Instead of watching someone who is making far too much money underachieve.

What planet are you from that you would deny these guys a chance, a shot?

Posted by: periculum | June 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

The Nats season in a nutshell...During Friday's game vs. the Mets, C. Guzman fails to go back into shallow left and catch the David Wright blooper that lands in front of Adam Dunn. It shows you where Guzman's head is. Not just because he should have attacked the ball himself, but he should have been aware who was playing leftfield (Dunn). Then on the next play we get the bad call on what should have been a put out of Wright trying to tag at third base. What a surprise!! We got hosed on a call!! Once again, why would the umps give us any close calls when our manager is a wimp. Of course I almost fell out of my chair when Acta came out to argue the call. Excuse me, discuss the call. Boy, was he animated or what? What a fireball he is. Wright scores on the next play and there you have it in a nutshell. No communication. Bad defense. Weak manager gets no calls. The opposition gets a run that 29 other clubs wouldn't give up. Thanks for tuning in last week to the Nats show on primesportsnetwork.com. Our next show starts at 4:30pm today.

Posted by: gdpsports | June 8, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

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