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Can Nats channel last night’s emotion into something?

Apr 28, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

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ATLANTA — Amid the uproar over Andrelton Simmons’ questionable takeout slide that injured Yunel Escobar, the back-and-forth between the Nationals and Braves that ensued and then news of prospect A.J. Cole getting called up to make his major-league debut in place of the injured Max Scherzer, everyone seemed to gloss over a teeny little fact last night: The Nats lost yet another ballgame.

That’s six losses in a row, if you’ve lost count, and at 7-13 overall they now sit all alone in last place in the NL East, a staggering eight games behind the division-leading Mets.

As has been the case for three weeks now, the Nationals desperately need a spark, something that gets them going in a positive direction before it really is too late.

And maybe, just maybe, that spark came last night in the form of Simmons’ slide, Escobar’s injury and the Nationals’ reaction to the whole thing.

Consider what transpired after the controversial play in the bottom of the fifth…

— The Nats scored three runs, matching their total output from the previous 26 innings.

— Ian Desmond went in hard (but clean) to break up a double play at second base.

— Rafael Martin hit Simmons in the rear end with a first-pitch fastball that certainly seemed to have intent and led to warnings being issued to the rookie reliever and both dugouts.

That’s the most life the Nationals have shown in days.

“Maybe that’s what we needed a little bit, a little kick in the butt to get us going,” right fielder Bryce Harper said. “Hopefully, we go out there tomorrow and play with some attitude and win some ballgames.”

No, the Nationals didn’t win the game. And yes, they still committed four errors. And yes, their bullpen gave up three runs late.

But there appeared to be a different kind of vibe on the field and in the clubhouse after this one, certainly different than had been the case after their previous five losses. There was no complacency to be found.

“We’ve just got to take it upon ourselves to turn it around,” said Dan Uggla, former Brave and Marlin. “We can’t wait for things to start to go our way. We’ve just got to sack up, you know, and make it turn around. I think everyone in this clubhouse feels the same way. I know after playing against these guys for so long that we have the makeup to do it.”

Now, emotion only takes you so far. The Nationals need Cole to pitch well in his debut tonight. They need to be far more productive at the plate than they’ve been. They need their bullpen to put up zeroes for a change. And they certainly need to play a clean ballgame in the field.

But perhaps a little emotion can help in those problem areas. And if the Nationals can somehow find a way to channel the emotions they displayed late in last night’s game and afterward into something positive, perhaps this can serve as the spark they so desperately need.

  1. nats106 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    Maybe the team just isn’t that good. I don’t know. But what I do know is that when I expected them to lose because they were bad it was fun going to the ballpark because I never walked away disappointed and about 45% of the time happy because we won. This season is just devolving into increasingly bad baseball all around. At least the “pressure” of being the front runner will go away shortly.

    • Guapo - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      The team is one of the most talented in the big leagues. That’s not a just a fan opinion, it’s consensus among experts in the game.

      If you have talent and are not executing, it comes down to approach and preparation.

      • Doc - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:52 AM

        And another word—focus.

    • curlydub34 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      I’m with ya 106. I live just outside Miami and I went to the games on Friday and Saturday. It was really, really hard to watch. The players probably feel the same way, like Ray and FP have been saying. I had close seats and could see into the dugout and it appeared that only a few players were intense and amped up when things weren’t going well. (Bryce and Max were jawing at the umpire late in the game on Robinson’s check swing that didn’t go our way.) Hopefully last night lights a fire in all of them.

      • nats106 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:57 AM

        curly, Surprised you’re not a Marlins fan. Last year you could see that they were coming together as a team-if it wasn’t for their owner I’d be a bigger fan of the team. Like their whole make up.

        I have another theory, but I know it will get pooh-poohed (and deservedly so since I’m the creator of the short-lived but useless “DOA” review.)

        A little over two years ago the Nationals signed Soriano after Storen blew game 5. The team was playing poorly and lackluster and I believe hit a low when Storen was sent down and finally Clippard spoke up.

        This time around, Scherzer is signed, and the best #5 in baseball is relegated to what seems to be a useless role in the bullpen. I know at work when you do well you expect to be rewarded in terms of pay, bonus, promotion etc.

