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Phillies 6, Nats 1

After Washington's 6-1 defeat against the Phillies on Wednesday night -- a rambling effort that included nearly every conceivable form of inability -- interim skipper Jim Riggleman gave his team a brief lecture. It probably lasted about five minutes (and I'm only guessing this because the media members waited outside), but it would have lasted longer had he recited the full list of mistakes.

Indeed, Wednesday, the Nationals bunted into outs when there was no particular purpose for bunting. They hit into strange double plays. They hit into even stranger double plays. And when that ran its course, they hit into conventional double plays as well. Defensively, they committed an error and botched and first-and-third double steal play where Cristian Guzman was so preoccupied with the tag play at second, he never even threw home as Chase Utley broke for the plate. Yeah, an uncontested steal of home.

So go the Nats. They fell to 50-95.

In the last 22 innings now, Washington has scored one run. Livan Hernandez (six innings, two runs) had his fourth quality start in five outings with Washington, but that's where the feel-good stuff ends.

If you want to feel good, you're better off watching the local news.

After several games this year, even the ugliest ones, Riggleman has gone to great pains to applaud his team's effort, and even defend its mistakes. This time, his story was only part-way rosy. I'll give you the noteworthy excerpt.

---

Q: Jim, what did you say to your players tonight?

RIGGLEMAN: The gist of what I said -- you pick up the paper, you hear things, and a lot of comments get started with, 'The worst team in baseball, the Washington Nationals.' And you know, we're not the worst team in baseball. Unfortunately you are whatever your record says you are, but we've got a good ballclub. And this good ballclub just found ways tonight to shoot ourselves in the foot and lose a ballgame, which adds to the record, the negativity, and allows people to write those things. For me, our record does not indicate the quality of the ballclub we have. The score of that ballgame did not indicate the ballgame that was; that game was 2-0 for a long time, and now it ends up 6-1 and it looks like the worst team in baseball again. So I'm just reminding our players, when you make that many mistakes in a ballgame you are going to allow those things to be said, and we've got to be accountable for that... Tonight, we legitimately made a lot of mistakes, and it starts with me and the staff. If our players are making those kinds of mistakes then we've got to make sure we're coaching them better, managing them better, to not make those mistakes. Because that was a lot of bad things happening in that ballgame that we cannot allow to continue to happen.

Q: What were the mistakes in particular that bothered you?

RIGGLEMAN: We were bunting when we weren't supposed to be bunting. Balls in the air, we were doubled up a couple times. We were trying to turn a double play we can't turn. You know, just things that we just can't do. If we're gonna be a better ballclub, we just can't do those things.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 16, 2009; 11:04 PM ET
 
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Comments

This is what a really, really, REALLY bad team looks like. They have a few decent players, a few who wouldn't play anywhere else, and really bad fundamentals. Especially the fundamentals. Phillies doing it right, mostly. Nats doing it wrong, mainly. This is not just in.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | September 16, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman isn't it time to make Desmond the permanent shortstop until the end of the season? Haven't you seen enough of a guy who has contributed to 100 losses. One could say its mostly pitching ... but these pitchers do not always allow grandslams. Too many time relief pitchers could have gotten out of innings if there had been decent fielding.

Either the guy sits or he plays second base. He is the starting shortstop on a team that will lose over 100 games twice in a row and the previous year wasn't much better.

Posted by: periculum | September 17, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

The guys on Baseball Today (ESPN radio) didn't have the Nats in their "bottom five" last week. Bet that changes this week. Sheeeeeeeeesh.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 17, 2009 12:33 AM | Report abuse

I like Riggs, I really do. I hope he gets the full-time, permanent gig because I think it's a stand-up guy and the players respond to him. But I've got to disagree with him on one salient point. Jim, we are the worst team in baseball. 50-and-95. It's right there in black and white.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | September 17, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Totally disagree. I don't like Riggleman, I think he is nothing but a time-server. He has NOT improved this team on the fundamental of BASE-RUNNING. If he had any sense he would smack Listach from here to Seattle (or maybe Tokyo). I can't figure if he is playing the vets to win games or trying out the young 'uns. There is no STRATEGY to this team and way, way too many "clever" tactics like double-switches and lefty-righty-lefty whatever pitching changes.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 17, 2009 12:50 AM | Report abuse

If Willingham's slump continues he is going to make Dukes look again like the top corner starter in the outfield. Perhaps even Mike Morse will look better? Making another left-handed bat acquired through free agency or up from the minors look like the better bet? At this point I don't think anyone would guarantee the guy a starting position?

