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What's at stake this weekend for the Nationals

Morning brushback

It would be easy and generally accurate to call these three games this weekend at Citi Field between the Mets and Nationals "meaningless." The Nats have pretty much been out of it since June, and the Mets bowed out of contention not long after the all-star break. They are not expecting large crowds.

Then again, in sports you attach to the games whatever meaning you want. If you are a Nationals fan with abiding hatred for all things orange and blue, then this series is what you've waited since April for -- the Nats can clinch a season series win over the Mets by taking two this weekend.

There are other ways to find some meaning in these games for the Nationals, and here's a rundown:

*With two wins, the Nationals will reach the 70-win plateau. The difference between 69 and 70 is virtually cosmetic, but there seems to be at least some significance in upping that first digit.

*With a sweep, the Nationals will finish 71-91 to tie the 2006 edition for the third-best record since baseball returned.

*The Nationals enter the weekend deadlocked with Manny Acta's Cleveland Indians, who are riding a six-game winning streak. To finish ahead of their former manager's team, the Nationals need to fare better against the Mets than the Indians in their three games at the White Sox.

*If the draft was today, the Nationals would pick sixth overall. If they win one game, the Nationals will guarantee at least a share of the league's sixth-worst record with the Royals. They cannot catch the Cubs, who have the majors' eighth-worst record at 72-86. The Nationals will draft sixth or seventh, depending on how they and the Indians finish this weekend.

*Adam Dunn is sitting on 38 home runs and needs two more to reach 40 for the sixth time in seven years. Dunn famously hit 40 on the nose for four straight seasons before he hit 38 last season; maybe 38 is the new 40 for Dunn. Dunn is four home runs behind Albert Pujols for the National League lead and one ahead of Joey Votto.

*Dunn has already tied a career-high with 195 strikeouts and needs five more for 200.

*The Nationals are tied for the major league lead with 124 errors. They need fewer errors than the Pirates or two fewer than the Cubs this weekend to avoid leading the league for the second straight season.

*With a win, Tyler Clippard will clinch the outright team lead. He has 11, and Livan Hernandez, who is second on the Nats with 10, will start Sunday's season finale. Clippard needs one win to tie Estaban Loaiza for second in Nats history for wins in a season and two to pass him.

*Clippard is five strikeouts behind Hernandez for the team lead.

*Clippard needs to pitch two more innings than Colorado's Matt Belisle to lead the majors in relief innings.

FROM THE POST

Dan Steinberg offers up Ryan Zimmerman's latest commercials, which are clearly his best yet.

At Box Seats, Ryan Korby writes an ode to Adam Dunn's consistency while with the Nationals.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

Bill Ladson hands out his season awards for the Nationals.

Mark Zuckerman asks where Ross Detwiler fits in the Nationals' plans.

Federal Baseball examines what to expect from Michael Morse for next season.

By Adam Kilgore  | October 1, 2010; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  Morning brushback  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: If not Adam Dunn, then who?
Next: The Nationals could pursue Yu Darvish

Comments

Three games left. Chances of Adam Dunn hitting two HR to end up with 40: slim to none. Chances of him striking out 5 times to end up with 200: 100%.

Posted by: FeelWood | October 1, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

These games have no meaning for either team, aside from "just go out and have some fun, but stay healthy for god's sake."

Jerry Manuel is almost certainly gone as Mets manager, and Omar Minaya will probably be "reassigned," i.e., effectively fired but given some actual work to do in a diminished capacity while he finishes out his contract and/or looks for a new job with management's blessing. One possible replacement who seems to be on the Short List is former Cleveland and Texas GM John Hart:

"John Hart, currently of the MLB Network, has shown the ability to transform young, struggling franchises into contenders without spending an exorbitant amount of money. With the Cleveland Indians, Hart was able to lead the Indians to six division titles and two World Series appearances by locking up his young talent to cost effective contracts. He also piloted the Texas Rangers from 2002 to 2005. While the record may not reflect success, he was the GM that started the minor league stockpile of pitching, something the Texas Rangers strangely ignored for quite some time."

That was written by Gary Armida of The Baseball Report back in July 2009. I post that here because he sounds like exactly the kind of guy the Nots could use.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Games are meaningless (though I'll still watch them) but the Zim commercials are amusing.

