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Nats (Again) Helpless at the Plate

Jim Riggleman spoke in his measured cadence and tried to find a word to sum up his feelings about the Washington Nationals' latest display of offensive futility. Disappointed, perhaps, or maybe frustrated.

"I can remember thinking I don't even want to use those words," Riggleman said. "It projects negative stuff."

But the second night of Riggleman's tenure as Washington's interim manager did not look much better than the first. The Nationals continued to look helpless at the plate and lost, 3-1, last night to the Chicago Cubs before a crowd of 27,581 at Nationals Park.

Washington struck out 12 times, went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and scored its only run on a walk. Although the Nationals (26-63) loaded the bases in the first inning, they failed to flex any offensive power against Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano (6-4), who rebounded to keep Washington at bay for the remainder of his outing. He gave up four hits and no earned runs with six strikeouts and four walks in five innings.

There were two bright spots, in particular, for Washington. Center fielder Nyjer Morgan continued his hot play since joining the Nationals, going 3 for 5 and providing a spark on the base paths. And Washington's maligned bullpen did give away the lead - but then, the Nationals did not have a late advantage to waste.

Zambrano, who has hit share of homer runs over Wrigley Field's ivy-covered walls, drove a hanging curveball for a two-run double in the second. Zambrano was batting .238 for his career entering last night's game.

In the third inning, Chicago's Aramis Ramirez blasted his fifth home run of the season on a low fastball. He sent the pitch over the wall in left field, and then he held a pose for a moment as he admired his handiwork before dropping his bat.

Washington starter Craig Stammen (2-5) was not particularly crisp, but battled in tough spots and faced the minimum three batters in three innings. Those mistakes in the second and third innings ended making the difference. Over six innings, Stammen allowed three runs on six hits with two strikeouts and one walk.

Washington's only run came in the first inning. With two outs, the Nationals loaded the bases but emerged with little to show for it. They can thank Zambrano, who walked Willie Harris on five pitches to score Nick Johnson, for their lone tally on the scoreboard.

Morgan led off with a single and stole second base, but then was thrown out trying to steal third to complete a 1-2-5 double play as Ryan Zimmerman struck out. Later in the inning, Adam Dunn was intentionally walked. Then Josh Willingham reached on an error after shortstop Ryan Theriot booted his routine ground ball. Harris almost provided a spark, hooking a deep shot just foul for what would have been a grand slam.

Later, the Nationals wasted their opportunities to chase Zambrano out of the game when his pitch count had already soared by the third and fourth innings.

By Mark Viera  |  July 17, 2009; 11:21 PM ET
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Next: Bard Has Day Off


It is pretty pathetic when their pitcher has a better batting average than your corner outfielder...

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | July 17, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Even our own Stammen has a better batting average than him.

was talking about Kearns today. i really feel bad for the guy.

i saw the replay of those back-to-back home runs against houston the other day and when those guys came back in the dugout, kearns looked purely, genuinely happy for them, even though he's probably hating life right now. i thought that was awesome.


Posted by: NatsNut | July 18, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse


Referring to the fans, Beimel said: "I've been kind of shocked no one gives you a hard time around here. Maybe they just don't care enough."

Posted by: MrMadison | July 18, 2009 12:49 AM | Report abuse

So Beimel thinks we don't care about losing.

It makes the think back to the scene in "The Best Years of Our Lives'' when the guy with no hands (sorry, I know he won an Oscar) is talking to the jerk at the lunch counter. You know the scene: Dana Andrews jumps the counter and belts him.

Take that, Beimel, and get out of town.

Posted by: nats24 | July 18, 2009 2:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm shocked to say this, but they have looked worse so far under Riggleman. More mental mistakes, poor defense and head scratching base running mistakes.

I wonder if the Nationals front office is still patting themselves on the back for a) selecting Ryan Zimmerman in the draft and b) locking him up long term. The guy is the worse situational hitter in baseball as he showed (again) tonight not being able to execute a hit and run properly resulting in a double play (strike'm out/throw'em out) and leaving 5 men on base. It's even worse knowing the guy in the draft that they passed on to get him...Ryan Braun, who came off the board with the next pick.

Posted by: d-35 | July 18, 2009 2:13 AM | Report abuse

I saw that, too, NatsNut.

Yes, if only the Nats had better fans, they'd be winners. The organization is in tip-top shape otherwise. Uh-huh.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 18, 2009 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Plus, weren't they supposed to reel off nine wins in a row as with the Rockies? Oops.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 18, 2009 6:35 AM | Report abuse

It's quite evident that firing Manny was just another ploy by the front office to try to take a little heat off themselves ,a manager can not make these misfits play better and if this club seriously intends to compete in this game a new strategy has to be put in place a manager can only manage what he has to work with ,it's a shame they used Manny as a scapegoat

Posted by: kjmoon | July 18, 2009 6:55 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully when some moves are made, things will improve. Morgan has made a difference, perhaps some new blood will help as well. Kearns is providing nothing so they're essentially playing one man short.

Posted by: derwink | July 18, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

Fire Riggleman.