Maybe they should consider Espinosa and Desmond for the infield while signing John MacDonald to help the "transition" of the prospects along? Putting Guzman on the bench just as was done with Kearns who made almost the same salary this year?

Posted by: periculum | September 17, 2009 12:54 AM | Report abuse

Willingham is slumping. Agreed. But he is, IMHO, a quality player. Probably just September tired and tired of losing. He'll be better next year, if the team is better. He's a supporting player, and if we can get the stars and the spark plug (Zimm, Dunn and NYJER), the Hammer will do us just fine.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 17, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

If they can get Victor Martinez somehow that's the direction they should go. Boston will likely re-up the guy. But you never know ... he is a left handed hitter. He is a sage, older vet who would be like having one of those veteran starters to mentor the young pitchers. And he brings a bat. If you are going to have any age in your lineup it seems like catcher is where you would want it. Especially with the staff the Nats will again field next year.

I don't seen why they shouldn't try Espinosa and Desmond up the middle. Especially if Espinosa does well in the AFL. It makes sense if they sign some better than competent fielders to back them up.

With someone like Martinez and adding perhaps someone like a Nady, the return of Morgan would give them 4 good left handed bats in the lineup. They have plenty of guys in the minors and on the active squad now to provision the utility and backup positions.

Then they just need the pitching to go with it. That of course is the real trick isn't it?

Posted by: periculum | September 17, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

And yeah Riggleman sounds like every Republican epithet thrown at Kerry 5 years or so ago. He is a "waffler"? We have to "play to win to be fair to the teams who are still trying to get into the playoffs." Then when its proven that starting the younger guys, and the guys from SYR prove to be better hitters (and one pitcher) than everyone thought. "Oh no, I meant to say that I need to play the guys who were here". As Nats_lady said there's the righty versus lefty, lefty versus righty deal. The who hits best against the pitcher ...

Any excuse to play and showcase guys Riggleman happens to like. Ridiculous I say. Hope you're watching Rizzo.

Posted by: periculum | September 17, 2009 1:14 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have finally done it. I have been a regular viewer this whole season but I can not stand to watch them now. They finally have put me into the "I don't care" section of fans. Not even the bourbon and Maalox combo will ease this most wretched form of sports entertainment. Plus there are only so many Little League mistakes one can endure watching from a big league team. Riggleman had my support up until now. This team has slid back into the Manny Acta underachievers mold. And I do so hope Dibble and Carpenter go far away next year.

Posted by: driley | September 17, 2009 5:15 AM | Report abuse

Periculum,

Espinosa will not be ready next year.

Posted by: edr04 | September 17, 2009 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Been awhile. There are several problems with the Nats right now beyond the overall talent level of the full roster. They are still suffering from Manny hangover for one. That is, there just isn't time in season to prepare a team the way it needs to done and the lack of fundamentals is showing again at least partly because some of these guys haven't been through a real major league spring training - only one run by Acta. There's also the injury factor combined with the not-going-anywhere factor. Morgan's injury combined with the loss of even young, mediocre-at-best starters to injury adds up to no chance to avoid 100 losses. Nothing to play for but pride at this point. I love Zimmerman, but you also have to acknowledge that his hitting has nose-dived again as he, at least average-wise, reverts to his mean. Despite the complete nonsense that Carpenter loves to spew, Ryan has had another up and down season full of streaks in both directions. He needs to work on consistency at the plate. He'll get there, he's only 24, but has anyone else noticed that just about every time he gets a big walk-off hit, he goes into a slump for at least the next 10 days? Don’t think you can judge Riggleman based on the hand he’s been dealt. There's more, but back to work...

Posted by: truke | September 17, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I had hoped to end the season on a positive note but the last two games have been truly ugly.

