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A Grand Reversal

Before Monday's game, Josh Willingham's 2009 offensive résumé had one odd little wrinkle -- something that, depending on your leanings, was either a flaw or a fluke. The guy seemed to save his best for the least impactful moments. He entered the night with 14 homers. And 12 solo homers. He was hitting .328 with none on, .248 with runners on, and .197 with runners in scoring position. Among the 91 hitters in baseball with 12 or more homers, nobody had fewer RBI than Willingham.

So help me make sense of this. Was this just a massive market correction? A return-to-the-mean that looked like an eruption?

"It's one of those things that you can't explain," Willingham said.

Here it was: In a span of two innings and three swings, Willingham crushed two grand slams. Both were driving range shots -- blasts to left field that roared low, then drifted downward in a gentle, faraway arc. After the game, Willingham was still buzzing. His phone had 20 text messages on it. At next glance, it had 15 more. The second home run ball, inscribed "Second Slam Same Game," was already displayed in his locker.

"It's something that, when I was coming up to the plate the second time, I knew I had a chance to do it," Willingham said. "Obviously I wasn't thinking about doing it; I wasn't trying to do it. But when the game is over and you look back on it -- for years to come, when I look back on it -- it's going to be something that will be very special."

Washington's 14-6 win against the Brewers -- its third in a row -- was of course powered by (and overshadowed by) Willingham's performance. But remember, grand slams are situational accomplishments, not just personal accomplishments. Willingham needed help, and got it. He also needed a little fortune. What if Adam Dunn's fourth-deck moon shot in the fifth inning had carried a few yards fair, instead of drifting just foul? What if Dunn's double in the sixth hadn't hopped the fence, forcing Ryan Zimmerman to stay at third? You can concoct all sorts of scenarios, each depriving Willingham of his chance. Just to get two opportunities with the bases loaded is rare.

The list of those who've hit two grand slams in a game is an interesting one. Many are established power hitters, some of the best of their era. Frank Robinson. Nomar Garciaparra. Jim Gentile. But you've also got a pitcher (Tony Cloninger) and a journeyman (Fernando Tatis). You've also got several who are very similar to Willingham -- guys who are/were high-caliber everyday players, but aren't quite stars. (Check out the stats of Jim Tabor and Jim Northrup. These are Willinghams of an earlier era.) Anyway, I guess the random sampling makes sense. All these players had but one thing in common: For one night, each was exceptionally blessed with power and teammates who helped them maximize it. Neither is easy to come by.

By Chico Harlan  |  July 28, 2009; 12:46 AM ET
 
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Next: Reasons to Retain Willingham

Comments

This is why we don't trade this kid....we have him locked up for a few years and we really don't have anyone this ready in the minors to replace him. Morgan and Josh make a pretty good 2/3rds of a defensive outfield as well.

Posted by: sazzwho | July 28, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

You said it, Chico. Tough to get bases-loaded situations, unless you're getting walked around. Amazing display by the Hammer, nice shot (same spot) by Zimm, and great effort by Dunn to make that catch in the first and set the tone. Who would've thunk it?

Too bad Stammen didn't last to get the W - sure hope the Nats can convert some of those opportunities early in the future. But, he showed some skills beyond his pitching. His double was not only a solid shot, but he earned it with a 9-pitch at-bat, fouling off several pitches and driving that ball. Then, a perfect sacrifice bunt - finally, someone moving the runner over.

Keep it going Nats! Jump on the Brew tomorrow while they have a reliever starting and a beaten up bullpen! Keep the hits coming!

Posted by: mo_dc | July 28, 2009 1:10 AM | Report abuse

I remember the Cloninger slams, thanks to Dan Daniels and John MacLean (the out-of-town scoreboard is one of the pleasures of radio baseball). The same year as Gentiles' for the O's, as I recall. But I could be wrong, as I was about Pascual (17-10 in '59, not 17-9, off the top of my head.) When you get old, some of these things fade a bit.

Posted by: nats24 | July 28, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

"Both were driving range shots." Great line, Chico. Have a great roadtrip...

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 28, 2009 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo has said that he will make any trade that he believes makes baseball sense: it helps the franchise now and in the future. He is asking a lot for Johnson, Willingham, Dunn etc.