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm thinking that they are going to try to move some of us for prospects before the deadline :)
Yes, if only the Nats had better fans, they'd be winners. The organization is in tip-top shape otherwise. Uh-huh.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 18, 2009 6:35 AM |

Posted by: lowcountry | July 18, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

The next blue moon is December 31, 2009 (Happy New Year's Eve). There are no blue moons in 2010.

Things not looking good for the Nats, who, as another poster remarked, win once in a blue moon.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

Apparently Willie Harris said he doesn't lose sleep when the Nats lose, he loses sleep when his mother is sick--provoking a really hostile response from the internetters.

Me, I think that man has his priorities straight. It's a game, people. We are losing the game, and laughing, because if you don't laugh you will cry, but in the end it's a game. And, to Willie's mom: "Stay Well, you got a good man there and a he**uva baseball PLAYer."

(Re-hire Manny.)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

So it really looks like we are fans of not a baseball team but a punchline, an icon of losing.

But the players not caring AT ALL. That is a surprise.

I do agree with Beimel that we have not shown the players and management any REAL displeasure. A lot talk after the fact but nothing when it may make a real impact.

And I agree with the observation that if this were another city such as Philly dealing with a team like the Nays, the heat from those fans would turn the field brown in color. And yes that have had some really bad teams in the past and they had periods when they came dressed as seats.

But man did they let their displeasure be known.

Posted by: CBinDC | July 18, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

kj - you hit the nail on the head. I enjoy your posts, and wish we could get more in-depth reporting on the ownership decisions that lead to the shameful scapegoating of Manny Acta. We get glimpses. Last year, the story on CBS Sportsw that hotels hated to deal with the team because they were so slow paying their bills. Scouts did not want to work for them because Theodore Lerner would not approve their meal expenses. What free agents were recommended by the baseball people and refused by Theodore Lerner because their salaries were "insane" (to quote Theodore Lerner from the December 2006 winter meetings?) Who could and should be on our team? How has it come to this? I know that Manny was not even consulted before Dmitry Young's $10M deal. Are the spasms of minor largesse - $8M to Guzman, $10M to Dunn (minor in MLB terms) -the whim of the owners? Is the failure to sign Aaron Crowe the result of Theodore Lerner's battle to reduce "insane" salaries? Boswell, who seems to have some influence, called for them to sign Orlando Hudson at second. He has the same fielding and hitting stats as Zimmerman (without the errors) and could be taking a lot of pressure off of .300 hitting shortstop. He is a wonderfuld clubhouse presence. Why didn't the team make a run at Aaron Rowand at center? Ozzie Guillen credits Rowand as being one of the keys to the White Sox winning the World Series. He did not like the trade for Thome. He was revered in Philadelphia. Can you imagine the Nats playing the Phils with Rowand in center field? This doesn't seem to require Woodward and Bernstein. It's sports. There would seem to be a lot of people who would talk to the Post about this. Instead, we have the Post's dean of baseball, Tom Boswell, leading the mob to fire Manny - anything to draw the ire of the fan away from Theodore Lerner, who rules this franchise with an iron hand. Is he as rich as we are told? The Post has Benyamin Appelbaum and some of the best financial reporters in the country. Has the economic disaster undone the Lerners? No one has asked this question. It's important. We need to know whether we will be condemned to years of poor baseball because of poor ownership.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Can we get those seat-costumes?

Seriously, too much fan displeasure and hello, Nashville.

Take it, or it will leave you.

(Re-hire Manny)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I would say that the Willie Harris standard applied to other high profile professions people would go batsh*t.

Imagine doctors with a well so you loose a few patients not as if my mothers sick.

Or a less life death profession such as actor where after a run of bad plays would say, HEY it is just a play not like my mothers sick.

Yes it is a game but they are well paid to play this game and so I expect more passion about the outcomes then that of a Little T-Ball League.

I say that if this REALLY how Willie and the others feel then they are cheating and without steroids.

TRADE them all but keep Beimel he really has the only passion in this band of misfits on the island misfit thoughts and deeds.

Posted by: CBinDC | July 18, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie: answer, I think, is yes, we are condemned, thank you Mr. Selig, to years of poor--and cheap--baseball ownership. The Cubs were the laughingstock of baseball not for years, but for decades.

You can "vote with your feet" and then you take the chance that MLB will say good-bye to DC (again) as soon as the stadium contract expires.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Flynnie2, if you hit the "Enter" key on your computer, it creates a new paragraph in your post ... just sayin'.

Just give Riggleman a little time, and he too will get this team playing .300 baseball. Have a little faith.

Posted by: Section222 | July 18, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Willie not losing sleep isn't what bothers me.

I tell my students you CANNOT MAKE SO MANY MISTAKES. If you are a doctor, and you make one mistake, you chopped off the wrong leg. If you are a pilot and you make one mistake, you flew to the wrong city (or worse).

Bank tellers get fired if they make mistakes in their inventory. You CAN play error-less ball, or pretty close to it.

If the Nats do one thing this year for me, it's CLEAN UP THE ERRORS. You can do that without hiring or firing anyone, you can do that without a big payroll, you can do that without a phenom pitcher. Simply, PAY ATTENTION. Get enough sleep at night :) :) and PAY ATTENTION.

