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Another Snakebitten Loss

The Nationals have now played 61 games. They've won 16 of those games. They have a .262 winning percentage, same as the 1962 New York Mets had after 61 games. They are on pace for somewhere between 119 and 120 losses. Their ability to lose is almost mystical; today, the summoned help from a bullpen catcher and the third base bag.

In the bottom of the eighth, the game was tied at the Trop, though pretty much everybody knew where this was heading, because the Nationals sustain ties about as well as they sustain leads. They'd led each of the prior games this series entering the bottom of the sixth; they'd blown both. Here, a 4-0 lead had crumbled in two parts -- in the fourth, where Tampa converted a pair of Ross Detwiler walks into runs, and then in the sixth, where a pair of Gabes (Gross and Kapler) walked and homered against Detwiler in succession.

The tie flipped into a deficit in vintage-Nationals style. For most teams, the bullpen catcher just sits there; he doesn't get in the way of infielders trying to catch pop-ups. For most teams, the third base bag is a neutral little square, not an adversary that turns bouncing grounders into hits. But that's what happened in the eighth, as Ron Villone pitched for Washington.

Carlos Pena had doubled to lead off the inning -- no chicanery there. But then, Ben Zobrist, the next hitter, lofted a shallow pop up down the right field line. Third baseman Willie Harris charged toward it, and though he probably didn't have a play on the ball, the resulting collision -- he tripped over squatting bullpen catcher Nilson Robledo, who was warming up Joe Beimel -- at least alerted the circus to start playing its music. Zobrist eventually struck out, negating the head-shaking from the Robledo interference, but then another stationary object came along to cause harm.

With one out, Willy Aybar chopped a two-hopper right down the third base line. Harris was there, ready to make the play. But then, the ball kicked off the inside of the third base bag and shot on an angle into left field. Pena jogged home, and Tampa had the go-ahead run.

"The ball, it barely nipped the corner of the base, too," Harris said, shaking his head. "What can you do about a play like that?"

After today's game, the elephant remained in the room. Manny Acta has in fact boarded the team plane, heading to New York for the upcoming series against the Yankees. But that begins Tuesday. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

*

Until this three-game series against Tampa Bay, Jason Bergmann deserved at least some credit for stabilizing the Washington Nationals' bullpen. Then came the middle game of this series, where Bergmann deserved much of the credit for a single loss. His one appearance against the Rays -- his 14th of the season -- inflated his ERA from 3.77 to 6.91.

It will be his last big league appearance, at least for the time being.

After Sunday's game, Manager Manny Acta and acting GM Mike Rizzo indicated to Bergmann that he will be demoted to Class AAA Syracuse in advance of Tuesday's game against the Yankees. By that point, right-handed pitcher Kip Wells (right adductor strain) will be ready to return from the disabled list. Wells, who has a 6.26 ERA in 19 appearances (23 innings) with the Nationals, is currently finishing up a rehab assignment with Class A Potomac.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 14, 2009; 6:44 PM ET
 
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Next: A Decision Awaits

Comments

Even if the Nats do fire Acta I don't think they can hire a permanent manager right away. Due to the rules of minority hiring which MLB has agreed to abide by the process for hiring GM's and field managers is fairly complicated. That's basically why Rizzo is still interim at this point.

Posted by: natsguy | June 14, 2009 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Dunno which I'd prefer -- a bunch of blowout losses or a bunch of close games lost due to a single fielding error or errant hop or (fill in the blank) . . .

Posted by: Juan-John | June 14, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Good news:
http://insider.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=4258285&name=mlb_draft

Posted by: BillyBeane | June 14, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

If they're going to fire him, which they most certainly are, they might as well do it tomorrow like everyone's been saying. I think it's time to get someone else in there.

Posted by: DudeItsEric | June 14, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

How is Wells an upgrade over Bergmann? Send that bum back to AAA where he belongs.

Posted by: iishoagie07 | June 14, 2009 8:08 PM | Report abuse

1) Is there any obstacle or downside to designating Austin Kearns for assignment? If there is a single reason for relieving Acta, it may be relying on Kearns in key situations.

