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En Route to New York

I am currently on Amtrak train 2160 from Philadelphia to New York, making an unfortunate 1-1/2-hour exodus from consequential baseball. You can't accuse the Nationals, of course, of failing to influence the playoff picture this year. They all but chauffeured Philadelphia into October, going 3-15 against the Phillies this season, and losing three straight in the final series with such resolve, even Vince Lombardi would have quivered.

I can't help but wonder if the long season is starting to take its toll on the Nationals. Jim Riggleman is still pleased with his team's effort -- for Exhibit A, look no further than Ryan Zimmerman's over-the-tarp summersault catch -- but the offensive statistics are now reflecting an across-the-board backslide. Maybe the legs are tired. Maybe the minds are tired. Or maybe the Nats will sweep the Mets, and I'll swallow my words.

But here's what we've got...

* Josh Willingham, since Aug. 26, is 8-for-60 (.133) with one home run and 3 RBI. His average has fallen from .301 to .274.

* Ryan Zimmerman, since Sept. 5, is 6-for-43 (.140) with two homers and 3 RBI. His average has fallen from .302 to .289.

* Cristian Guzman, since Aug. 30, is 7-for-49 (.143) with one extra-base hit and a .163 slugging percentage. His average has fallen from .304 to .289.

A few other notes here:

Aaron Crow has signed with the Royals.

The Mets are still "bumbling."

Jamie Burke, who played under Riggleman last year in Seattle, was described on Thursday night by the skipper as a "catch-and-throw type of guy." Hmmm... I think that's a kind baseball man's way of saying, "We really really needed a catcher."

Yes yes, I'm getting carried away here, but cut me a break, I'm just a hands-on-the-keyboard type of writer. Among other designations you probably don't want as a baseball player:

* "He's a swing-the-bat type of middle infielder."

* "He's a throw-the-ball type of reliever."

* "He's an owns-a-bat type of bench player."

* "They're a take-the-field type of team."

By Chico Harlan  |  September 18, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Nats Lose Game, Acquire C Jamie Burke
Next: Lineups From Citi Field


"He's a finish-up-the-season type of manager."

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

oooh, good one, 1a

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 18, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm a why-don't-we-trade-the-draft-pick type of commenter

my favorite is the bench player who owns a bat.

Posted by: nattaboy | September 18, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm a "can't wait for the Nats dismal season to be over" kinda guy and am already looking forward to basketball and ice hockey...

Posted by: blufre | September 18, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm a "Ready for Fantasy Football kind of baseball fan."

Posted by: comish4lif | September 18, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Carpenter's a real-good-articulation kind of announcer.
I'm a hey-beer-man kind of knowledgeable fan.

Posted by: utec | September 18, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

So let me so if I got this right ... Crow took less gauranteed money from the Royals than he would have received from the Nats. He gets a $1.5M bonus, but only if he stays in the majors all of 2010, 2011, and 2012. And that's what he gets for basically giving away the last half of 2008 and all of 2009 of his baseball career.

He was well advised.

Posted by: ArlingtonNatsFan | September 18, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Jamie Burke obviously is old and past whatever prime he might have had, but you have to wonder why a guy who hit over .300 both season when got any real big league time didn't get more of a look, espeially when guys like Nieves hang on. His defense must be pretty weak.

Posted by: nats24 | September 18, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Nieves probably could do 130+ games at catcher. It seems unlikely that Burke would be able to? The Nats under the Lerners guiding principle was youth first. Replenish the farm system, avoid relying on 'retreads'. They are still in the middle of that process.

Posted by: periculum | September 18, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Elijah Dukes is not backsliding at the plate.

Posted by: markfromark | September 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Once word came down that Crow agreed to terms with the Royals yesterday, I read several stories and many comments from fans who believe that the Nationals "muffed" the Crow signing and that Crow will be a better player than Drew Storen.

No way the Nationals take the blame here. Crow didn't really want to play baseball and didn't seem interested in beginning his career.

And regarding Crow being "better" than Storen, those people are probably right if we're talking out-years potential.

But I don't buy that argement. The real question should be who was a better player for the Nationals.

The Nationals could have used another starting pitcher, but they absolutely needed a professional closer.

That means--I think anyway--that Storen is the better player because he's better for the Nats.

And Storen will be in D.C. sometime in 2010, while Crow, who has pitched I think 10-15 innings in the last 16 months, will likely take some time to make it to Kansas City.

Posted by: rushfari | September 18, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Forget the players, the long season is taking a toll on ME. I thought for a minute there Chico had written "across the board backSIDE." Really bad mental image there.

By the way, Crow and his agents may actually qualify as across the board backsides. Sit out a year for less money and explain you're actually because you get to stay close to home and play...for the Royals.

Maybe he's only planning to play home games.

Posted by: baltova1 | September 18, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I think an "across the board backside" would be what the Marlins do to the Nats. Oh, and the Phillies.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 18, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Wait. That's a board across the backside. Never mind.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 18, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Dumb n Dumber.....YOU CAN NOT trade MLB draft picks...and anyone who thinks TOP free agents (being pursued by Red Sox, NYY, Dodgers etc) sign with the WORST team in baseball..... need a straight jacket.....