End of rant.

(Rehire Manny)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Nats_lady : really don't buy that one about leaving they are here at least for 30 years.
MLB has no other cities for anybody to move to now. The Marlins had no takers on their threat to move.
And the history on the past teams moves is so distorted over the years that the reasons only a few really know the true story. Boswell is one.

Posted by: CBinDC | July 18, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

So if we're stuck with them for 30 years, do we get to walk the Appalachian Trail? Have a little affair with the Caps on the side...?

What do you suggest as a "fan revolt"?

(Rehire Manny)

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


I always thought the Dmitri signing was right from the Lerner playbook, not from JimBo. I think the reasoning was, "Let's give the fans a guy they like for $5 million a year. Dmitri will be our star and show them we are trying. This way we won't have to pay out a real MLB salary to a legitimate star."

I wonder if everyone fully takes in the fact that the biggest money guy the Nats have ever, under the Lerners, received in a trade wash Josh Willingham at $2.95 million? That's pathetic and amazing. Sure, Josh is doing a nice job, but why should he be the very costliest of all?

Under the Lerners, the Nats have only signed one free agent, Dunn, for MLB free agent money. Count 'em: one. And please try to name some teams over the past three years where your costliest free agent only cost $20 million.

And then add to it skimping on the draft, with the lower-rated under-slot guys jumping up several notches in projected draft position because they are "signable" (which means "cheap). This compromises the future.

Does anyone have a feel for Mark Lerner? Is he as bad as Teddy? Years ago, Clark Griffith, who owned the Senators, was the cheapest owner around. When his son Calvin took over, there was some hope that he would be better, but Calvin was as bad or worse than Clark. I wish Ted a long and happy life, but I'm just asking....

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Nats_lady: Well I guess I could throw out this and that but until we reach the tipping point on what we are angry or if even we are angry about it would be waste right now, BUT I will think about it this weekend I am planning on being at CITI-field DC branch on Monday. Maybe we do a throw the MET fans on to Half street or toss our cookies but with real cookies ...whoops I thought didn't have time to brainstorm this..LOL

Posted by: CBinDC | July 18, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

in pregame last night, Ray Knight said to see how the team does in the first month under Riggleman, that it will take a little time for him to right the ship.
I grew up a Nats/Senators fan and learned patience early. I know it's hard to watch this team play now, but I believe they will get better. Two weeks to trade deadline, let's see what happens.

Posted by: gengreen17 | July 18, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Nats are on pace to lose 115 this season. That can reduce the fan enthusiasm a little.

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

@gengreen17: Patience not the problem. Wouldn't have my job if I were not a very patient person.

Just, nothing I've seen so far about Riggleman, or seeing him on TV, has made me think he's a really smart guy or that he will be able to take this group of players and coach them/discpline them/inspire them into mediocrity.

He strikes me as a loser hired to manage out the season because you had to have someone with that title, and baseball culture says, "fire the manager" so Manny had to go. I agree with some bloggers/podcasters who said, why not bring up one of the minor-league managers, give him a chance, it couldn't be worse.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

OK, less enthusiasm. Should I consider selling my soul (cf. Da** Yankees)?

(Rehire Manny)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I turned down free club seats for the weekend. I suspect that I'm not the only one who is thinking, "Not one more nickel of mine, Mr. Lerner! No sir!"

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Yea, it's a mess out there. It's not even a team right now, just a bunch of guys showing up to play and to get the season over with...the Lerners are learning the hard way...

Posted by: bromisky | July 18, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

as for me, i'm over all the outrage. what good is it doing anyone? they just didn't play that bad last night and i'm still enjoying going to games.

i'm also very glad willie has a little perspective. it would freak me out a little if there were alot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by the players.

yesterday was my first live game without manny and it really sunk in that he's no longer the man. it bummed me out way more than i expected.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 18, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Yea, it's a mess out there. It's not even a team right now, just a bunch of guys showing up to play and to get the season over with...the Lerners are learning the hard way...

Posted by: bromisky |

It happens. It's like being in a show that has already been cancelled. You are getting paid, and there are people watching, so, I guess that's some form of entertainment.

I did enjoy Dunn's big grin when he caught that ball last night.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

EdDC - the old Senators had a joke. "Who invented swimming?" "Calvin Griffith, the first time he came to a toll bridge."

You break down the sorry history of the Lerner's ownership very well.

I'm going to watch the British Open on ABC. Now that I don't have Manny to root for, I can turn my attention to Tom Watson - another great guy.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

NN, I am so with you. Go out and enjoy the sunshine, might be a long evening.

(Rehire Manny)

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Its been tough to swallow the season thus far. Zimm fanning twice in crucial spots last night was extremely frustrating. I'm with you flynnie, gonna turn to the other T.W. and pull for him to win the B.O. That should divert me from the Nats for a few hours, but I'll be back in front of the tube at 7:05 tonight, hoping for different results. Real fans never give up.

Posted by: cokedispatch | July 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I'm not sure that we want to emulate NY and Philly fans. That is not something I have ever aspired too. Perhaps someone should just direct Beimel to NJ - I'm sure he would feel better after a day spent with us.