2) Are slumps, particularly collective batting slumps, physical or mental? To what extent should a hitting coach be held accountable for a slump like this? Surely more than the manager. Eckstein received praise earlier, what what has he done lately?

Posted by: johnknapp2 | June 14, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Man, this is just sad.

Posted by: Section406 | June 14, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Where are you when we need you Joe Hardy? How about Manny, Stan and Mike arm-in-arm singing "You've Gotta Have Heart"? Somebody please dig up Ray Walston...

Posted by: truke | June 14, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

Since I have given up hope on the current major league club giving me any joy or satisfaction, I have resorted to monitoring the minor league teams, with the hope of a silver lining in likie 2015. Well I was checking out the Hagerstown Suns page hoping see how Drew Storen is pitching, he hasn't started yet, when i noticed an familar face, Matt Chico had a good day. 4 ip, 2 hits, no runs, and 6 groundouts and 6 flyouts.

Just thought I would bring a shed of hope on this blog.

Posted by: wrw0601 | June 14, 2009 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update and thought, wrw.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 14, 2009 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Hey gang.....Austin freakin' Kearns.....I mean, I feel for the guy. Not his fault that he makes an insane amount of dough. Or the burden of his expectations.Or that he probably is a really decent person....but what a horrid player he has been for us. At least Flop was so miserable we HAD to dump him. And holding on to him is emblematic of how we operate as a franchise. Yes,yes yes-D.F.A.him! For his sake, too! Stop pipe-dreaming of trading him for anything more useful than a rosin bag and let's move on! Go Nats....

Posted by: zendo | June 14, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

>Yes,yes yes-D.F.A.him! For his sake, too! Stop pipe-dreaming of trading him for anything more useful than a rosin bag and let's move on!

Move on to who? Corey Patterson? He's been a pro for over ten years and he still doesn't know how to bunt or shorten his stroke. Langerhans? He still swings like he thinks he can hit 30 homers. Maxwell? He's more concerned with looking pretty than hitting the ball. There is nobody. You can draft all the pitching you want, but if you don't have enough position players in the system to push the big leaguers and threaten their job security, then you'll have times like we have where the guys go to sleep during their at-bats at crucial times. Seriously, do any of the players look all that concerned about losing their jobs? Manny couldn't get the best out of these guys because they don't respect him, and at the very least, they could get someone in there who will at least cover their backs and get their attention.

Posted by: Brue | June 14, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

Anyone catch Gammons comments on BBTN prior to the Cards-Indians game?

They did a round-table on the Nats and Acta. Gammons believes the Rosenthal story is correct and all of his sources are saying the same thing. According to Gammons its no longer if, its just when and he assumes that means StanK is waiting for Poppa Bear to sign off on the paper-work.

Now one of the more interesting things Gammons did say was, "according to everyone he has spoken to removing Acta is only the first step in a gigantic culture shift that the FO plans to employ going forward". Gammons said, that over the past 3 years the Nats have been in some type of "prison mentality". He even went as far as saying MLB officials have said watching this Nats was like watching the "longest yard" over and over. Gammons also said the Nats FO plans to unload and or release all thier veterans by the trading dealine or sooner and basically take the core of what is left and turn the remainder of the season into a two month mini instructional league. Well I guess we can all sit, watch and wait. Hmmm, the Longest Yard, now thats funny.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 14, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I found Gammons' comments interesting too. But I thought the last two months of LAST season was a two-month instructional league on who would be with the Nats this year? I'd clean house, too, starting with StanK...

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 14, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

True, Brue...too true! I was sorta speaking from a "meta" level....but yea, bring up Langerhans. And isn't Kenny Lofton available? But yea, we are SOOOO sad....and the cupboard is pretty freakin' bare! Go Nats....P-Nats, if noyhing else!

