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What will the Nationals play for the rest of the way?

Morning roundup

The Nationals have 37 games remaining, and one of their tasks will be making sure a night like last night doesn't happen again. If not, one player said, "It'll be a long six weeks."

What do the Nationals - who have played on 59-win-season pace for 90 games - have to play for? Well, they need to go at least 10-27 to avoid 100 losses, which should not be a problem. If they go 20-17, they'll avoid 90 losses. An even 10-win improvement over 2009 would require a 16-21 finish.

They can also play for proving their professionalism, which will also require an improvement from last night. It could have just been a hot night for an unknown pitcher, Casey Coleman - "It just seemed like everybody was dead tonight," Willie Harris said. "That could be because the pitcher was pitching so well."

But after the game Manager Jim Riggleman reminded his players that you've got to play 162 of 162, that they can't let adverse game situations steal their energy. Last year, the Nationals finished 15-22 and played .500 for their final 26 games. This year, the Nationals will again be tested with little to play for.

"That's where we were last year," Riggleman said. "That's what happened last year. We passed the test. We played hard all the way through, and that's what we're going to do this year. And if we don't, then we'll change things around to where we do."

Said center fielder Nyjer Morgan: "We have to definitely just stick together. We know the talent that's in here. We know we have the capabilities of playing with any team. Basically, it's just us coming together and trying to figure this thing out before the season ends."

FROM THE POST

The Nationals had a bad day and topped it with a 9-1 loss to the Cubs, during which Livan Hernandez threw a ton of pitches.

Stephen Strasburg is going back on the disabled list 13 days after he came off it.

Once cast aside in a brutal way by the Nationals, Colby Lewis is a bonafide No. 3 starter on a bonafide contender.

Rob Dibble wants Stephen Strasburg to "suck it up."

NATS MINOR LEAGUES

Syracuse was off.

Portland 10, Harrisburg 5: Chris Marrero went 3 for 5 with a home run. Stephen Lombardozzi went 3 for 5 with a double. Aaron Thompson allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings on nine hits and three walks, striking out four.

Wilmington 6, Potomac 3: (14 innings) Daniel Rosenbaum allowed one run in six innings on one hit, a solo homer, and one walk while striking out four. Francisco Soriano went 1 for 5 with a double and a walk.

Hagerstown was postponed.

Vermont 2, Lowell 1: Ronnie Labrie went 1 for 2 with two walks. Taylor Jordan allowed one run in six innings on three hits and two walks, striking out two.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Mark Zuckerman says last night ranked among the bottom five days in Nats history.

If Stephen Strasburg can pitch then he should, Nationals Baseball argues in thoughtful terms.

The Nationals ranked eighth in how much they spent over slot for their first 10 draft picks, Jim Callis of Baseball America says.

By Adam Kilgore  |  August 24, 2010; 11:33 AM ET
 
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Next: Video: Will injuries continue to dog Stephen Strasburg?

Comments

Is this the future?

September 2010: Strasburg shut down for remainder of season after series of “freakish” injuries. Mike Rizzo stated, “We’re not sure if it’s a curse or just bad luck.” We have decided to shut him down and plan on sending him to the best voodoo expert, clairvoyant and best exorcist in town, although we will probably have to send him to New Orleans or some other such place.” Strasburg refused comment.

June 2011: Strasburg was placed on the 15 day disabled list after suffering what was termed as an abdominal strain. While the MRI was negative and actually indicated that Stephen made an ill-advised trip to Bens Chili Bowl between innings of last night’s game for chili-cheese fries. Rizzo stated, “We need to be cautious here. I mean, we can’t have him making a mess on the mound due to gastric distress. Mr. Lerner doesn’t want to pay a cleaning bill for THAT.” Strasburg, when asked for a comment, was silent (although some flatulence was heard as he walked away).

July 2011: Stephen Strasburg, recently reinstated by the team from the 15 day DL, was returned to the DL, retroactive to July 4th, when he burned his finger as a result of what Rizzo termed, “A rogue sparkler” at the teams Independence day celebration. Rizzo appeared dismayed as he later found out that Strasburg did not wear the protective, fire resistant Gortex ™ gloves that the team provided. Strasburg was unavailable for comment.