If some team is desperate enough to absorb the sticker shock I don't think Rizzo will turn away. This is a last place team, and tomorrow after 3 wins in a row it will still be dead last still on a record setting pace for losses.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

@nats24: You're close, not quite right. Cloninger was in 1966 for ATL.
Jim Gentile was in 1961 for Ball-mer.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | July 28, 2009 1:25 AM | Report abuse

No, periculum, they're not on a record setting pace for losses. If they finish the season at .313, that would be equate to 112 losses. That's horrible, to be sure, but it's not a record for futility. The 1962 Mets lost 120 games, and 23 teams -- including the 1904 (.252) and 1909 (.276) Senators and six Philadelphia Phillies teams had worse winning percentages.

Posted by: COL_DFox | July 28, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

Periculum,

As usual, you don't check your facts before you run off at the stats. You could use some work on tour spelling of names also.

Posted by: WashOut | July 28, 2009 2:06 AM | Report abuse

"No, periculum, they're not on a record setting pace for losses. If they finish the season at .313, that would be equate to 112 losses. That's horrible, to be sure, but it's not a record for futility."

Even that idiot Mr. WashOut would have to admit that if they trade players for prospects they might just achieve that record in futility.

So, COL_DFox the jury is most definitely still out! If they trade Dunn, Nick, and Willingham for a parcel of picks. If they trade a couple of their prized pitching prospects?

And WashOut, you should wash your brain out from all the tiresome spew you seem determined to wretch from your jelly belly.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 2:57 AM | Report abuse

'WashOut': A 'WashOut' cascade is a virtual grooming ritual in which WashOut grunts meaningless monosyllabic words at us.

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 3:00 AM | Report abuse

The "skinny" on WashOut:

"Rumor has it he's almost incomprehensible in person (owing to his heavily accented and alchohol-slurred speech) and this combined with his being a dirty slug and ugly makes him very uncomfortable with human interaction of any kind."

Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 3:05 AM | Report abuse

The boys are 5-7 under Riggo and showing a pulse. A properly placed foot works wonders. Plus they don't have to look at the depressing troll chewing gum and not covering their backs.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 7:26 AM | Report abuse

The "skinny" on WashOut:

"Rumor has it he's almost incomprehensible in person (owing to his heavily accented and alchohol-slurred speech) and this combined with his being a dirty slug and ugly makes him very uncomfortable with human interaction of any kind."


Posted by: periculum | July 28, 2009 3:05 AM | Report abuse
++++++++++++++++++++++++++
What is the point of this dross?

Posted by: Intrudr | July 28, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Pretty cool to see two grand slams by the same hitter in one game. Never realized that it was more rare than a perfect game. And he was 90 feet short of hitting for the cycle a mere 5 days ago. He's either buffing up his stats as trade bait or getting ready to lead the Nats to the Promised Land!

Posted by: Intrudr | July 28, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

For all the joviality of the debate above we cannot escape two things:

1) Dunn and Willigham are essentially the same guy. Poor in left field, terrible in right field, big bat, big clubhouse personality. You can have one, but both are a luxury. Make a trade. Rizzo has stared at his naval and three potential trade partners vanished. Bad news.

2) Nick Johnson is around for exactly two months. We are going to finish last with him and we are going to finish last without him. Make a trade.

I don't buy all this nonsense about Rizzo being reticent to trade because he's afraid the team will re-enter a spiral. That is ridiculous. Get something for these guys, even if it's a long shot. Get something. Of course it's not my job on the line so it's very easy for me to say that...

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow, what a game last night!!! Willingham is awesome. I'm lovin' Nyjer more and more with every game. I guess it's just a given now that every game he will go 3 for 4, or 4 for 5 with a stolen base, and great defensive plays. He is so awesome.

MASN is replaying the game this morning!

Posted by: rachel216 | July 28, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

The Hammer terrorized the Nats as a Fish. He is in effect what the team received for trading Rausch. Willingham is young, 3 years I believe from FA, his back seems fine and he's got a great attitude. These are not the guys you let go of for the likes of unproven prospects or Elijah Dukes IMHO.

This season would be SO much different had the bullpen not imploded they way it did. Plus with Nyjer we have a solid leadoff CF that Milledge could only dream about being. We have never had that here in DC. Wilkerson was the closest to this we have ever had. And he had a career year that year.