Posted by: zendo | June 14, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Gammons said, that over the past 3 years the Nats have been in some type of "prison mentality".
=============================================
Recalling lessons learned from past viewings of REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS, featuring Wendy O. Williams (R.I.P.), that can only be a not good thing.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | June 14, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

And Oh By The Way.I predicted 84 wins at the start of the year- Talk about Kool-Aid! Now,,,anyone care to venture a guess as to how many we'll really win? Over 50? I say ....oh,man...can we win 20?Go Nats.....

Posted by: zendo | June 14, 2009 9:35 PM | Report abuse

There is no such thing as a two year slump. Kearns has lost his ability to hit.

They should wait to fire Acta after the Yankees. No sense on starting the temp manager against the them.

Posted by: charley42 | June 14, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

That's not a bad idea, charley42. The Yankees are going to demolish our own hapless Nats. The Mets went down 15-0 today with Santana on the mound.

Posted by: shepdave2003 | June 14, 2009 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Flop is hitting .305.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | June 14, 2009 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Something needs to be done to change the culture of P-poor fundamentals of this team. It is completely inexcusable that major league OF's can't figure out the correct base to throw to. It's one breakdown after another. AFter attending 12-15 games per year I have yet to attend this year because of the rotten fundamentals. Can't justify paying good money for such low quality efforts. Not sure how you motivate or discipline players with guaranteed contracts but someone needs to call people out. Yes, it's commendable to admit your mistakes but that's not accountability. Analyzing your mistakes and taking corrective action to improve is accountability. The starting pitching has improved after firing the P-coach so maybe a managerial change can help too although the problems run much deeper. I think the basic problem hss been the reliance on high risk, low cost reclamation projects rather than finding an developing real talent. Maybe playing for 35,000 empty seats will provide some motivation. This fan base will soon collapse and it will take a long time to get them back. Shame, shame, shame.

Posted by: SackMan | June 14, 2009 10:45 PM | Report abuse

There are no MLB ready position players in the Nats system period. They will have to unload Dunn, NJ, and Guzman at the very least and get something back. PRoblem is NJ is a rental, Guzman isn't very good, and Dunn's only value is as a DH in the AL. Not real good folks. The young pitchers give me cause for concern too - Detwiler, Zimmermann, and Stammen are clearly not ready. They throw way too many pitches and cna't seem to get past the 6th inning. The good hitting teams are going to eat them up with time.

Posted by: bendersx6 | June 14, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

OK, I'll bite. WTF does that mean?

**********
Gammons said over the past 3 years the Nats have been in some type of "prison mentality". He even went as far as saying MLB officials have said watching this Nats was like watching the "longest yard" over and over.
Posted by: TippyCanoe | June 14, 2009 9:11 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 14, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

Well said, SackMan. But I would say that the fanbase is already gone. Or at least lies dormant. People here just care about their old home team of whatever AL East team they can give frontrunner lip service to.

It's going to take big changes and big winning for this team to attract more than flies and away fans. I love having a team (for the first time in my life) and I support them, but it's pretty painful. I feel like an oddball for paying attention.

Posted by: Kev29 | June 14, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, Bryce Harper just decided to go JUCO. Hello Harper in 2010. It would be worth this terrible season.

Posted by: 1stpick | June 15, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Lots of Debbie Downers on the board tonight. An unfortunate but common trend.

I was so looking forward to debating a comparison of the current Nats vs the 1988 Braves. 106 losses. Fired a manager midsesason. Introduced four rookie starting pitchers. Drafted a highly regarded starting pitcher. World Series participants three years later.

Sure, the current Nats pitching is poor and inconsistent. The defense is a shade below horrible. A briefly formidable offense is in a solid slump. And I havent seen a win in person in over a year. Its discouraging.

Yet I cant wait to get back to the park to see the next Smoltz (Zimmermann?) or Glavine (Detwiler?). Maybe Ron Gant (Dukes?). Maybe next season brings the '89 Braves version of Justice or Mercker or Stanton. And no Braves team had FoF. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | June 15, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

The young pitchers give me cause for concern too - Detwiler, Zimmermann, and Stammen are clearly not ready. They throw way too many pitches and cna't seem to get past the 6th inning. The good hitting teams are going to eat them up with time.