September 2011: The Washington Nationals released a statement announcing that Stephen Strasburg will again be shut down early this year, after he witnessed an auto accident on South Capitol Street following last night’s game. Mike Rizzo, in the press conference, stated, “Look, car accidents are traumatic. We’re going to send Stephen to the best psychiatrists and psychologists in the area. PTSD is our primary concern here. Stephen remains a valuable asset on this team and we need to act conservatively. Strasburg was not made available for comment, as Rizzo was concerned over possible questioning that could “send him over the edge.” Taking his place in the pitching rotation will be Livan Hernandez, whom the Nats signed despite having recently broken his pitching hand (he allegedly punched his golf cart after shanking a 4-iron while attempting to qualify for the US Open). When asked how Livo was going to pitch, Rizzo replied, “He’s got TWO arms, right?”

April 2012: The Nationals announced that Stephen Strasburg will begin the season on the 60 Day Disabled list, as he has demonstrated what the team termed as “Sympathy Pregnancy Symptoms.” As his wife prepares to give birth to their first child, Stephen was observed being overly emotional during a recent Spring Training game in response to not getting a call by the umpire on an inside pitch. He was overheard shouting, “You just don’t understand me…” Upon leaving the game, Strasburg was spotted eating a jar of sweet gherkins with a bowl of Rocky Road Ice Cream.

Posted by: TimDz | August 24, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Nationals have become completely unwatchable. Great job guys. I'd love the shirt they're giving away tonight but I can't even fathom making the trek downtown and then having to watch this drek. Maybe I'll just go get a shirt and leave. What a mess they've made of this team.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | August 24, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Glad I missed last night's game - sounds like it was a doozy.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | August 24, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

TimDz: Dude!! that is too funny i am LMAO here in the A-T-L!!!.

Posted by: dargregmag | August 24, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Top Ten Reasons Not to Re-sign Adam Dunn

10. Dunn is already getting too old at 30. It was OK to sign Kennedy 34, Pudge 38, Peralta 34, Batista 39, Livan 35 and El Duque 44, because you don’t have to pay those guys much. But Dunn wants a contract commensurate with his value. Hence: too old!

9. You can always go out and sign Adrian Gonzalez. All you have to do is outbid all the other clubs and convince Gonzalez that contending for the World Series is a waste of off-season vacation time.

8. The Nats already have a Gonzalez who can play 1B: Alberto.

7. The Nats already have an Adam who can play 1B: Kennedy.

6. Don’t count on the HOF for Adam Dunn! Dunn has 347 HRs. You can’t follow the old baseball cliché and predict his HR career total by doubling this number at his current mid-career age. Dunn may fall short of 700 HRs for his career.

5. Pitching is what wins. You can’t afford both pitching and hitting, so go with pitching.

4. Dunn’s defense has not improved enough in his first year as a 1B. He has run out of time to master his position.

3. Dunn hasn’t been as good in the last couple weeks as he was over the last six or seven seasons.

2. Dunn and Zim are the Nats’ best two hitters. If you dump Dunn, you still get to keep half of the 1-2 punch. Let’s call Zim the Nats’ 1-punch!

1. We can be a last place team with Dunn or without Dunn. It is great just to have a team in Washington, whether you put major league players on the team or you don’t.

Posted by: EdDC | August 24, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Tim / Ed:

Best reads of the day, thanks.

Posted by: Sunderland | August 24, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

What will the Nationals play for the rest of the way?

They are playing for the 5K, that I will plunk down in Nov/Dec as a STH going on 7 years.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | August 24, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

What to play for? Joe DiMaggio had some thoughts on that (as seen on the Nats Park clubhouse-to-dugout tunnel during a ballpark tour):

"There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best."

Nuff said.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Yes, thanks to Tim and Ed. Zim the 1 punch
--like that.

At least we're still the best darn last-place team in MLB, aren't we?

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | August 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

At what point do you start questioning Riggleman? This has been an awful second half--bad defense, with multiple errors and runners picked off. It's not so much what they do with the good teams, but they have lost to bad teams. Surely Riggleman gets some of the blame.