Finally, I think the team is starting to live up to potential.

Posted by: dand187 | July 28, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Check this out from MLB.com

The Nationals agreed to terms with right-hander Andrew "Dean" Weaver, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Georgia.

Weaver posted a team-leading 10 saves as a junior at Georgia in '09, going 4-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 29 relief appearances. During his three-year collegiate career, Weaver, 21, went 11-6 with 12 saves and tallied a 2.65/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (106 strikeouts/40 walks) in 122 1/3 innings.

With Monday's signing, the Nationals have now agreed to terms with 26 players from the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, including nine of their top 12 picks.

Posted by: dand187 | July 28, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Apparently one less team in the mix for Nick Johnson, the Giants made a move and picked up Ryan Garko from the Indians.

Bottom line; Marrero is not ready, Meat Hook is done and Nick stays for another year.

Hammer is another nice piece to have around. Again no one in the minors will be close to ready for 2010. Willingham is a hired hand at a pretty decent price with enough upside to make a difference on a team that will be much, much better next year.

Dunn on the other hand is your dark-horse bet to be the one to go if the cost of doing buisness is right

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 28, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

>I don't buy all this nonsense about Rizzo being reticent to trade because he's afraid the team will re-enter a spiral. That is ridiculous. Get something for these guys, even if it's a long shot. Get something. Of course it's not my job on the line so it's very easy for me to say that...

Posted by: soundbloke

Read an article on ESPN about how Billy Beane has filled his lineup with a bunch of low average - high OBP guys (which is all you'd probably get for them at best), and they haven't been over .500 in 2 1/2 years. The defensive ratings of these guys are a red herring because they're always being compared to their solo production vs. what they supposedly give up in the field. If they're part of the collective team effort to increase the offense across the board, then there's no way anyone should even bother with a defensive criticism that would even remotely be on a par with what they produce. Willingham wouldn't be responsible for giving up 8 runs in the course of a month and a half, let alone one game. He plays a pretty respectable RF, imo. I don't see anything wrong with it. Who knows how much better the offense will do with Riggleman around. The only reason the defensive question arises is because they haven't scored any runs. When they score runs it'll all disppear. At least it should.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 8:53 AM | Report abuse

That was FUN!
Three in a row. WaHoo. We have had 3 in a row a couple of times but not 4 this year (I think). Come on Jose Morales...

It will be OK to trade the Hammer, but since we have him for 3 more years Rizzo better get someone(s) who are #1 prospects. We can live with his (lack of) defense as we continue to rebuild.

Don't trade Dunn!

Posted by: alm1000 | July 28, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I might have mentioned that I see a different team once Riggleman dropped the Acta morning period crap. I agree with Bruce that a kick in the butt is what was needed and what was given last week. I also see a much more aggressive tone with umpires. Acta never would have even said a word on those check swing calls the other day when Jim got a warning from an Ump "One more Jim and your gone!"......I do not think Acta gets another job as Manager for a very long time.

The real shame here is that it took so long for Nats to do what had to be done. Just like Jimbo being shown the door.....a year late and 5 years of damage to the club and fan base. Yes the Lerner's ARE cheap, but their paralyzed decision making is what really kills the club.

Posted by: JayBeee | July 28, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Win or lose, this team looks sharper under Riggleman. You can't make up the gap for talent, but at least you can play smart error-free baseball and give yourself a chance.

Posted by: Tom8 | July 28, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I agree: that WAS FUN! At least for one night they actually looked, dare I say it, like a real MLB team.

Congrats to the Hammer! That was one for the record books and one we'll always remember. Thanks, we needed that...

Posted by: NatsFly | July 28, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

>I do not think Acta gets another job as Manager for a very long time.

Omar Minaya still has a job. There's still hope. Did you see what that dummy did the other day, challenging that reporter? Man, could you imagine them hiring Acta and the abuse that would follow? I'd buy a subscription to the NY Post just for that.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Or you can read an article on SI about how UZR has revolutionized how teams evaluate worth.

Eight runs over the course of a month is not that much. Look at Morgan. Look I'm not saying these guys don't have worth, in fact it is because they have worth that they should be traded. At this point we should be looking to make any trade that makes us younger and leaner.