Posted by: lowcountry | July 18, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

EdDC - the old Senators had a joke. "Who invented swimming?" "Calvin Griffith, the first time he came to a toll bridge."

Posted by: flynnie2

flynnie, thats great. thanks. also, I didn't know about hotels not wanting to deal with the nats, after being slow-paid.


Posted by: MalcolmYoung | July 18, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I support the Re-hire Manny Movement. Seriously. He was not the problem. When Manny is re-hired, here is a suggested statement for the Lerners to the fans:

"We are sorry we tried to get away with firing Manny. We did it as a means to distract you from the product we put out there this season and last. So it was wrong. It is our job to invest at an MLB level. We will bring in young and talented players we can build with. We will invest in the club least least as much as an average MLB club does, and we promise to reach the average MLB level of investment in the Nats within a year or two at the most. Eventually we will even invest at a higher-than-average MLB level, since our DC region is significantly richer and larger than the average MLB region. This is a firm promise we are making today to our fans. Manny, we apologize for firing you, and welcome back. Please accept a small raise in salary to help compensate you for the anguish we put you through."

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

coke, lowcountry - If Tom Watson can't win it, the kid from Fairfax is a very likeable alternative.

As far as pulling for the Nats, I'm glad you still can. Caring about a team is the only thing that a team can give a fan. I'm having trouble wanting to see the Lerners rewarded for firing Manny.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Hear, hear, EdDC!

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Don't know if this has been previously posted, but here is Baseball Prospectus suggestion as to what the Nats should do going forward...

The Nats obviously are done for this season and probably for the next. Their path actually is shockingly straightforward: Secure (then unleash) talented leadership and give it the freedom to build up the entire organization. Sign Stephen Strasburg already. Prepare to deal Nick Johnson and Josh Willingham at the very least. Renege on pledges not to trade Adam Dunn -- he's under contract for only one more season, and you can put the $12 million you would have given him in his last year toward a deeper roster. Pay Austin Kearns his $1 million buyout for 2010 and finally let him go -- no team can win with a corner outfielder who has hit .210/.317/.316 over his past 151 games. Start offering two-for-one specials to most home games, and hope you make up the lost ticket revenue in beer sales. It's going to be a long road back to respectability.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Shame on us for not holding the Lerners feet to the fire.

Shame on the local sports media for treating the Nats as a minor distraction between Redskin seasons.

Shame on the players who are know they are getting a free pass and expressing it in more ways then one.

Shame on everyone who is just happy to have a team and enjoy going to the park.

Shame on the STH's like myself who have shelled out countless $$$$ over the past 5 years for a chance to be entertained by a band of roving misfits.

If you happy and you know it, clap your hands. If your not do what "baseball" fans in NY, Philly, and Boston would be doing stop paying the freight and start demanding accountability.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 18, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Knight pretty much nailed it on the postgame, they're not hitters, they're just swingers - they never try to hit the ball back up the box to get out of a slump, their swings are far too large, they never adjust to hitting with two strikes, etc. He talked about how Kearns had a much shorter, sharper stroke when he was with Cincy, and now he basically called him useless. This stuff has been going on the entire time Acta has been here, and it's not about to change now. If it takes you a year or two to get into a bad habit, common sense tells you it won't be fixed in a short amount of time. This whole thing is on Acta, and it's on the front office for keeping him around so long. It's set the organization back a couple of years, now they can't get anything for their hitters because they don't produce. Sure, they have decent averages, but what good is a Nick Johnson who only hits singles with nobody on base? Same thing with Guzman. Nobody needs that. The organization is culpable because the retreads and wannabes they use for filler on the big league roster don't have to produce because there isn't a single hitting prospect ready to threaten someone for a big league job. They're in deep trouble. Zimmerman is so traumatized by having to be a leader in an organization that has none, he can't even throw the ball to first base. You never saw him all freaked out with his throwing with Frank as manager, that's because he was an ex-superstar that carried some of the weight of the franchise, whereas Acta carried none. He simply dumped it on the players and stood there like a statue. I mean, Johnson and Guzman are .300 hitters and nobody wants them in a trade. At least, they shouldn't. So any hope of getting something decent other than a salary dump is almost out of the question. The whole thing is incredibly screwed up. 26-63. I still can't believe this record. There's no way you get that bad without help.

Posted by: Brue | July 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Thom Loverro, August 29, 2008

The Nationals have gained a reputation throughout the game of being difficult to deal with when it comes to money, with reports of delayed payments for the smallest of items and micro-managing financial decisions. The atmosphere inside Nationals Park is one of despair and resignation, not hope and excitement. . .

The decisions and operations of this franchise do not mesh with the track record of a sports executive who ran what was considered the model organization in baseball for years, the Atlanta Braves. Between the Braves and the NBA's Hawks, he helped them to 30 postseason appearances.