Posted by: NatsFly | October 1, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Chances of getting a 1B worse than Dunn: pretty near 100%.

I don't know about y'all, but it just doesn't seem like the off-season is going to be under control. It starts in a hole, because of Dunn. It sends a signal to free agents that the team is subtracting before it starts to add. It means pitchers will be wary of a weak line-up. It means FA hitters may feel they may be pitched around. It is hard enough convincing the more talented players to come to a last-place team. And we may be stuck with the same small budgets.

Hopefully, Rizzo is talented enough to overcome these obstacles. I believe he might be. Of course, it will take some creativity and persuasiveness, not just with players who may consider coming to the Nats but also with ownership. Rizzo has the talent to do that, here's hoping. The first few signings will bring needed doses of optimism, hopefully.

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

"The Nationals will draft sixth or seventh, depending on how they and the Indians finish this weekend."

The Nats will draft 6th or 8th - 'Zona is guaranteed the 7th pick for not signing Loux.

Meaningless?? It was a similar "meaningless" last weekend series that we tanked while Seattle took 2 of 3 that got us Strasburg! With a Met sweep we could nab the 5th pick from KC. We are only 2 games "back" from them.

Posted by: VladiHondo | October 1, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I just do not understand the idea by some that if Dunn goes the Nats will somehow get better. The apparently available potential replacements for Dunn are not really that much better than Dunn defensively and nearly all are worse when it comes to hitting. 38 HR's and 100 RBI's are hard to replace (regardless of Dunn's SO's). Next season we will miss Dunn and the only FA's coming to DC in the offseason are the usual retreads with purported promise and fossils who should have retired.

Posted by: CountDemoney | October 1, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

"[I]t just doesn't seem like the off-season is going to be under control. It starts in a hole, because of Dunn. It sends a signal to free agents that the team is subtracting before it starts to add. It means pitchers will be wary of a weak line-up. It means FA hitters may feel they may be pitched around. It is hard enough convincing the more talented players to come to a last-place team. And we may be stuck with the same small budgets."

Excellent analysis. As for whether Rizzo is a talented GM, even if he is (I'm guessing he's at least a good one), no amount of executive talent can overcome cheapskate ownership.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"Clippard needs one win to tie Estaban Loaiza for second in Nats history for wins in a season"

That pretty much sums up why the nats have been terrible. This is gonna be one interesting winter.

Posted by: WrongDog | October 1, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

As for whether Rizzo is a talented GM, even if he is (I'm guessing he's at least a good one), no amount of executive talent can overcome cheapskate ownership. Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 10:41 AM

You are of course right. Something must change dramatically in that regard.

If you go shopping for groceries with $5 and come home with lunchmeat and two-day-old bread for your next few meals, does that make you a bad shopper?

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Unless you are a fan who catches a foul ball this weekend these games mean nothing; we've seen what we need to see from the young guys to know if they will stick or not. Perhaps we should start Olsen so he can get shelled and leave town with an even worse taste in his mouth, unable to understand why 1 good start out of 8 doesn't keep you in the rotation.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 1, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

"If you go shopping for groceries with $5 and come home with lunchmeat and two-day-old bread for your next few meals, does that make you a bad shopper?"

That's a question worthy of a philosophy class.

:-)

Except that I don't know if you could get that much for $5 these days.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

for $5 you can get a footlong

Posted by: SCNatsFan | October 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Fairfax,

Please note that I am not calling guys like Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, Kevin Mench, Willy Taveras, and Wil Nieves, "lunchmeat."

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

EdDC - I love the way you think of creative ways to make the same point.

I don't know if I've felt this way every year, but this seems like it will be the most interesting and pivotal offseason the Nats have had.
For most teams, a mediocre offseason is a mediocre offseason. But for a team with so much promise as the Nats had (new owner, new stadium 20,000+ STH in year 1), a mediocre offseason now will be painful for years to come.

We're not on the cusp of legitimacy or of being formidiable (as someone wrote yesterday). We're on the cusp of being completely irrelevant.