The Billy Beane comparison is a little inaccurate in my opinion. Beane is working with small payroll. We have the ability to spend big. Dunn/Willingham don't get much. Willingham/Dunn plus money might have payed dividend.

I say would have because most of our suitors have made deals already.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

>I do not think Acta gets another job as Manager for a very long time.

Omar Minaya still has a job.

----------------------------------------------
Those two sentences side by side made me laugh. I think that may be the most amazing damnation by associations I've ever heard.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

One would think the Angels would be interested in Dunn. They have a lineup of right-handed bats and prospects to trade.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Rotoworld on the Garko trade:

"Giants general manager Brian Sabean has talked about wanting to bring in some offense for weeks now and finally pulled the trigger Monday by sending Single-A pitching prospect Scott Barnes to the Indians for Ryan Garko. San Francisco first basemen are 12th in the league with a .283/.320/.440 line and Garko is a career .283/.355/.450 hitter, so he certainly represents an upgrade offensively.

However, he's far from an elite bat, especially against right-handed pitching, and much of the improvement at the plate will be wiped away by the steep dropoff in defense from Travis Ishikawa to Garko. As a low-key pickup Garko makes sense for the Giants, but the problem is that Barnes is actually a legit prospect, posting a 2.85 ERA and 99/29 K/BB ratio in 98 innings at high Single-A as a 21-year-old.

Cleveland did well to pick him up for a 28-year-old first baseman with a mediocre .805 OPS and poor glove who's about to get fairly expensive via arbitration. Matt LaPorta is the obvious choice to replace Garko and is hitting .306/.386/.541 in 73 games at Triple-A, but for some reason the Indians will keep holding him back in favor of giving Andy Marte one last chance to show that he's not a total bust.

While the Giants pay a premium for slight improvement and the Indians get good value for a spare part, here are some other notes from around baseball …"

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

"The only reason the defensive question arises is because they haven't scored any runs. When they score runs it'll all disppear. At least it should."

That's the fallacy upon which this team was built in the first place. It's a dangerous one. A lot of bad teams are built on the concept we can outscore them.

"A properly placed foot works wonders."

That may be true. I think an important moment came in the fifth when Riggleman took out Stammen when he was one out away from qualifying for the win. I'm not going to go so far as to say Manny wouldn't have done that, but a lot of managers wouldn't have (Macha didn't do it with Suppan last night and got burned for it). I think that move sent a message.

"Win or lose, this team looks sharper under Riggleman."

Personally, I think the real key is Nyjer Morgan. It's a different batting order and fielding alignment with him in there.

"1) Dunn and Willigham are essentially the same guy. Poor in left field, terrible in right field, big bat, big clubhouse personality. You can have one, but both are a luxury. Make a trade. Rizzo has stared at his naval and three potential trade partners vanished. Bad news.

2) Nick Johnson is around for exactly two months. We are going to finish last with him and we are going to finish last without him. Make a trade.

I don't buy all this nonsense about Rizzo being reticent to trade because he's afraid the team will re-enter a spiral. That is ridiculous. Get something for these guys, even if it's a long shot. Get something."

soundbloke, I almost agree with you. I agree that it's dangerous to keep Dunn and Willingham in the outfield at the same time, even with Morgan in between. Of course, if you can get one of them to play 1B....

As for Nick, I think he's gone either way. At this stage of his career, if he finishes the year strong and stays healthy, he'll look for a good contract with a contender.

I, too, would make trades but you can't give these guys away. I think the Indians may have given Garko away (a good A level pitcher for a 28-year old proven hitter?) too cheap. Rizzo probably hoping things will change in the next few days as the deadline nears. There are still teams that look like they're ready to make moves (Philly, Texas, Tampa, San Francisco, maybe the Yankees) so Rizzo's patience may pay off yet.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Thanks dclifer97!

That made me sick. That made me physically sick to read.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I still don't get the trade Willingham talk. A trade makes sense if you can get prospects for a part of your current team that is for some reason not a legit part of its future. Like when they got Mock for Livan a few years ago or Martis for Stanton. Those guys were NOT parts of a future contender. But there is no reason Willingham can't be -- when he plays he hits. And as I said yesterday, I simply do not get the knocks on his defense. He's more than adequate in RF, and if he gives you 30+ HR and hits north of .280, that's a part of a contending team I'd like to have. Certainly more than a prospect who may or may NOT pan out... It's not like Josh is in his mid-30s and/or on the verge of free agency.