No, the fingerprints that are all over this franchise now are those of amateurs - the Lerners.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Wow Brue, your spot on! BTW the Nick Johnson trade talks in Boston, NY and even in SF has all but dried up. Amazing!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | July 18, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse


I don't know how old you are, but some nights watching this team flail away reminds me of the Sievers, Lemon, Killebrew, Allison swing-and-missers of the 1959 Nats. That team hit 163 HR but only scored 619 runs because of a team OBP of .308. The team had a .379 slugging percentage despite all of the homers because it hit only 10 more doubles than HRs and had 517 walks vs. 881 Ks. There is truly a difference between a .lineup of swingers as opposed to having guys who can hit.

Posted by: leetee1955 | July 18, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

flynnie2, please clarify:

Are you saying it wasn't JimBo's fault that the Nats only brought in low-priced talent?

Are you saying that Stan Kasten, when he came to the Nats, didn't become a different strategist than he was as Atlanta's president? Maybe Stan is just not being listened to?

Are you saying the Nats problems ran more deeply than Manny's refusal to kick dirt on umpires for their bad calls?

Are you saying that Austin Kearns is not responsible for this mess?

Are you saying that skimping on the draft could be a problem down the road, and that maybe the Nats do not have an embarrassing surplus of young talent after all?

Are you saying that the relief corps' problems were not caused by Randy St. Claire, who advised his pitchers to throw balls off the plate?

Are you saying there is some sort of "correlation" between the amount the owners invest in a club's talent and the club's performance on the field?

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

As terrible as the nats are, at least they seem to exhaust the full potential of their soon to be free agents. mlbtraderumors says that the mets are going to release Redding. When I think about the free agents that have left which have continued success. Certainly not Wilkerson, Livan, or Loaiza, or Shawn Hill, or Ayala, or Rauch, or Cordero, or Redding, Soriano, or Church, Ramon Ortiz, or Odalis Perez. The Nats front office seems to relatively know how to maximize their retreads (except for Dimitri or Belliard). So I say take whatever low A prospect we can get for Guzman, Johnson, Kearns, Bard, Beimel, and Dukes.
Only Beimel & Bard may give Type B consideration in draft pick comp. So lets eat the salary and take anybody.

Posted by: wrw0601 | July 18, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

EdDC, Flynnie, and Tippy,

Keep pounding on the Lerner's, I know I will. They are cheap and they are the ones that are ultimitely responsible for this Mickey Mouse BS we are seeing night in and night out.

I respect fans like NatsNut who go to the games and are just happy to be at the ballpark, I tend to me one of those myself.

(Going with your dad and two kids most of the time tends to take the edge off.)

But, the Lerner's need to be held accountable and the more we squawk hopefully the more the sorry media in this town will take notice. They need to ask the tough questions to these cheapasses.

Right now, they can hide under there desks or in their piles of money, and not have to answer any questions as to why they are running this franchise like it's in a small market and not in a large market.

If this were Philly, NY, or Boston the owners would be routinely challenged in the media as to their cheap ways.

I'm begging folks at the Post to start asking the tough questions....For the love of Pete.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris certainly should care more about his mother’s health than the sorry state of the Nationals. No one would deny that but, HS, what an absolutely stupid thing to say in this context. This is not reality this is escapism. Same thing goes for Mr. non-throwing Zimmerman. Can’t they, at least, pretend that this stuff matters! Did Lee Elia really believe what he said about Cubs fans in his 1983 press conference rant? Of course not but he displayed some passion, misplaced as it might have been, that is clearly lacking in this bunch.

Posted by: charlie814 | July 18, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I don't find the business of baseball nearly as interesting as, you know, baseball, so I'm gonna say two things and shut up:

1. Major League Baseball is a union shop, wherein the less experienced employees tend to get paid less than those with more service time. Even an objectively better young player often gets paid much less than a marginal veteran. So when a team is attempting to build by using less experienced players, it will naturally have a lower payroll, disirregardless of whether the low payroll was the intent. What I'm saying is, a low payroll can be positively correlated with losses, but as an ancillary effect rather than as a cause.

(1b. I leave it to you to decide whether the Nats are building well. Lots of room for criticism here.)

2. At least since Roman times, it has been part of the fans' job to think their favorite team's owners are cheap or idiotic, preferably both. So I'm not asking anyone to take their complaints and go home, or anything like that. Do keep up the pressure. Just don't be surprised if I think you're wrong.

(2b. I know you don't care if I think you're wrong.)

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 18, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and what did Willie Harris actually *say*, or where can I find it? All I've noticed here is characterizations or paraphrases.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 18, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

To Brue - Nick J has great value as a .400 OBP guy who takes a lot of pitches. He's an excellent 2 hole batter on a winning team. Heck, he's an excellent 2 hole batter on a terrible team.
To 505203 - Apathy isn't exactly a bad way to hold the Lerners accountable. Empty seats are lost dollars. Haven't researched the length of the MASN contract, but the renegotiation is going to be ugly. MASN's getting a raw deal for what they're paying the team.
To Nats Lady - yeah, sometimes you just need a hike.

Posted by: utec | July 18, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse


To your point #2. Building with young players, as a cause for a lower payroll.

That is a valid point.

My issue with that statement however, is that they are not spending near enough money on even more young talent. Their not signing 1st rounders, they are drafting for signability rather than best overall talent at that slot, and bascially doing nothing in the international market.