Posted by: bendersx6 | June 14, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't you think the pitch counts for these guys is high b/c they are getting squeezed. The umps aren't giving them many close pitches. I agree with most of the doom and gloom on this board, but I think the young starters are at least a bit of a silver lining

Posted by: SwiftIT | June 15, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I was so looking forward to debating a comparison of the current Nats vs the 1988 Braves. 106 losses. Fired a manager midsesason. Introduced four rookie starting pitchers. Drafted a highly regarded starting pitcher. World Series participants three years later.
Posted by: LosDoceOcho | June 15, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I wish we could compare, but remember, the Braves also were willing to PAY MONEY for vets back then like Terry Pendleton (MVP), Lonnie Smith, Sid Bream, Charlie Liebrandt,and Otis Nixon. Not to mention an experienced manager in B. Cox. Basically the Braves were near perfect in their drafts, trades, and free agent signings, and were not as "thrifty" as our Nats. Not much of a comparison, no matter what Stan the Plan says

Posted by: SwiftIT | June 15, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

It's troublesome to see the lack of emotion on this site. Even the anger of the past meant that people cared. I hope this doesn't mean it's too late to get the fan base back. The Lerners really have a lot od 'splainin" to do. I think they need to start offering some free nights, big discounts, and pushing some fun to distract from the product while they get better. Clearly the prices have to go down for this currently inferior product.

""just sayin"

And with that I am out.

Posted by: natsguy | June 15, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

SwiftIT, I'd disagree relative to players during 1988 season. Also, while the Braves spent on free agents, the team did not do so until their core was established. Plus the players signed were not superstars or incredibly expensive relative to others of the era.


Outside of Lonnie Smith, the manager and players you mention were post 1988. Cox is even another manager later (Hello & good bye Russ Nixon). Plus, Lonnie Smith was signed after being released by the Royals in 1988 (cheap deal).

Liebrandt was acquired in a trade in 1989 and resigned as a mid tier free agent in 1990. Bream was a mid-tier free agent signee in 1990. Nixon was acquired in a 1991 trade and Pendleton signed as a mid tier free agent before the 1991 season. Pendleton goes on to win a disputed MVP that season even though his overall stats are less regarded than those of McGriff, Bonds, Bonilla and HoJo. Also, no Braves player has a salary in the top 100 players in 1991.

So, I like to believe the Nats 2009 season mirrors the Braves horrid season of 21 years ago. Crappy teams. Young starting pitchers. I'm going to reserve my 2013 playoff tickets tomorrow.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | June 15, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

As for this Nats fan, I've always rooted for the underdog, but man-o-man, are these Nats pushing the limits of that tendency. But I will remain faithful (albeit with less of a financial commitment for the time being), I will still root for them. I'd also say I'm with the group that's simply excited to have local (i.e. metro-, bike-, and walking-accessible) baseball in this town! I just hope those rewards that make this suffering all the more worth it come along pretty damn soon, I do see strong potential in our young starters...

Also props to LosDoceOcho for the Caddyshack reference. Goonga-Galoonga!

Posted by: HotNats | June 15, 2009 1:38 AM | Report abuse

LosDoceOcho, I think (maybe it's "I pray'), is on the money. We have to hope! And Breu, look at the Syracuse stats: What's the problem with giving Jorge Padilla a look?

Posted by: nats24 | June 15, 2009 2:11 AM | Report abuse

I keep reading in this blog and others about the fact that Manny can not win with rookie pitchers. My observations differ. The starting five now in the rotation seem to give us a chance to win 4 out of 5 games they now pitch. The pitchers are not making boneheaded fielding mistakes. The pitchers are not looking at our hitters failing to make even contact when you have a runner on third with one out. The pitchers are not responsible for our hitters failing to get any run across in extra innings. The one bright spot I see on this team is the current starting pitching. If indeed great changes are coming for the Nats I could not be happier--Guzman, Johnson, Kearns, Belliard and even Dunn can go and I won't shed a tear.