Posted by: cdstej | July 28, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"San Francisco first basemen are 12th in the league with a .283/.320/.440 line and Garko is a career .283/.355/.450 hitter, so he certainly represents an upgrade offensively."

Did the RotoWorld guy read that sentence before he published it? Is that really an upgrade?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

He hustles,he is a threat to steal whenever he is on base,a good bunter,can run down mistakes in CF and the gaps,a great attitude and he loves to play the game.Nyjer Morgan is so far the best thing Rizzo has done since comming to DC. I love this kid.

Posted by: dargregmag | July 28, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Well, I think Kung Foo Panda has been locking down some 1B for them. This allows Garko to man 1st and KFP 3rd.

Posted by: dclifer97 | July 28, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

>Look I'm not saying these guys don't have worth, in fact it is because they have worth that they should be traded. At this point we should be looking to make any trade that makes us younger and leaner.

Leaner? Have you seen our position players in the minors? You can't get any leaner than that. You want to watch punch and judy all day? Get real man.
Billy Beane has some good points, no doubt, I like some of the things he advocates, they definitely work. I just think he's reached critical mass with his stat-mongering. You can't be consistently clever and win games, which is what it sounds like you're advocating. Beane's even changed his drafting approach to high school because they have a bigger upside instead of these guys out of college who are closer to majors but already tapped out. That's a big paradigm shift. The grass ain't always greener, sometimes you need a big fat SOB in the middle of the lineup to clear the bases for you, which has been a major problem for us (see Acta's coma-offense, nine hitters in nine different directions). Just like I've said all along, the team is much better than their record, and once they show it, the moves they have to make will be clearer. Because it's hazy right now - they don't know if Gonzalez and Hernandez can step up and be starters, they don't know if Willingham's on the upward curve in his production - Carpy said if Willingham got 600 ABs, he'd have 38 homers. Only thing they know now is that Guzman's dumb as a rock, Kearns is pretty much useless, Willie Harris isn't in the long-term plans except as an occasional utility man, they need Nick at 1B until Marrero shows up, and Bard and Nieves are temporary stopgaps and expendable. The rest of it is speculation because nobody played up to their potential with Acta. Oh, and notice how Zimmerman is golfing the ball out of the park? And he was miserable for about two months. It's all because of Acta, rest assured.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

It surely is NOT all because of Acta but I and say for sure Dunn does not even try to make that sliding catch under Acta knowing Acta's low expectations and constant post game lowering of any MLB expectations for Dunn and his Defense.......That really made me mad! Acta would just say, hey it is Dunn, we do not expect anything from him in the field.....and that is what they got.

Posted by: JayBeee | July 28, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If I recall correctly, Tatis is unique on that list in that he hit both of his grand slams IN THE SAME INNING. Can anyone confirm this?

Posted by: CoachD1 | July 28, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Jaybee,

Manny Acta has been gone for almost a month now. Give it up. Leave it alone already!

Thanks.

Posted by: FloresFan | July 28, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"I and (can?) say for sure Dunn does not even try to make that sliding catch under Acta knowing Acta's low expectations..."

Man, and I thought Kreskin was a great mentalist...

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

JayB,

I agree it's not all because of Acta. What they lacked under Acta though, was a sense of urgency.

That is a term that is tossed around a lot in football but, I think it can used in any sport.

They are playing with a little more intensity and focus than under Acta.

Manny took his calm, no worries, it's a long season act to far and it cost him dearly. The team mirrored that in their play, which was doo doo brown.

On another note, Nyjer Morgan was an absolute steal by Rizzo, this guy is a legit CF and lead off guy, who can cause havoc on the basepaths.

This team now has the CF and lead off guy it has been needing for so long and Rizzo got him for 2 bums in "Gas Can" Hanrahan and "I'm too cool to be on time for team meetings" Milledge.

It's almost criminal.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 28, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Brue,

I think we are not far off agreeing. Firstly your observations about our minor league system is spot on. We have two types of prospects: A long way from ready and AAAA.