And finally, an organization can certainly sign a fair number of solid FA's to make the organization competitive. That way the young talent doesn't feel the pressue and can develop by learning from these vets and can also learn in the minors and not be rushed to the big leagues.

IMO, this "Plan" is an excuse for running this franchise on the cheap so, that the Lerner's can squeeze every ounce of profit from it.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

From Paul Schwartaman's article "In The Cellar With No Ladder In Sight" in the 07/18/09 WaPo

"Before the game, down in their clubhouse, the Nats did their usual ballplayer things, dressing and watching TV and kibitzing. Willie Harris, a utility player, sang along with Michael Jackson and dismissed the notion that a losing season could dampen his mood: "I'm not going to lose sleep because I lost a ballgame. I lose sleep when my mother's sick."

He turned to Zimmerman and said, "Hey, Zim, do you get bummed out if we lose?"

Not after he leaves the ballpark, the third baseman replied.

Sitting at his locker, Joe Beimel, a relief pitcher, acknowledged that losing can make it tough to get excited about going to work. "I keep saying it can't get any worse, and then something happens," he said. Referring to the fans, Beimel said: "I've been kind of shocked no one gives you a hard time around here. Maybe they just don't care enough."

Posted by: charlie814 | July 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse


Trust me, I will being watching the rest of this season and the offseason very closely. If the Lerner's don't spend money on Strasburg and on FA's in the offseason then my dad and I will not re-new our 4 seat 20 gamer we have had since 2005.

If the cheap Lerner's won't spend their money why the heck should I.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scooter_


LOL. nice one.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 18, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Willie Harris is doing his part to keep the Nats relevant and newsworthy in the 24/7 Michael Jackson news cycle that never ends by making "Rock With You" from the album "Off the Wall" his new at-bat song.

Posted by: ericp331 | July 18, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

>To Brue - Nick J has great value as a .400 OBP guy who takes a lot of pitches. He's an excellent 2 hole batter on a winning team. Heck, he's an excellent 2 hole batter on a terrible team.

In other words, he's a decent second baseman. If you play first base, then you need to factor in all the power and run production he costs a team. He's not a particularly good first baseman defensively anymore since his leg was broken, and as the season goes on, the weaker he gets. You lose production with him on the basepaths because he's slower than most #2 hitters also, because he runs like a first baseman. He's useless as a DH. He's untradeable. We'll never get any better until Dunn moves to first and another power hitter is added in left.

Posted by: Brue | July 18, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse


By the way, I have noticed Periculum's personal attacks on you lately and I find them repulsive.

You have the support of the vast majority of he folks on this blog for the nice person you are and the enthusiasm and knowledge you bring.

Please don't take what this numskull says personally. All you have to do is consider the source.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

For what little it's woth, 505203, I wouldn't say that the team doesn't sign its first-round draft picks. I'd prefer to have more than 3* data points. There's lots of valid stuff in there, though.

On Harris, a sick mother is of course more important. Can't say as I'd mind him losing a little sleep over his team being stinkriffic, though.

* It is 3, right? They were in charge of signing in 2006?

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 18, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I would get fired from my job if I lost my temper and showed it.

Immediately. No two weeks notice, nada.

That doesn't mean I don't care.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

A good director makes a big difference in a show. But if you are waiting for a director to make you a good singer, you will have a LONG wait.

If they hire lousy singers, you are not going to have a good show, no matter who the director is. If you have cheap scenery and bad musicians in the pit, you are going to have a lousy show.

It seems to me that a baseball manager is like the director in a show, he cannot overcome lousy casting, or cheap producers. Period.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

@505, thanks very much. awesome of you to say so.

Posted by: NatsNut | July 18, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

>It seems to me that a baseball manager is like the director in a show, he cannot overcome lousy casting, or cheap producers. Period.

Posted by: Nats_Lady

Statistically, throughout the last 150 years in baseball, it is virtually impossible for a big league team to have a record this bad unless outside factors contribute. All the guys they've picked up have had some success in other places, yet when they get here, their fundamentals, skills, concentration and preparation deteriorate. Willie Harris was a key member of a World Series team. Austin Kearns was hitting 20-25 homers a year. Guzman played on several playoff teams. Belliard played on great Cleveland teams. Nick Johnson was a highly respected Yankees prospect who was traded for some real value. You better damn well believe that nobody has a plan with a stick in their hand on this team, and that's the manager's fault. A high school team would know more about an opposing pitcher than this team seems to. It's a disgrace. And now their performance has slipped so badly that they can't even trade these guys because they're so used to giving a nominal effort. You don't think the other GMs can't see the lack of effort and turn away from the headache it would be to try to fix these guys? You watch - they'll try to peddle some of these guys and they won't get a damned thing for them because they're all head cases after three years of not being coached worth a damn. See my comment on Zimmmerman not being able to throw to first - you think that's a lack of talent? Of course not. It's mental. All major leaguers have the physical talent. They wouldn't be there if they didn't. And THAT'S the manager's job - to have these guys mentally prepared to play, and this team is so far from being ready to play it sucks the air out of the stadium. And that's why they can't draw flies, because everyone knows it. 26-63 is indefensible.