        These guys are playing for pride, accomplishment and opportunity. So when you tell a guy that had almost 200 innings, a shutout and a sub 3.00 ERA that you’re rewarding him by sending him to the bullpen, maybe, just maybe other players are subconsciously taking notice.

        Probably a stupid thought, but I’ve never been short of those.

      • scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:19 AM

        Nats 106
        I agree – it’s a bs move. Stras n Gio are much less dependable.

      • curlydub34 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:29 AM

        I’m from nova and have been a die hard since 2005. Just recently moved down here for school. I like a lot of their players so it’s fun to watch them. I think your theory might not be far off. I think that could be what is effecting Roark but I don’t know if it really impacts the starting lineup. They are all pretty much locked into their roles. IMO, the Scherzer signing was more for long term stability than it was for this year.

      • dclivejazz - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:41 AM

        nats106

        Your theory about the effect of disregarding Roark has some merit IMO. Throw in this being the walk year for several players whom the team is clearly not interested in retaining and the effect is magnified. Rizzo and the even the players themselves expect everyone to be professional about it, but the demotivating effect could still be there. Eventually, people may actually play better because it will be in their interest to perform, but the kick in the gut phase happens first.

        This is just pop psychology that could be nonsense, and in general the team is usually classy with it’s players (eg, how the team now treats Levon Hernandez and Chad Tracy). Still the undercurrent of this effect could be a contributing factor to the teams current blah play.

      • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:05 PM

        106, I’m not much for psychological explanations of bad play, and it’s getting pretty attenuated to connect our putrid hitting to the ill treatment of a No. 5 starter. But I do think that MW hasn’t figured out how to use Roark and needs to do so.

        Please don’t abandon DOA just because one game turned out badly for you. No analysis can stand up to the kind of lousy play the Nats’ have exhibited so far this year.

      • commodorehornblower - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:15 PM

        Nats 106 – You are spot on!

        The Soriano and Scherzer signings show a consistent pattern and I am very concerned it will become part of the long term culture of this organization. Relegating Roark to the bullpen in an undefined role is not only a big mistake it undercuts the pride the team had in being part of such an amazing story. The same thing with Storen, he was a home grown closer, well liked and successful. Yes, he blew game 5, we were all there, but you don’t demote a closer over one start. The team has also used up resources in those two moves that could have gone to shoring up the pen with left-handers (a few years ago) and better bench bats this year.

        The senior leadership appears to have a zero defect mentality as such they are too afraid to show trust in players like Roark. The result of this leadership style is to undercut some of the most valuable players because they don’t have a pedigree or big name. What we have right now is a collection of great players with lots of evidence that they can perform their individual jobs so nobody can be blamed for failure. What we need is a TEAM capable of coming together and winning ballgames that they do not individually have the talent to win.

        It’s not a mental problem.
        It’s not a physical problem.
        It’s a leadership problem!

      • natsdial8 - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:21 PM

        How they have handled Roark does seem puzzling

  2. scnatsfan - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    I’ve taken the approach with this team that I’ll believe we are good when I see it. Doesn’t mean I won’t watch, doesn’t mean I won’t root or support, it just means I’ll assume this is what we are until the team shows me otherwise. And Lord knows I won’t be on them.

  3. Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    A few thoughts on the issues raised in the last thread on the Simmons slide.

    After watching the replay several times, I have a hard time understanding how anyone could call that a clean slide. It was an incredibly late slide. His body and feet never hit the ground before slamming into Esco’s hand (and body). It was akin to barreling into a catcher at home plate to try to dislodge the ball, except that Esco isn’t wearing any protective gear other than his glove. The only reason Simmons didn’t fly completely over the base is that he collided with Esco. No one can know whether he was trying to hurt Esco, or just knock the ball loose, but either way it was a dirty and dangerous slide. I respect the people here taking the opposite position as very knowledgeable baseball types, but you’re just wrong on this one.

    Plunking Simmons was dumb, but I’m a purist on throwing at people. It accomplishes nothing, even if done in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your team’s chance to win the game as this one did. Even dumber would be further retribution. Are we going to keep doing this kind of garbage until there’s a bench clearing brawl and more people get hurt or suspended?

    How does instant replay make these kinds of incidents more likely? Maybe someone explained that in last night’s thread, but if so, I missed it.

