Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The State of the Nationals

The general feeling in NatsTown this morning is as low as it's been in while. It's not just one aspect of the game that has brought the team to this point anymore. It used to be solely the offense's fault. The starting pitchers and bullpen remained nearly unhittable. All of that is different now.

The Nats have lost 9 of their last 12 games; they've been shut out 3 times in the last two weeks; they've given up 7 or more runs 3 times in the last 4 games. It seems like nothing can go right at the same time. If the offense is clicking, the pitching is off. If the pitching is clicking, the offense can't seem to muster a single run. These things and more are clearly wearing on the entire ball club.

Tuesday night's 3+ hour slug fest in Milwaukee seemed to be another much needed jolt to the Nats, not unlike the 17-5 shellacking of the Orioles on Friday. 1B Michael Morse broke out and hit a grand slam, ended the night 3 for 5, and brought his batting average above .280. It wasn't meant to be, though, as the Nats bullpen gave up 4 runs in the 7th and 8th inning and walked away with a loss after carrying a 6-3 lead into the 7th inning.

True to form, the Nats were unable to capitalize on other opportunities throughout the game and were shut out after Milwaukee's starter, Chris Narveson, left the game in the 4th inning. Livan Hernandez pitched well, yet again, but ended up with another no decision because the bullpen simply couldn't hold on.

Adding insult to injury, Adam LaRoche was placed on the 15-day DL Tuesday and is likely on the road to season-ending rotator cuff surgery. Ryan Zimmerman is still hurt and likely won't even see a rehab assignment for several more weeks. Ian Desmond is still clearly nursing some sort of lower body injury, as he was seen limping around the bases the last few days. Tom Gorzelanny is plummeting back to earth, as Mac predicted a few weeks back. Jason Marquis lost his mind when he was pulled from Friday's game against the O's after just 4 ineffective innings.

The Nationals still have one of the worst offenses, both by feel and on paper, in all of baseball. The core of the lineup was supposed to be Werth, Zimmerman, LaRoche. Not bad. For the time being, it will be Werth, pick a name from a hat, pick another random hitter. Not good at all. Even the once solid bullpen is anything but solid at this point.

Typically, we here at CapBall try to find the best in almost every situation in NatsTown. In this situation, though, it's hard to find anything really positive to say. The Nats are firmly seated in the cellar of the NL East, with all but one of their big stars (Zimmerman, Strasburg, LaRoche, and Harper) nowhere to be found. The players that are with the organization are visibly frustrated and have been mostly ineffective.

The Nats broadcasts on MASN always talk about Defining Moments of the game. Well, this is a defining moment for the entire organization. The season is likely lost, simply because of the quality teams in the NL East this season. But the attitudes and relationships that the team develops in these circumstances will define the team beyond just this season, because many of the team's players will be back in 2012 and beyond. This team has to dig deep and find something, because right now, this organization is at one of it's lowest moments since 2005. And the fans are reeling.


  1. One word: fire sale. This is the year for the team to do what it always hedges on doing, trade away its veterans on short-term contracts before the trading deadline.

    There is NO good reason for Marquis, Livo, Coffey, Nix, Ankiel, Pudge, Hairston or Stairs to still be on the roster come August 1st. They should dump the lot of them and bring up as many young guys as they can. If this season is all about buuilding up for 2012 and 2013 when Strasburg comes back and Harper arrives, it is the only thing that makes sense.

  2. Two questions:

    1. Is the team training staff responsible for these initially minor injuries that turn into season-ending catastrophes? I have no data, but it seems like this happens disproportionately to Nationals players.

    2. Are we regretting the Josh Willingham for Henry Rodriguez trade? Sure would be nice to have another consistent bat in there.

  3. Maybe 2011 is the year that our core of young, future players is tested by fire. Maybe they can learn from the veterans also. We've been saying that 2012 is our year, but we really did not believe it. I guess we change our focus from w's and L's to watching players develop - Ramos, Espi, Desi,Storen, Hrod , and maybe even Bernie and MM will break out by the end of the year and be pieces of the puzzle. Strasburg can continue to heal, Zim can regain form, Werth can get used to DC, LaRoche may have a productive year next year. On paper , the pieces are there - there are some that we need to ditch, others that need seasoning. But will they step up or fold?

  4. I don't necessarily regret the Willingham trade. He is not having nearly as good a year for the A's as he did last year, is still likely to get hurt at some point and he's in his walk year.

    I just wish we'd gotten a better return for him.

  5. Fire Jim Riggleman.

    What did he say to H-Rod right before four pitch walk to Boggs last night?? Why need to go to mound after impressive strike out with 99 mph? I saw H-Rod was shaking his head after Riggleman's visit. We call it "over management".

    This is not the first of doubtful management by Riggleman. Say, look back April 26, 27 and May 12. I also disliked overuses of Cole Kimball.


  6. I'm with bdrube here. I don't regret the Willingham trade. I was disappointed by it at the time, but he's not exactly lighting up the... lackluster AL West, and he's also had his share of injuries.

    For the training staff, I've been calling for Lee Kuntz's head for a while now... While it may not be his fault directly, the mismanagement of injuries has become a real issue. I'm not saying that we should always rush players into surgery at all. But Zimm's injury was recurring, and yet there was still an extended wait before surgery became an option. LaRoche was clearly nowhere near 100% and had a tear in his throwing shoulder. First baseman or not, he still needs to throw the baseball, andit was certainly affecting his swing.

    This isn't the first, but it's the latest problem of stars in the Nats organization getting hurt. At some point, you have to be concerned that the kind of training that the team is providing the players is not helping prevent these types of injuries, and it's certainly not making it better.