A defensively gifted middle infielder has to be the most critical off-season need. Desmond last night committed his 30th error of the season, 2nd since being called up. Espinosa is not ready, and the shortcomings of Guzman and Gonzalez have been much discussed.

Ronnie Belliard was 3 for 3 in yesterday's Dodger win with a double, home run and walk.

Posted by: longhorn64 | September 17, 2009 7:43 AM | Report abuse

GOOD THING MANNY ACTA IS GONE

Posted by: Section506 | September 17, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I turned on the game in the 6th when I got home, turned it off after the grand slam. The ugliest 2 innings in memory. Riggs, the Nats are the worst team in baseball, hands down, no contest. By the numbers and by looks. In terms of talent, execution, and strategy. For the last 2 years - this is not a fluke.

No position player should be safe on this club for next year except maybe Zimm, Dunn and Nyjer. The Nats have enough money to eat salary if they have to - Guzzie - and sign or trade for some better players. There is no way they can prioritize a couple of needs and leave the rest alone.

What do we learn from playing Guzman? That he's a mediocre player at best in all facets including mentally? He's clearly not a starter on a good team, try Desmond for now. I felt for the kid after his hideous throwing error because he's never played second base so his tryout is in the majors. So let him play short.

Lets see if Riggs sits down any of the miscreants today. That would show us something. Don't know if he could find 8 guys if he did, but it's worth a try.

Posted by: utec | September 17, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Rizzo and StanK need to sit down on 4 Oct and begin the cleansing process. Problem is, with such low expectations and so little to pick and choose from, even the best house cleaning might not make this pig shine!

Enough of Guzman! This whole thing is so frustrating and just think in a few weeks I'll have my friendly Nationals Season Ticket Agent emailing me and calling my cell asking to hurry up and renew your ST's, 2010 is gonna be the year! I only wish.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 17, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Desmond was playing short for his other hideous throwing error last Friday night. That one triggered that horrible meltdown inning where the Fish almost caught up. He's an awful fielder. Play Harris or even Orr at second and Guzman or Gonzalez at short.

Posted by: longhorn64 | September 17, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't watching the game, just listening on the radio--still cringing. I see the Manny-bashers now say the Nats play like the three stooges because they didn't have a proper spring training. Face it, folks, this is a BAD team. If Guzman wants to play on it, he needs to get his bunions and his brains fixed.

Posted by: Nats_Lady | September 17, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I think its clear the team has mentally shut down for the season. Its almost as if Morgan's injury was the last straw to the entire lineup.

I say, keep playing Desmond and Orr; they're both hitting better than their counterparts Guzman and Gonzalez.

Unfortunately, I think Maxwell has proved beyond a doubt that he's not MLB material. Wouldn't be surprised to see him DFA'd in the offseason. Willingham-Morgan-Dukes as your OF with either Bernadina or some FA-to-be-named as the backup. In a perfect world, we'd also be pursing a replacement for Dukes; yes he's having a nice august but you need more than 8 HRs out of your RF spot.

Posted by: tboss | September 17, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Bobby Cox says he has not committed to managing the Braves next season. Cox to Washington?

Posted by: dougb3 | September 17, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

@longhorn64

I think you're pulling the plug on Desmond too soon. And your suggestion of playing Guzman as a better defensive alternative ignores the likelehood that his range will continue to diminish. Desmond deserves the opprotunity to play every day to see if he can gain some consistency. It is not a question of ability.

Posted by: sjt1455 | September 17, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Why so much bashing of Guzman? the guy was hitting just fine when Nyjer batted in front of him, it ain't just Guzman, i mean Willingham(da hamma)can't buy a hit,Maxwell(not the singer) is dead ass asleep out there.The pitching(what pitching?) is still as bad as it was three month's ago,its been a long season and these guys are just counting the days i still beleive Tim Foli deserves a shot at the helm,i don't see them bringing Riggs back.Mike Rizzo needs to try to work out a deal for Adrian Gonzalez(Padres) he is a more selctive hitter than Adam Dunn and not prone to striking out as much.

Posted by: dargregmag | September 17, 2009 9:51 AM | Report abuse

@Periculum,

Thats only 4 today so far. Slow day.