I'm not sold on signing Dunn or letting Dunn go. It depends on too many other things. But I agree with EdDC and Fairfax that we are starting this offseason in hole, and we need big progress, quickly, or we'll be signing the Adam Kennedy's of the world again next January.

Posted by: Sunderland | October 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"'Clippard needs one win to tie Estaban Loaiza for second in Nats history for wins in a season'
That pretty much sums up why the nats have been terrible. This is gonna be one interesting winter."

When they wanted to curse someone, the ancient Chinese said "May you live in interesting times."
Ah Ha! That proves it! Washington sports teams are cursed! :-)
Oh wait, I meant :-(

Posted by: NatsFly | October 1, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"Please note that I am not calling guys like Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, Kevin Mench, Willy Taveras, and Wil Nieves, 'lunchmeat.'"

Oh yes, I understand you were talking about actual groceries as a metaphor. Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression w/r/t that.

I thought it was a very good analogy, as a matter of fact.


Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Many Nat fans are supportive of the team for not wanting to offer a 3 or 4 year contract to Dunn, because at age 33 or 34 in the last year of the contract, Dunn could be in decline.

Please study the linked stats for Jim Thome. What a year this 40 year old is having!

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/thomeji01.shtml

So the Nats pass on Dunn (by waiting so long to offer) and instead may very well go out and get somebody much older than Dunn!

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Just a guess, but I think when Rizzo approaches the Lerners about ponying up for someone like Crawford, they're asking if they say yes, does that mean they don't have to sign Dunn. I wish it were an 'and' rather than an 'or' situation, but I don't think so. Unfortunately, if they lose out on Crawford, it may be too late for Dunn.

Posted by: DavidandDonald1 | October 1, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Lest it be forgotten, Dunn actually hit the ball over the fence 39 times last year, but he was called out once because he forgot to touch second base.

Posted by: zadok1 | October 1, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"Clippard needs one win to tie Estaban Loaiza for second in Nats history for wins in a season"

That pretty much sums up why the nats have been terrible. This is gonna be one interesting winter.

Posted by: WrongDog | October 1, 2010 10:41 AM
---------------

No kidding, Estaban who? Guy makes Matt Riley sound like Cy Young. And you know the Natinals are bad when one of their winningest pitchers ever is compared to bum Matt Riley.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | October 1, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Just curious, where did you get this? My impression has been that the vast majority were in favor of signing him, whatever, now--but I haven't done any real digging on this.
***************
Many Nat fans are supportive of the team for not wanting to offer a 3 or 4 year contract to Dunn ...
Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 12:41 PM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | October 1, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

sofa,

I agree with you that most want to keep Dunn, and sign him long-term. Many don't of course and have mentioned his inconsistency (we especially heard this in a 3-week August slump), Dunn's low RISP average (it was high last year), his fielding of course, the argument that you should sign him for 2 years max because of his ripe old age of 30, and we have also heard that he is already in decline (apparently because he can't hit 40 HRs any more), that his homers are too often solo shots when the game doesn't count (because of a lopsided score), and finally that it would be better to get a pitcher or a RF with Dunn's money. We also hear that Tyler Moore (next season at age 24 going into AA ball) will be available soon as a replacement, so you want to leave room for Moore. That kind of thing. You have heard all that, right?

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

As opposed to a meathook, which is something else again.

http://www.cantstopthebleeding.com/img/c4U2UnvL.jpg

(I'm sorry, but the man just makes me smile.)

---

Please note that I am not calling guys like Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, Kevin Mench, Willy Taveras, and Wil Nieves, "lunchmeat."

Posted by: EdDC | October 1, 2010 11:29 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 1, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"Please note that I am not calling guys like Adam Kennedy, Willie Harris, Kevin Mench, Willy Taveras, and Wil Nieves, 'lunchmeat.'"

Come to think of it, a pack of turkey roll would probably hit better than any one of those guys save Kennedy.

Just thought of something at stake for one Nots player. Nyjer Morgan has only 3 more games in which to hit a home run this season. Richie Ashburn had 3 full seasons in which he failed to hit a home run, including the two in which he played in Wrigley Field. This is certainly the only chance Morgan has of accomplishing the same feat as a Hall of Famer, and he'll probably blow it.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | October 1, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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