Posted by: driley | June 15, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

That Gammons has seen one too many prison movies?

---

OK, I'll bite. WTF does that mean? Wonder whether he likes gladiator movies as well?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 15, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

Crud! Meant to add that second bit to my own words, not to sec3's.

That Gammons has seen one too many prison movies?
Wonder whether he likes gladiator movies as well?

---

OK, I'll bite. WTF does that mean?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 15, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

The young pitchers give me cause for concern too - Detwiler, Zimmermann, and Stammen are clearly not ready. They throw way too many pitches and cna't seem to get past the 6th inning. The good hitting teams are going to eat them up with time.

Posted by: bendersx6 | June 14, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't you think the pitch counts for these guys is high b/c they are getting squeezed. The umps aren't giving them many close pitches. I agree with most of the doom and gloom on this board, but I think the young starters are at least a bit of a silver lining

Posted by: SwiftIT | June 15, 2009 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Not only do they get squeezed but they have to get 5 outs/inning because their defense is so horrible.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | June 15, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

"Yet I cant wait to get back to the park to see the next Smoltz (Zimmermann?) or Glavine (Detwiler?). Maybe Ron Gant (Dukes?). Maybe next season brings the '89 Braves version of Justice or Mercker or Stanton. And no Braves team had FoF. So we got that going for us, which is nice."

I agree with this. Baseball this year is a lot more watchable than last year. The impressive thing about Manny, as Boz said the other day (making me appear derivative), is that these rookies are not getting discouraged. Their still going out there every outing and showing flashes of brilliance. They are going to be fire-hardened.

Gammons loses all credibility by saying three years. Three years ago, this team did not look under siege. 2007 Nationals were the "little team that could" and went out there and snatched victories left and right. Acta even got some votes for Manager of the Year.

I think the difference is veteran players. Manny appears not to be a good manager for rookies, but vets do fantastic under him. Except for the unexplainable Austin Kearns.

Posted by: Section506 | June 15, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

I can see Nick Johnson being dealt but the only team I can see absorbing Guzman's salary is the Red Sox and that is only if Jed Lowrie is not able to come back at full strength.
Dunn has another season on his relatively affordable contract. The Nats should keep him.

Posted by: jeremybozz | June 15, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Acta should be fired, today.

Yes, he's played the hand that's been dealt him, but he hasn't done that very well at all. He plays the wrong people in the wrong positions and at the wrong times and makes questionable moves within the game. His reluctance to fire St.Clair has destroyed any hope of the pitching staff.

The Nats are one of the worst defensive teams in recent memory. There is no excuse for that. If you're going to trot out the 'the bullpen had to be rebuilt' angle, then you're ignoring the fact that defensively the team makes stupid plays. And not just the kids - the veterans as well. Particularly with a young pitching staff, a strong defense should be the first priority.

The fact is the team is not progressing, they're regressing under Acta. Just as Acta does, the team seems to accept losing as the norm. Oh well, just another loss. That's Acta's atitude and it's the team's as well.

Failure to jettison him now will only further undermine any credibility the front office has left.

Posted by: SavedByZero | June 15, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

New post.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 15, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I keep reflecting back to the 05 season when this franchise finished 81-81 after being in first at the all-star break and the fact that this current roster has more talent than that that 05 team, what's the difference? wait don't tell me, F.Robby!!.I don't want Robinson back but i don't want to hear that Manny's a good manager BS and that he was dealt a bad hand by Jimbo he's incompetent and the player's have turned a deaf ear to anything he has to say and it's been that way since the end of last season.Jimbo was a joke as a GM but Manny's even worse as a manager the everyday goings on with this team is laughable and the fans deserve better.The Lerners need to find some real baseball people and they should start by bringing in Tim Foli and let him get the on the field culture turned around now, nothing will be gained by waiting send a clear message that this franchise means business.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 15, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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