This team MUST build wisely using these TOP DRAFT PICKS or they will become the Wizards II in this town.... and be DOGS**T for DECADES...

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | September 18, 2009 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Dukes and Desmond are competing for jobs. So too should Willingham. I really that people should stop given out the free pass of calling him an automagic starter next year. Dunn probably is at 1B, and so too is Zimmerman at 3B.

After that who knows? Nyjer is coming back from an injury. The jury is still out on Dukes, Willingham et al. in the outfield. Clearly the middle infield is up in the air. As are the starting pitchers and relievers.

A sense of urgency needs to be put on these guys.

Posted by: periculum | September 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know anyone was calling Willingham an "automagic" starter. I don't even know what one of those is, but I'd bet our team would be way better with pretty much any kind of magic on its side, whether auto or otherwise. We certainly couldn't have any worse of a record.

Posted by: faNATic | September 18, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Something hopefully better than Ladson's sometimes ludicrous pronouncements:

ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney heard that Buck Showalter is going to be in the mix of candidates considered to take over the Washington Nationals next season.

Interim skipper Jim Riggleman has done a respectable job after taking over for Manny Acta, but the Nats have made no decision as to 2010.

Posted by: periculum | September 18, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

On the principle that anything in all caps is imperative:


Posted by: markfromark | September 18, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Right about now, I would take a season of "respectable."

Posted by: TomServo | September 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

And on that note, lineups post is up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 18, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I love it when a plan comes together...

Dumb n Dumber.....YOU CAN NOT trade MLB draft picks...and anyone who thinks TOP free agents (being pursued by Red Sox, NYY, Dodgers etc) sign with the WORST team in baseball..... need a straight jacket.....

This team MUST build wisely using these TOP DRAFT PICKS or they will become the Wizards II in this town.... and be DOGS**T for DECADES...

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | September 18, 2009 2:44 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 18, 2009 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Guzzie's streak is actually a little worse than that, sadly. .203/.241/.304 in the last month. .263/.299/.381 in the second-half. Replacement-level shortstops are somewhere in the neighborhood of: .240/.299/.380 - so in the second half, Guzman has been almost exactly replacement-level.

But, sure, Riggles, by all means, keep running him out there, since he's such a great veteran. Maybe he needs to get another Lacix surgery.

Willingham seems like a case of good, old-fashioned regression to the mean. He's not really a 150 OPS+ type player and that's where he's been most of the year. He was a .995 OPS in the first half despite a slow start and .822 in the second half, which is much more in line with his career numbers. He's not really "slumping" so much as he is making outs that he probably should have made in May, June and July. Even if he goes 0-for-September, he still had a breakout year - he's clearly the Opening Day LF for 2010, unless Riz can get good value for him in the offseason.

Zimmerman may be slumping a little. Interesting thing about his splits is that he had a really hot May, an incredibly hot August, with two "meh" months inbetween. Not sure if that's just the anatomy of a breakout year, or if he just had two really good hot streaks.

Who knows though - all three of them have babip's around .200-.220, so they may just be getting unlucky with where they're hitting it, too.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | September 18, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

I am sorry but Aaron Crow has to go down as one of the dumbest guys in Baseball. Not only did he waste a whole year pitching in some pow dunk league, but now he is going to make less money than what the Nats offered him.

Great he gets to pitch 75 miles from home but honestly I would of taken the million more and rented a jet for trips back home on the farm.

You have to also wonder if Crow would of been in the Nationals system at the start of Spring Training, would he of been talented enough to be on the squad right now? Could he of made a bit of a difference not only for the Nats but to get his career going.

To me it's a big waste of your youth, to think that he could of already made over a million dollars, what did he make in the last year, 20 or $30,000 dollars??

Again, I think of Crow as one of the dumbest guys in the last year, anybody else agree with me?

Posted by: Golfersal | September 18, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh, one last thing about Crow. Basically the Nats got Storen in place for Crow. Yes it was a waste of a year but I bet you that Storen cares a lot more than Crow, is willing to work harder and will make a better contribution in the future of the Nats than Crow. Guess time will tell but I bet you that Crow will not be in Washington when the Royals play here in June and that Storen will be playing an important role for the Nats.

As my father once told me, sometimes good news turns bad and when you least expect it sometimes bad news has a purpose and turns into a wonderful thing. Hopefully that is the case here

Posted by: Golfersal | September 18, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for staying close to home and all that, but the talk from the Crow camp about giving the Royals a hometown discount is such an obvious "spin" effort that it's laughable.

Posted by: bucky_katt | September 18, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse if we don't hear enough excuses being made for the we have to hear it for this group of LOSERS......

Riggleman's brief success ended when Nyjer Morgan went down...Morgan had led/sparked the team out of it's ACTA Coma for a moment...they got a couple wins....but with his season ending injury....the team went back to what we can now can call it the ACTA/Riggleman coma......Riggleman has to GO and replaced by an outsider with no buddies/ no favorites and everybody goes back to 0 to earn a spot on this team !!!!!

Good news...those Morgan wins kept these bums from competing for the Mets 120 loss record.....

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | September 18, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

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