Posted by: Brue | July 18, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Why is anyone shocked? Riggleman is a placeholder.

Firing Manny was necessary, regardless of how much you love his smile and regardless of how wonderful a person he was. He wasn't a good Manager. He was doing his job poorly. When people do their jobs poorly, they get fired. He's gone. Get over it, or wait until he gets another managing job and become a fan of whatever team hires him, since you love him so much.

the problem here is, Riggleman isn't a long term solution. He is here to ride out the season, and we're gonna start from scratch next year.

Which is exactly what needs to be done.

This team needs to be blown up and rebuilt, from top (GM, Manager) to bottom (Players). With a clear focus and plan in regards to how the team is constructed and with a clear development philosophy that extends from the Majors all the way down to Rookie Ball, as opposed to the haphazard way it is built now.

The team destruction has already started, with Milledge, Hanrahan, Wells, Colome, etc. and Acta and St. Claire. It should continue for the rest of the season.

(don't re-hire Manny, he's not a good manager, regardless of how many NJ posters have a crush on him.)

Posted by: MrMadison | July 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

at least Riggleman has the team now actively working on team defense.

Which is something that Manny never thought was necessary.

and when the team makes a quadrillion errors, everyone wonders why, and Manny just shrugs his shoulders.

(Don't Re-hire Manny, He's not a good Manager.)

Posted by: MrMadison | July 18, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr. M,

I agree that the "team needs to be blown up and rebuilt, from top (GM, Manager) to bottom (Players)."

But don't leave out the fact that the Lerner's need to also start spending some money to be able to do that effectively.

If they do the rebuilding on the cheap, then we are will be not much better than before the blow up.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Brue = I've always been in nick's corner, even though I might be have the most "trade Nick" posts here and But I'll have to say he has more tarnish now than in May and early June when the trade rumors were hottest. His power has dropped from 2006, and while I'm in the "OBP is 1.8X as valuable as SLG" camp in general, you are right that the corners are where you need pop to make up for smaller, quicker players that have to play up the middle. I still think he has value to a contender who has a starter go down because the OBP and working the count helps in a good line up. But I think his market smaller than I thought it was. Not getting a deal done with the Red Sox or Mets in May may haunt us.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | July 18, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

So, is reporting that Olsen is a "no-go" on Monday as well (strained lat muscle). Here's a quiz for all of you.

Will the team: a) place him on the DL-15 & call up Balester, b) place him on the DL-15 & recall Detwiler, c) place him on the DL-15 & select Martin, or d) call him "day-to-day" & try to pitch around his start using bullpen pitchers.
I'd personally hope for either a) or c), but it will probably be d).

Posted by: BinM | July 18, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

the Cheap Lerners are terrible owners, but at least the Cheap Lerners aren't asking their star players to take pay cuts....

Posted by: MrMadison | July 18, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I recall earlier in the season, everyone was lamenting the fact that we didn't re-sign Tim (Vindicator) Redding.

looks like we'll get another chance. the Mets are about to release him, since he has a 7.22 ERA in 52.1 innings.

Posted by: MrMadison | July 18, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

"the Cheap Lerners are terrible owners, but at least the Cheap Lerners aren't asking their star players to take pay cuts...."


Nothing would surprise me with these guys at this point.

Posted by: Section505203 | July 18, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

>But I think his market smaller than I thought it was. Not getting a deal done with the Red Sox or Mets in May may haunt us.

Man, if the Mets don't want him, we're in trouble. Because they need anybody that can even vaguely hit. They just picked up Franceour. They could put Nick in right and get more out of him than him. That guy's out of control. You're right - he does have value to a contender, even if it's off the bench, because he damn sure could be a great pinch hitter and spot starter. His swing never changes, which is what you need to come off the bench.

Posted by: Brue | July 18, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse


so, zimmerman is still mediocre only because of Acta?

thats probably why he only hits .285 and 25 HR's per year

because, of course, hitting is "all mental"


please. get over it. you got your wish, Acta's gone

now please try to solve the mediocrity of this team by twiddling with the batting order and having some fantasy GM trades.

good lord.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | July 18, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Nats fans can take some comfort that our team invests more in the players than does Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is cheaper! Pittsburgh's region is much smaller than DC's region (5.4 million for DC compared to 2.4 million for Pittsburgh's region). Still, it is nice to have a franchise that is cheaper than the Nats. Makes us feel better.

Of course, Milwaukee, KC, Cincinnati, Twins, Oakland, Tampa Bay (along with 20 others) make a greater commitment than do the Nats to the on-field product. These are relatively small regions, compared to the economic power and population of our region.

So we should not feel too smug by beating out Pittsburgh in the who-is-cheaper contest. After all, the Pirates win more games than the Nats do.

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

pittsburgh may have the only front office more idiotic than DC.

I keep being shocked by how many good or great outfielders they trade away - with nothing in return.

other terrible front offices

texas rangers (overspend on bad contracts)
arizona (spending like $45 million on contracts for people that aren't there)

dc fo is bad though. but please don't trade the young pitchers for marguee names to sell tickets now. I am willing to suffer (obviously). for a while.