Posted by: newbridge | August 24, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Play for money. Bet on each other's production. As in, I bet I'll get more hits than you the next game! Is it illegal to bet on individual production?

Posted by: richs91 | August 24, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

@TimDz:
I'd laugh, but there is a mosel of truth in your post, and it's not just Strasburg, as follows...

The 40-man roster currently contains 46 players, with the following status:
> Starting Pitchers = 16.
Strasburg- Returning to 15DL (shoulder, forearm).
Olsen- Active, but off 15-DL (shoulder).
Hernandez- Active, and healthy.
Lannan- Active, but optioned to AA earlier in season.
Marquis- Active, but off 15-DL (elbow).
Detwiler- 2nd time on 15-DL (hip).
Atilano- 60-DL (elbow surgery).
Martin, J.D.- 60-DL (back surgery).
Mock- 60-DL (surgery, bulging disc in neck).
Wang- 60-DL, returning from foot/shoulder surgery.
J.Zimmermann- Optioned, returning from 60-DL ("Tommy John" surgery).
Chico- Active (AAA), returning from shoulder surgery.
Martis- Active (AAA).
Thompson- Active (AA).
Maya- Active (A+).
Jaime- On 7-DL in minors ("Tommy John procedure, 2010).

> Relief Pitchers = 12.
Batista- Active.
Stammen- Active, demoted from SP role; Elbow surgery, 2009.
Clippard- Active.
Slaten- Active.
Burnett- Active; "Tommy John" surgery, 2006.
Peralta- Active; Purchased from minors.
Storen- Active; Purchased from minors.
Walker- 60-DL (Shoulder).
Severino- Active (AAA); "Tommy John" surgery, 2005.
Balester- Active (AAA).
English- 7-DL in minors; "Tommy John" surgery 2005.
Mattheus- Active (A-); "Tommy John" surgery, 2009.

That's 28 of the 46 players on the roster(61% of the total roster), and only 18 (45%) that are currently healthy.

Posted by: BinM | August 24, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

See, back in the day, this is where I'd have posted "play for yourself" and signed it "Shea Hillenbrand." :-)

---

Play for money. Bet on each other's production. As in, I bet I'll get more hits than you the next game! Is it illegal to bet on individual production?

Posted by: richs91 | August 24, 2010 1:27 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | August 24, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I never would have thought EdDC could even count to ten without there being a dollar sign in front of the numbers. Amazing, EdDC. Take the rest of the day off.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"At what point do you start questioning Riggleman?"

For me, about three months ago.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The only good thing to come from last night seems to be the passionate uprising that it's brought out from the fans. Reading Nats Journal, Nats Insider and Ballpark Guys, it's an angry mob out there. Rightfully so ... these are the real fans that are going to games and watching the games ... and we're fed up. Fed up with a lousy stadium experience with terrible service, outrageoous prices, and uninspired play on the field. Do we really have to ask "What they have to play for?" These guys are fighting to establish themselves, and if they can't find the motivation to do that, then we really have the wrong group on the field and in management. When a good team has an off year, you can wonder what they have to play for ... but this group has no such excuse. Maybe we learn something tonight ... if they come out dead again, that will truly say something about the players and Riggleman.

Posted by: dlombardo1 | August 24, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

@FeelWood:
And how is the Riggleman of April-May different from the current version, might I ask?
It's not always the MGR, it's the available players, imo. Injuries can (and do) play a part in every seasons' end result.

Posted by: BinM | August 24, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

BinM, the Riggleman of April-May was 20-15, so I was inclined to cut him a bit of slack. But since then, the team has dropped back to below Riggleman's own career W-L percentage (.443 over 11 seasons.) Clearly the 20-15 was nothing but luck, or maybe small sample size. Riggleman is underachieving, even though it's his contract year. You telling me you LIKE .443 over the long haul?

It may not always be the manager, but a lot of times it is.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"Since reaching their high-water mark of 20-15 way back on May 14, the Nats have gone 33-57, third-worst in the majors ahead of only the Orioles and Pirates. That's a .367 winning percentage, which roughly equates to 59 wins over a full season." -- Nationals Insider

So all that stuff you hear about "everybody around the league looks at this team and says what progress we're making" is BS. The numbers don't lie. But except for a handful of one-run wins that proved to be the statistical fluke most of us knew they were (but hoped they weren't because, hey, we're fans), the team would be on pace to, once again, lose over 100 games.