I agree that sometimes you need a big bat. Look at Ortiz's effect on the Sox line-up. Remember, what I'm advocating is a trade. We would be getting stuff back for the these guys. And I did say above that you can't have BOTH Dunn and Willigham but, you are right that you do need one of them. Now sure I'm of the blow the line-up up and start again so we'll never see exactly eye to eye but I think having a a slugger is absolutely key.

Thing is Theo Epstein is a massive stat head, and he's done alright by that team.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

One thing I don't understand is the fixation with "who will we have play X position if we trade X player?" sometimes phrased as "we don't have anyone to play X, so you keep X."

NO. 2009 is a lost season. I don't care what stiff you have play first - IF you can get a good return for NJ, you trade him and worry about first later. It's not like this team is going to be in a pennant race in 2010, so don't worry about filling positions, worry about acquiring more talent. The farm system is not deep, the Nats desperately need multiple injections of talent via the draft and trades.

Posted by: Section220 | July 28, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and notice how Zimmerman is golfing the ball out of the park? And he was miserable for about two months. It's all because of Acta, rest assured.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Zimm is golfing it out of the park??? On Sunday he struck out 3 times and went 0 for 5). Last I checked Rigg was the manager on Sunday.

Zimm had one--meaningless--homer yesterday.

I'm not knocking Zimm here, he's on an inconsistency streak, a good game, then a terrible game at the plate. I think he had that 30-game hitting streak when Acta was the manager. Just sayin'

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

"Thing is Theo Epstein is a massive stat head, and he's done alright by that team."

__________________________________________________________

I also helps that he has owners behind him that actually spend money on players (FA's, draft picks, and internationally.)

Just Sayin'

Posted by: Section505203 | July 28, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

@Coach D1, yes, Tatis hit his in the same inning. Mueller is also unique because he hit one from each side.

Posted by: Traveler8 | July 28, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

My opinion--the players make a 10,000 times more difference than the manager, and if the team gets better, give credit to the sparkplug, Nyjer Morgan.

He is hitting way over .300 in a Nats uniform, and a single is as good as a double with him (I love his bunt singles!), and we all know his range in the OF, and a good arm, too. I think everyone on the club is energized by his energy.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 28, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Nats_Lady, you don't understand. On Sunday, Zimm started thinking about how miserable he was under Manny, so he struck out a lot. Yesterday, he remembered how happy he was now and so he hit a home run.

If you haven't figured it out by now, any time somebody does something good, it's because they're happy now that Manny's gone. If they screw up, it's because they haven't figured out how to be happy that Manny's gone or they forget that they're happy that Manny's gone. It has nothing to do with, you know, the actual game itself.

Hope that clears up things for you.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

So JayBeee, let me get this straight.

Last month, Dunn would have been in LF, watching that ball slice toward the line and he would said to himself, "Why bother, Manny doesn't think I could catch it anyway?"

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Well, I can't blame Rizzo because the Lerners are one step above scrotal discharge.

If we agreed to eat salaries in trades we would get much better returns.

Posted by: soundbloke | July 28, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

@baltova: Thanks!! I was just not clear in my mind how that worked.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 28, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, Nats_Lady, it's tricky. If it hadn't been for all of those posts from Brue and JayBeee, I'd have never figured it out myself...

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

No doubt about it. With Acta leading, the Nats were underachievers. "Expected W-L" is 10 games better than the actual record.

Bowden's construction of a team from used parts, combined with Acta's asleep-at-the-wheel driving, put us in this hole.

I'm amazed at how quickly the ship is righting itself. The addition of Morgan -- and Rizzo's no nonsense approach to the 40 man construction -- has made a huge difference. The final kick in the butt from Riggleman is paying off.

Why not keep Dunn, Willingham and Johnson. They're playing well together, and all will last another few years (Johnson might actually want to stay). Get rid of Guzman, Belliard, Kearns. Our fielding problems are mostly up the middle anyway.

Fix the middle infield, focus on the pitching.

This can be a good team.

Posted by: nattydread1 | July 28, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Well, based on the F. Lopez-hate, I guess the Manny-hate will last for a while. But at least Flop was on the field to hate--Manny is a ghost.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 28, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Careful Periculum, when you have your temper tantrums you sound a little nuts dude. My suggestions about some therapy still apply. All I have written is that you be accurate in what you write. There is no need for the filthy and abusive vitriol that you write.