    Finally, I’m not sure if there’s anything lower than the commenter who has missed no opportunity to criticize Esco and the trade that brought him here deciding that this play was an example of Esco’s defensive shortcomings. Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down. His play, both on offense and defense, has been one of the few good things about the Nats’ season so far, and he took one for the team last night. For shame, Sir. Have you no decency?

    • nats106 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Here here!

      I missed something though:

      Where did the comment:” How does instant replay make these kinds of incidents more likely”: come from?

      • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        Someone said that this morning and suggested it had been said in a previous discussion. But no explanation. I’ve heard people say that the fact that the neighborhood play can be reviewed to see if the throw pulled the fielder off the base leads to middle infielders staying on the bag longer and getting hit by incoming runners. Not sure I agree with that, but this was a play at 3B. Maybe people think that in the old days the 3B wouldn’t have had to actually tag him because the throw beat him by a mile, and so Esco would have moved out of harm’s way. I don’t buy that at all.

      • nats106 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:07 AM

        Thanks. Missed that completely. I think you are spot on once again.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:16 AM

        It was Ghost, and the gist of it was that, before replay, third basemen got the benefit of a “vicinity” tag on plays where the ball beats the runner by a significant margin, and the runner is coming in feet first, for exactly this reason. But with replay, now they have to actually tag the runner, which makes plays like this inevitable, even if the runner doesn’t slide waaaaay late and too hard, as if winning a game were more important than risking someone’s career. Which it isn’t. But I digress.

        I remember a particular series of plays I watched last year, in various MLB games over one weekend, where the phantom tag at third was called an out, because that same call went against my own third baseman in our next game. I wasn’t happy about it. Of course, if I had been the runner, I’d have felt otherwise.

    • Doc - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      Esco has done more on the field and in the box than I would have expected.

    • curlydub34 - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      I’m glad you mentioned Escobar’s defense 222. I’ve wanted to say something about it for a while but haven’t had the time. Of all our infielders, he is the one who seems to make the routine plays(only 1 error, although he’s had fewer chances). He may not get to some balls that zim or rendon get to but he’s playing a new position and trying to figure out the hops and where he is most comfortable pre pitch. He’s leading the team in batting average and making the routine plays. After watching him play in person, he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite Nats.

      And fwiw, clippard is 0-2 with a 3.24 era in a very pitcher friendly park.

    • natsdial8 - Apr 28, 2015 at 4:32 PM

      Strange as it sounds , the object in mlb, unlike t-ball:) , actually is to win the game . As to Esco’s defense on that play( I am an Esco fan) he actually held his glove where it would have been impossible for a sliding runner to miss it , and very difficult not to get taken out if the runner oversides or slides late. i wouldn’t call it bad D but Esco did contribute to the problem .

  4. scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Deuces! You go man!

  5. scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 10:59 AM

    Ok if I was gm

    – cut Werth eat salary not face
    – trade Stras, desi and Jordan – get young talent and a solid bat
    – put MAT in center, span to bench hitting lefty and plus defender
    –,Roark back as starter.
    – Gio to pen
    – trea to short cuz he’s at least better than Ian

    Then… Assess and evolve

    • veejh - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:03 AM

      I’m glad you’re not GM

      • scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        Come on V! U don’t like any of those moves?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:22 AM

        I’m glad too, but not a bit surprised. At least two of them are not even wrong, they’re literally impossible, and the rest are just silly.

    • unkyd59 - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:57 PM

      Go home. You’re drunk…

  6. veejh - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:02 AM

    I’m going to chalk everything going on (or not going on), as one helluva playoff hangover.

    • scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:11 AM

      True. Was at caps game. 2 teams in second round and my fav team is in shambles. Ugh. Pass the aspirin

  7. habs3 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:04 AM

    MZ ‘s blog borders on the comical. Talk about grasping at straws. Every indication points to a bad team. As a poster mentioned in an earlier post this team could be getting old.

    Rizzo is going to have to concentrate on everyday players that can hit. This team has not hit since last September. They have been playing like this since the beginning of spring training. I think the poor hitting has affectEd other aspects of their play. One thing for sure Werth is no leader. Look at how he acts on the field after a strike out. He does not want to be out there. Give a Moore a chance. Maybe he wants to play.