Why do you beat on players every time they slump? It happens. Willingham also has a bad back (herniated disk) that he has been playing with for several years. They are very painful and it could be causing him pain to hit. You probably didn't think of that. Heck, you probably didn't know.

Posted by: WashOut | September 17, 2009 9:59 AM | Report abuse

It's not the manager, its the players. Last in pitching, last in fielding, last in the NL East, last in the hearts and minds of DC (present company excepted).

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 17, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

It's time to focus on trying to be strong defensively up the middle (C, SS, 2B, CF). They have a start with Morgan, but the other three positions have to improve. Next they have to improve the pitching talent. They can't have it both ways - you can't develop your own talent AND not rush your young pitchers.

Go get some quality arms - three free agent pitchers and two -three more by trade would not be too many.

Next, improve the baserunning. Poor team speed, bad decision making, and poor fundamentals is a bad combination. ("Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life" - gratuitous Animal House reference)

Finally, stop waiting until late February / early March to fill out the roster. Hopefully that strategy is out with Bowden, but I think hitting the ground running with an early trade or signing will help to make a difference. Be decisive, market expectations should already be down this year.

Posted by: natbiscuits | September 17, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"Tonight, we legitimately made a lot of mistakes, and it starts with me and the staff. If our players are making those kinds of mistakes then we've got to make sure we're coaching them better, managing them better, to not make those mistakes. Because that was a lot of bad things happening in that ballgame that we cannot allow to continue to happen."
________________________________________________________

This statement goes a long way with me. Accountability. If the team stinks it's on the manager and his coaching staff. Players respond to that. The previous manager would never say something like this.

Now, believe me, I want the Nats to hire a solid manager in the offseason to help steer this titanic away from the iceberg, and I don't think that is Rigs. However, I do respect what he is all about and we could do a lot worse.


Posted by: Section505203 | September 17, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

One of the big issues the Nats are going to have to confront this offseason is bringing in some pitchers - starters and relievers - who can generate some swings and misses from opposing batters. The Phillies and the Marlins are nearly mirror-images of each other, Phillies lotsa lefthanded power hitters Florida predominantly righthanded power hitters who feast on the Nats soft-serve pitchers. These teams know that all they have to do is to work favorable hitters counts and then tee off. Look atthe power numbers against Washington this year by Howard, Utley, Ibanez (!), Ramirez, Uggla and Cantu. I doubt it's coincidental that the Nats regularly get hammered by those teams.

Posted by: leetee1955 | September 17, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Guzzie is playing hurt. Not that we all wouldn't be better if he moved to second base, but I say give him a break.

Posted by: Section506 | September 17, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

GOOD THING MANNY ACTA IS GONE

Posted by: Section506 | September 17, 2009 8:16 AM

----------------------------------------------------------

As if that makes a difference here....FIRE MANNY ACTA!! Fire Tom Soehn! Fire Danny Snyder!

Posted by: fischy | September 17, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Its not Guzman's fault that we score one run in three games. That blame has a whole lineup to focus on.

In the end I would like to blame it all on Carpenter. Why not? The whole darn season.
And Dibbles total contributions to the genre of sports broadcasting have been on the rewind cycle since about the third game of the season. I have never heard another analyst spew out the same tired cliches batter after batter, night after night. What's worse is that he has Carpenter repeating the drivel. Not that the product on the field is all that entertaining, but by contrast the radio announcers make lemonade out of lemons on a nightly basis.

Posted by: driley | September 17, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Fire the broadcasters! Fire the team (except for Guze, 'cause we're giving him a break)! Fire the fans!

Also, didja know that there are some new posts up?

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 17, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

This team is in denial.

Admit the truth.

With Zimmermann injured and Strasburg in the minors, Lannan and Hernandez right now are the only starters that are regular major leaguers. The rest of these guys are AAA caliber.

Among the position players, Flores is hurt. Morgan is hurt.

That leaves the team with Zimmerman and Dunn as the only players who are really worth that much.

And Dunn would be better suited to being a DH in the American League given his defensive limitations in the OF or at first base.

The Nationals have focused almost exclusively on drafting and trading for young pitchers.

They have not yet arrived in numbers at the major league level.

And the system continues to go wanting for position players.

Posted by: leopard09 | September 17, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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