Posted by: WashOut | July 28, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Careful Periculum, when you have your temper tantrums you sound a little nuts dude. My suggestions about some therapy still apply. All I have written is that you be accurate in what you write. There is no need for the filthy and abusive vitriol that you write.

Posted by: WashOut | July 28, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse
+++++++++++++++++++
I don't think he's up yet. he was up until 3am lambasting you...

Posted by: Intrudr | July 28, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Can we talk about baseball here, I mean, y'know, when we're not talking about show business?

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 28, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Now thats funny.

Posted by: WashOut | July 28, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Man, nattydread1, I love your enthusiasm but I can't quite go that far. Just remember, it's Balester, Mock and Martin in the next three games and in three of five for the next few weeks. We still don't know how many starting pitchers we have or need. The latest bullpen patch job is holding for now, but for how long? And the fielding seems to be okay one day, not so great the next.

I keep thinking of that baseball cliche: "You're never as good as you look when you win or as bad as you look when you lose."

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Nats_Lady gets down in the crouch and flashes the sign for a change up. WashOut shakes her off waiting for the signal for high inside heat, a little chin music. Nats_Lady again flashes the sign for a change up. WashOut nods and delivers a called strike three as Periculum goes down looking. Nats_Lady smiles and nods and heads to the dugout; confident in her ability to call the game.

Posted by: Intrudr | July 28, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

So JayBeee, let me get this straight.

Last month, Dunn would have been in LF, watching that ball slice toward the line and he would said to himself, "Why bother, Manny doesn't think I could catch it anyway?"

EXACTLY except if it would have been subconscious. Just as others have said......Acta projected a no worry, not hurry, it is a long season and this year does not matter mind set. Dunn's own personality would have allowed that approach to affect him more than most anyone....and that is exactly how he was playing in the field until this past week when Rigs lit him up in the clubhouse and in the press (not by name).

Posted by: JayBeee | July 28, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The Skipper sets the tone for the crew.

Posted by: Intrudr | July 28, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Tatis not only hit his in one inning, but they were both off the same pitcher - Chan Ho Park.

The three main problems with this team in order of importance:

1. Bad up the middle defense
2. Bad relief pitching
3. So-so starting pitching

Getting Morgan helped with number 1. SS and C are major weak points right now defensively and cost them a lot of wins. A healthy Flores might help, but I'd still like to see a LH hitting catch throw guy to back him up. Bard and Nieves kill them with their receiving and game calling. Guzman, Hernandez, and Gonzalez are average at best. Gonzo should be kept as a back up because he can swing it a bit. I'd vote for finding a very strong defensive SS even if he hits. 230 and bats 8th. They have enough offense otherwise to carry him.

Let's hope the pitching continues to develop, Storen's the real deal, and Starsburg gets signed (and is worth it).

#4

Posted by: db423 | July 28, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

JayBeee, you do remember that Dunn booted a ball earlier in last year's game and was bailed out when he made a good throw to Guzman and they threw out Lopez at home after Lopez stopped running hard before deciding to go for it anyway?

So, what was he thinking then?

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

#4,

You forgot to put "cheap owners" on your list of problems with this team.

That's a biggie that can't be overlooked or denied at this point.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 28, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

A healthy Flores might help, but I'd still like to see a LH hitting catch throw guy to back him up.

#4, do you know who's a good candidate for this? Brian Schneider and I bet he'll be available next year.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

505:

Yeah, but I decided to stay with on-field stuff. I used to roll my eyes at comments like yours, but I'm beginning to think you might be right.

Baltova:

I commented a few days ago that I thought there was a correlation between Schneider being traded and the Nats going from "overachievers" to "lazy bums". I think the guy is a great presence and exactly what they need. Do I wish he could hit more? Yes. But if you don't have Joe Mauer in your system, I'd err on the side of defense behind the plate. My only question is whether he still throws well enough - also maybe his durability. His skills might be in too much decline.