Sure, injuries play a part, they always do, and I am as morose as everyone else about Strasburg.

But injuries weren't the reason for terrible defense, airmailing throws all over the field, missing cutoff men, and brain-dead baserunning. That stuff cost at least five or six games.

This team is buried in a psychology of losing, and to change it, they need a new manager. It's not the only problem -- obviously the rotation remains an issue, the Dunn re-signing is an issue, whether Desmond really is the SS of the future is an issue, etc.

But they need new leadership. I thought Riggleman might be the guy, but the continuation of poor defense and brain-dead baseball has to be laid at the manager's doorstep.

Posted by: Meridian1 | August 24, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

FeelWood, Joe Torre's career winning percentage as a manager before taking the Yankees job was .471. Based on your logic, they shouldn't have hired him.

And it makes no sense to say that Riggleman is "underachieving" because this team's winning percentage is lower than his career winning percentage. It's not like managers bring a box with ".443 winning percentage baseball" in it to the dugout and apply it to the team.

How many games should this team win? How many games will they win? Is the difference between the two because of the manager or are there other factors? Answer those questions and then you can start to evaluate the manager.

(BTW, what teams have shown the greatest improvement in their win total from last year to this year? Hint: the Nationals are in the top five in the league, based on change in winning percentage)

Posted by: baltova1 | August 24, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

@FeelWood:
You ignore the injuries in your response, but I agree that Riggleman is not the 'long-term' solution as a Manager for this team either.
He's a fair 'caretaker' Manager, who has proven he can win with a steady, veteran 25-man crew, FWIW; He doesn't have that here any longer. It might well be time to move on in the off-season, but letting him go this late in the season serves no positive purpose.

Posted by: BinM | August 24, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The Riggleman Titanics are beginning the first of many more years to come....like the Wizards...where they don't make the playoffs....win enough games to get a mediocre draft pick.......and it goes on and on and on......

Posted by: FletcherChristian1 | August 24, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"FeelWood, Joe Torre's career winning percentage as a manager before taking the Yankees job was .471. Based on your logic, they shouldn't have hired him."

No, but if he had kept up his .471 ways on the Yankee job, they'd have been justified in firing him.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"@FeelWood:
You ignore the injuries in your response, but I agree that Riggleman is not the 'long-term' solution as a Manager for this team either.
He's a fair 'caretaker' Manager, who has proven he can win with a steady, veteran 25-man crew, FWIW; He doesn't have that here any longer. It might well be time to move on in the off-season, but letting him go this late in the season serves no positive purpose. "

(a) The injury thing is a red herring. If you recall, there were injuries when they were winning in April-May too. (Zimmerman, Detwiler, Marquis. You may say that's not much, but it's 40% of the planned OD rotation + the face of the franchise.) And don't forget how much good will the injury excuse bought Manny Acta for 2008.

(b) Where am I saying they should fire Riggleman now? They just need to get rid of him after the season's over. Until then, between him and interim whoever it's basically a wash. Although seeing Riggleman canned now might put the fear of God into some of the players currently on coast, and that couldn't hurt.

Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

They'll be playing for . . . PRIDE!!!

What difference does it make? The team is lousy, and if you were to put the greatest manager in the history of the game in charge, the result would be almost exactly the same.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | August 24, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I never would have thought EdDC could even count to ten without there being a dollar sign in front of the numbers. Amazing, EdDC. Take the rest of the day off. Posted by: FeelWood | August 24, 2010 1:45 PM |

Money shows up especially in reasons 1, 9 and 10 not to re-sign Dunn.

Posted by: EdDC | August 24, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Nats are 53-72, with 37 games to go. Early on in Spring Training, I had hoped for a 72-90 record; however, starting today, they would have to go 19-18 the rest of the way to accomplish that feat. At this point, my optimism is so low, that my only hope is that they don't exceed 100 losses - for the third straight year.

Posted by: ImWithStupid | August 24, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

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