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | July 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse


What about the Mets, who sign the oldest players they can find?

Unlimited budgets. Very limited results.

Posted by: EdDC | July 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse


WASHINGTON, D.C. — From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Wednesday, Jul. 01, 2009 02:33AM EDT

Outside Nationals Park, there’s a statue of legendary Washington Senators pitcher Walter (Big Train) Johnson. What was meant as a signature piece is so Trainspotting acid-trip awful – the artists call it “repetitive motion” but to most people it makes Johnson look like an octopus – that his grandson Henry Thomas won’t set foot in the ballpark. We’re talking serious jinx stuff, here.

The park itself is just two years old, but so nondescript it could be plopped into Minneapolis or Cincinnati or Cleveland. Not in Montreal, though. Montreal would have done it with far more flair.

Meantime, the times are bad. Really bad.

Major League Baseball purchased the Expos in 2002 and moved the team to Washington in 2004, before selling it to the family of real estate billionaire Ted Lerner for $450-million. A source with knowledge of the transaction with Lerner wonders if baseball isn’t second-guessing itself right now.

“I think the Lerners’ experience with real estate actually gave them a false sense of security,” the source said. “In fact, part of the issue is that all along they viewed this as a compelling real estate venture. And when they did get the team, they got a bad case of ‘new owner-itis.’ That’s where you think you know everything. They thought they knew everything. They didn’t.”

The same source that wonders about the Lerners also wonders if the Nationals aren’t falling into the same pattern as the Pirates.

“Teams that had success with new ballparks all, for the most part, had competitive teams in place when they moved in,” said the source. “Pittsburgh’s an example of what happens when you have a new park without a good product. People think all you have to do is build it and they will come. Not true."

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

malcolmyoung, I'm with you. It's Manny's fault that Zimmerman can't throw and that Kearns stopped hitting? So does Manny get credit for Gonzalez hitting over .300 and Willingham having a great year? I bet not.

As for Nick Johnson, "He's useless as a DH. He's untradeable." Really? Maybe we should wait and see on that one.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

On a brighter, non-Nats note, if you watched Tom Watson's post round interview (and today's round at the British Open, for that matter - he leads by one stroke with 18 holes left to play, and he turns 60 in September) you don't have to go to church. He described the round as "serene" and "deeply spiritual." He exudes it. May we all experience such serenity.

Posted by: flynnie2 | July 18, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

By the way, Brue made this comment, "All the guys they've picked up have had some success in other places, yet when they get here, their fundamentals, skills, concentration and preparation deteriorate."

He cited Willie Harris, who had arguably the best year of his career last year under Acta. Ronnie Belliard had two of his best offensive seasons in the last two years. Guzman's had his best offensive seasons here. As for Kearns, the last two years he played in Cincinnati before joining the Nats, he hit .230 and .240. Nick Johnson's problems came from breaking his leg and ruining his wrist.

As for defense, Belliard and Guzman weren't all that great in the field to begin with and they're getting older.

If their mental performance hasn't been as good here as elsewhere, maybe it's because they're joining a loser and they know it. I don't see how any manager can hoodwink guys into believing they smell chicken salad when they know it's something else.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 18, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

flynnie2, Watson's been amazing and I'll be rooting for him tomorrow, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for Miguel Angel Jimenez. Any man his age who gets away with wearing a ponytail, smoking cigars, drinking wine and playing golf all day is living right.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 18, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

As for Olsen, he hasn't pitched since the 10th. Couldn't they put him on the 15-day DL and make it retroactive to the 11th? If so, with some juggling, they might be able to bring up somebody for just one start and get Olsen back in there on the 26th.

By the way, I assume periculum is picketing outside of the ballpark right now, with a "JD Martin NOW!" sign.

Posted by: baltova1 | July 18, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

>if their mental performance hasn't been as good here as elsewhere, maybe it's because they're joining a loser and they know it. I don't see how any manager can hoodwink guys into believing they smell chicken salad when they know it's something else.

Posted by: baltova1

The only time they smell chicken salad is when Manny burps. If he can't (couldn't yay) convince them, then who can? He's in charge. At least that's the template. That's why I like Rizzo, at least he's honest when he says that the players are better than their results. They're not 26-63 bad. Nobody is talent-wise, unless you're drafting from a different pool. It just doesn't happen that way. You've got 5 .300 hitters basically and you can't score a run after the 4th inning every night.

Posted by: Brue | July 18, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Heading to the game.

But look at it this way, I couldn't get the seats I wanted, so I'm going to sit upstairs and the Lerners will only get $10 of my money. (I might eat something, however).

Posted by: Nats_Lady | July 18, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

OK, here's two shoutouts for last night's game.
First is to the woman who sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Class.
Second is the woman who found my lost purse and brought it back to my seat, since my ticket was in the pocket. She's gotta be a mom, and she's gotta be a Nats fan!Many, many thanks!

Posted by: sbuck | July 18, 2009 5:59 PM | Report abuse

There's a new post up yonder, for them what ain't seen it yet.

Posted by: Scooter_ | July 18, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

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