#4

Posted by: db423 | July 28, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

EXACTLY except if it would have been subconscious. Just as others have said......Acta projected a no worry, not hurry, it is a long season and this year does not matter mind set. Dunn's own personality would have allowed that approach to affect him more than most anyone....and that is exactly how he was playing in the field until this past week when Rigs lit him up in the clubhouse and in the press (not by name).

Posted by: JayBeee | July 28, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Ok - but let's not forget that Dunn had back-to-back bobble games last week, and yesterday booted a ball in LF that wasn't an error ONLY b/c FLop stalled before rounding 3rd. Granted, Dunn recovered nicely, but he hasn't turned into a gold glover out there. That said, I still agree that his bat more than makes up for his deficiencies in the field.

Posted by: cdstej | July 28, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I think we won four in a row in June. Hope that Jose Morales can get us there again (Bob did rest him late in the game).

---

Three in a row. WaHoo. We have had 3 in a row a couple of times but not 4 this year (I think). Come on Jose Morales...

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 28, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

#4, I think Schneider would have enough left to be a backup, playing against some righties, with maybe two starts a week. As for going from overachievers to lazy bums when we traded him, remember who we got when we traded him. Just saying.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 28, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Baltova:

Yes, that was not lost on me. I've often wondered whether symbolically, that was an important signal to many in the organization and had a bad affect on morale - one that went beyond simply the addition and subtraction of the players' talent.

#4

Posted by: db423 | July 28, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sure why there are still so many Manny apologists. Sure, he wasn't the whole problem with this team, but he was the easiest cog to replace to see if things improved. Play had deteriorated so badly, there was really no reason not to try that option. As for what Zimmerman is thinking while batting or Dunn while fielding, I'll leave that to the sports shrinks. But there didn't seem to be much sense of urgency on this team. Patience should run thin if your team isn't really that young any more.

Posted by: BrantAlyea | July 28, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

The team has a sports psychologist now, so maybe we can set aside the armchair analysis and leave it to the pro. That said, there are still plenty of opportunities for armchair GMs and armchair managers. ;-)

---

As for what Zimmerman is thinking while batting or Dunn while fielding, I'll leave that to the sports shrinks.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 28, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Baltova

Right. Add Flores to the current line-up and I don't think you're that far away from a .500 team (that has aspirations for a wild card).

Assume Lannan and Zimmermann become regular starters, and Strasburg gets signed. From the rest of the guys coming up through the minors, and the Bally, Martin and Mock crew, there will be 4 & 5 starters.

In short, I think that the team as constructed and managed NOW is a .400 - .450 team. With maturing pitchers and a few carefully selected pieces, the next step is not that far-fetched.

Optimistic? Maybe. Still, the flashes of brilliance this team shows are by no means pure luck.

And its soooo nice to get that panicked feedback from those Brewer fans who look at records and THINK the Nats are the absolute worst.


Posted by: nattydread1 | July 28, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Random Stat of the Day that Makes me Happy: Willingham last night, with two swings of the bat (8 RBI), equaled more than 1/3 of Emilio Bonifacio's RBI total for the year (22).

I was a Board-Certified Bowden Basher, but that trade was a good one.

Posted by: Bethesdangit | July 28, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

new post.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 28, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

>So JayBeee, let me get this straight.

Last month, Dunn would have been in LF, watching that ball slice toward the line and he would said to himself, "Why bother, Manny doesn't think I could catch it anyway?"

No, Acta would have had him a couple of steps out of position and he never would have gotten to the ball.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

>Thing is Theo Epstein is a massive stat head, and he's done alright by that team.

Posted by: soundbloke

Yeah, that article I referenced also specifically called out Epstein because he was NOT using the moneyball value theory. They have so much money that they don't have to sacrifice certain skills in order to afford a high OBP guy, etc. I get the whole thing with the Ivy League MBA's. Ain't no dinosaur. In the article, it even mentioned that Bill James, who has worked with the Red Sox for about 7 years has backed off on his position that a seasoned scout, vs. a geek who never played is essential when collecting data. The geeks are for assimilating the data after it's collected.

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

>Zimm is golfing it out of the park??? On Sunday he struck out 3 times and went 0 for 5). Last I checked Rigg was the manager on Sunday.

Zimm had one--meaningless--homer yesterday.


I guess the engagement is off?

Posted by: Brue | July 28, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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