    • natsdial8 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:18 AM

      Players that can hit is a gr8 suggestion . Mike will find them .

  8. natsdial8 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Missed last night’s back and forth on clean play , dirty play . Did see the play – what should the runner have done , stopped and accepted the tag? When the defender is clearly in front of and blocking access the runner slides to the bag rather than barrelling . His spikes seemed to be headed to the bag . Hopefully it does become a wake up call .

    • scmargenau - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:24 AM

      What not do as bull fighters do? Step to tne side quickly and make the tag as he starts slide.

    • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      He should have done a hard slide to the bag, not launched himself so his spikes hit Esco on the fly. Look at where he ends up after the slide. It was ridiculously late and dangerous.
      http://m.mlb.com/video/v92529383/wshatl-nats-and-braves-react-to-simmons-hard-slide/?query=simmons+escobar

      • natsdial8 - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:17 PM

        222 thx for posting the video I just watched several times – what I saw was the runner’s feet/ spikes aimed directley at the bag and low – his feet had to hit the glove because the glove was directly in front of the bag and low- i wouldn’t say he launched himself – yes he ended up past the bag with his foot up – but he has to raise one foot to clear the bag . The lateness of the slide could have been poor execution -many mlb players don’t have the best fundamentals – hard pressed to see “dirty play” mlb level

  9. Another_Sam - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:37 AM

    Just imho if this little dust up is all it takes to get ’em going something is seriously lacking.

  10. jd - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    There is no denying that the team that was picked by everyone (not just here but by all neutral publications) to win the division at least is playing like crap. I think the record would have been easier to explain away if the problems werent so numerous and ongoing.

    20 games is not anything to go by but I have to say I’m not as calm about our prospects as I would be normally because:

    1) Our superstar starting 5 has been between mediocre and poor (Mc.Catty?)
    2) Our new bullpen which we would have expected to be a work in progress has been a dissaster.
    3) The defense continues to be erratic.
    4) The veterans offense is not coming around as of yet ( the fear of age regression vs. injury or slow starts is there).
    5) Young veterans such as Ramos who should be entering their peak years don’t seem to be making forward strides.

    Again, 20 games should not require major surgery but if we are still were we are at 40 games it may be time for a serious reassesment.

    • rabbit433 - Apr 28, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      Playing like crap!! Oh, how dare you say anything against the Nats on this blog! Frustration isn’t understood here. Be careful, or you’ll be called a troll too.

  11. Eugene in Oregon - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Let’s be realistic. No one — not the GM, not the owners — is going to throw in the towel, blow up the team, and start rebuilding for the future on April 28. Nor should they. Could there be a trade or two, particularly to shore up the bullpen? Of course. Could a starter get benched for a few games? Sure. Will the team turn itself around and play .600 baseball from here on out? I hope so. But it may not happen. I agree that we’re beyond the ‘still early’ mantra, but there are still 142 games to play and, like it or not, there’s no deus ex machina answer.

    • jd - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Eugene,

      Of course you are right. The team can’t and shouldn’t be blown up. On the other hand if we are still playing the way we are now in a month I think MW’s seat will start getting hot.

    • ICYMI - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:12 PM

      “Fire the manager and put some fear of Deus into them” could be a Deus ex machina answer. It’s worked a time or two in baseball history. Of course, it’s failed a time or two as well.

  12. jd - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    BTW,

    I don’t care about the standings, games behind, calculations of what winning percentage it will take to get us here or there. I care about playing a good game tonight, giving ourselves a chance to win and looking like a contending team not like the imposters wearing the Nats uniforms for the path month.

    • natsjackinfl - Apr 28, 2015 at 11:59 AM

      Amen!

    • Dave - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      Thanks for that comment, jd. For me the most depressing thing about the season so far has not been necessarily the division standings (bad as they are), but the sheer unwatchability of the baseball being played.

      Except for the four games I have attended in person, I have not been able to bring myself to watch a single game all the way through. Sometimes it’s been because I had other stuff to do, but for the past week or so it’s been because I chose to do other things with my time. And I find that development profoundly depressing.

      Ready for a change, a spark. Not ready to see the team blown up, and I do not expect that will happen.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:42 PM

        Agreed on the unwatchable front. That said, after Sunday’s game, I told my husband I was going to take a mental health day and not watch on Monday. So where was I at 7:05 last night? Right in front of the tv, watching the game. What can I say? It’s a disease. When I mentioned to my husband how I was watching anyway, he was like, “Oh. I thought you said the *team* was taking a mental health day.” hmmm…that might be an idea… 🙂

  13. habs3 - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:01 PM

    I know it is early but what would be our position if the get swept by the Braves and the mets? There is no longer a remote possibility give our play last night!

    • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:08 PM

      If we get swept by both teams we’ll be 7-18, and on a 11 game losing streak. I imagine that would be cause for a bit of concern, even among the Legion of It’s Early.

      • natsfan1a - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:43 PM

        Nah, we only need a 10-game losing streak to reverse the curse. What?

  14. habs3 - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    In order to be awarded a draft choice for any of our pending fa’s do we have to make a qualifying offer? If so that could pose a problem for us. Desmond and zimm are playing so bad that they make accept our offer. we would be stuck with them for another year.

  15. habs3 - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    In order to be awarded a draft choice for any of our pending fa’s do we have to make a qualifying offer? If so that could pose a problem for us. Desmond and zimm are playing so bad that they make accept our offer. we would be stuck with them for another year.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      Yes, the team has to make a qualifying offer of one year at an as-yet-undetermined amount of money (probably in the neighborhood of $14MM/a) to get a draft pick if they sign elsewhere. The team that signs them loses a pick, but that’s not the pick the QO team gets.

      • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:15 PM

        Not only that, but if we trade Desi or JZnn, the acquiring team does not get a draft pick if they are unable to sign the player long term.

        I suppose it’s possible that Desi’s value could fall so far this year that he’d accept our Q.O. Unlikely though. And unless JZnn gets hurt, there’e no way he accepts. He’s going to cash in for sure.

  16. flapjacksinolney - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    I am a bit worried by Rendon’s ‘fatigue’. Anyone know if there is more to the story than that?

    • Steady Eddie - Apr 28, 2015 at 3:29 PM

      Not really “fatigue”:
      @chelsea_janes: Williams on Rendon: “it was a little chilly there, and he had a little issue getting loose with the knee so we just decided to be safe”

  17. Sec 3, My Sofa - Apr 28, 2015 at 12:54 PM

    Boswell is talking people off the ledge on his chat.
    http://live.washingtonpost.com/ask-boswell-20150427.html?hpid=z4

    • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 3:20 PM

      Not too convincing. He talks about the ’79 O’s who were 3-8 and went to the WS and the ’80 O’s who were 16-21 and won 100 games. The first 11 games truly is too little to get worried about And if the Nats get to 16-21, I’ll be well off the ledge because that would mean they won 9 of the next 17 games. Right now they are 7-13 and showing no signs of being able to play .500 baseball, much less go on an extended run.

      I totally get that the season is not over, that all hope is not lost, that the Nats can come back from this disastrous start. No doubt about that. But the idea that there is nothing to be concerned about (or as Boz says: “Here’s what matters: Nothing.”) is with each successive loss being shown to be silly.

  18. manassasnatsfan - Apr 28, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    Last night I suggested a brawl like situation might be the match that lights the fire.

    Stall 96-66 but leaning to 95-67

    • Section 222 - Apr 28, 2015 at 4:18 PM

      That’s insane. If this team needs a brawl to light its fire it doesn’t deserve to be a playoff team. Besides, a brawl could also result in a season ending injury or long suspension for a key player. Think that’s a good idea?

  19. rabbit433 - Apr 28, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    Well, we keep grabbing at straws to find something positive. Eventually, we’ll find the straw that holds. Until then, we have a brush fire that’s escalating.

  20. bc4314 - Apr 28, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    I think Boswell is right, it is way too early to panic but not too early to be concerned. The team looked terrible over its first 20 games. If current trends continue, then they are in serious trouble. But does anyone here seriously think they will play .350 ball over an extended period of time? I believe there are 30 games between now and June 1. An 18-12 record over that period of time will get them to .500, I believe, and they’ll be right back in it because the Mets, with all their injuries, are not going to sustain their current pace. It’s a long season.

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