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A series that defined the Nationals’ season

Sep 10, 2015, 12:41 AM EST

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When the obituaries for the 2015 Washington Nationals are written a few weeks from now — yes, some have already published them, but they’re not officially done yet, they’re just in hospice care — they will try to determine the cause of death.

Injuries to their lineup? Underwhelming performances from their star-studded rotation? A bullpen full of unreliable arms? A manager who rarely pushed the right buttons? A general manager who was unable to make the right roster adjustments along the way?

All contributed to the ultimate demise of this team. But in a broader sense, these Nationals will have been defined by the scenario that played out each of the last three nights, plus twice more last week, plus countless times earlier in the spring and summer: An inability to finish what they started.

Wednesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Mets was merely the latest in a string of late meltdowns, a repeat of what occurred Tuesday night, which was a repeat of what occurred Monday afternoon, which was a repeat of what occurred last week in St. Louis.

Consider that each of the Nationals’ last five losses came in games they led in the sixth inning or later. Simply finish those off, and this morning they’d look at the NL East standings and find themselves sitting all alone at the top, a game ahead of the Mets. Instead, those standings show them sitting firmly in second place, a full 7 games back.

And it’s not like this is only a recent trend. The Nationals now have lost 17 games they led in the sixth inning or later this year. That happened only eight times in 2014.

(On the flip side, they’ve won only seven games they trailed in the sixth inning or later this year. That happened 15 times in 2014.)

“The game doesn’t stop for anybody,” shortstop Ian Desmond said. “I don’t care how good or bad you are, the game is going to keep on moving on. You just gotta keep your head up and keep on pushing forward, because otherwise it will swallow you right up.”

Nobody has been swallowed up lately like Drew Storen, who only 24 hours after suffering the worst meltdown of his career (regular-season category) was sent back into the lion’s den Wednesday night and didn’t emerge in one piece.

After watching his closer-turned-setup-man walk throw only 7-of-22 pitches for strikes Tuesday, manager Matt Williams said it was important to show confidence in Storen, to put him right back into a meaningful situation as soon as possible.

That situation came in the top of the eighth, the Nationals having just seen their 2-1 lead morph into a 2-2 tie after Stephen Strasburg (who pitched brilliantly all night) served up a leadoff homer to Kelly Johnson and later a 1-out single to Curtis Granderson. Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets’ recently acquired beast of a slugger, was due up, and so Williams made the long walk to the mound, signaling toward the right-field bullpen as the crowd of 27,530 booed.

“I want to do everything we can to win a baseball game,” Williams said. “I look at it … every morning I wake up and I look in the mirror and say: ‘Do whatever you have to do today to help us win a game.’ Drew’s in there tonight for the righty.”

Storen has been lights-out against right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .138 batting average, .206 on-base percentage and .234 slugging percentage. But Cespedes is the rare right-handed hitter who enjoys far more success against fellow righties (.319 batting average, .927 OPS) than lefties (.220 batting average, .718 OPS).

Favorable matchup or not, it didn’t matter which side of the plate Cespedes occupied when Storen placed a 1-0 slider on a platter, then watched as the ball soared into the left-field bullpen.

It was the ninth time in 15 games Storen has surrendered a run, his ERA a whopping 9.22 over the last month.

“I’ve dealt with a fair share of adversity in my career,” he said. “I just gotta dig down and get through it. You gotta keep pushing. You gotta look forward. Like I said last night, you can’t change the past, but you can control what’s coming up. So you gotta make that adjustment.”

As was the case Tuesday (and Monday) the Nationals’ clubhouse was somber after this one. Despite a summer full of injuries, inconsistent performances, questionable moves and missed opportunities, this team still somehow entered the week with a realistic shot at taking back the division.

If only it could have found a way to do what it has struggled so many times this season to do: Finish what it started.

“Pretty devastating,” Desmond said. “We put ourselves in a good position. Coming into this series we were obviously not where we would have liked to be, but we gave ourselves a chance. Obviously we were a lot more optimistic coming into this series than exiting it.

“Is it over? No. Until the numbers tell you it’s over, it’s not over.”

116 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:01 AM

    I haven’t seen the postgame presser yet but I heard that MW said that he really wanted the righty/righty matchup with Drew and Cespedes. Here are Cespedes’s splits so far this year.

    vs. RHP – 455 PA .319/.345/.582
    vs. LHP – 136 PA .220/.287/.431

    That is not a misprint.
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=cespeyo01&year=2015&t=b

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:06 AM

      Obviously, I should read the post before commenting. Sorry about that. Just found these stats (someone at the game told me he had heard that Cespedes can’t hit LH pitching) and wanted to put them in a comment before turning in.

      I think this may take the cake for a baffliing MW explanation.

    • Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:16 AM

      And here are Storen’s splits this year:

      vs. RHP – 104 PA .146/.212/.271
      vs. LHP – 124 PA .279/.358/.349

      It comes down to the age old question of, “Do you play to your strengths or their weaknesses?” I don’t think Williams did anything wrong there. Storen has been a very good reliever throughout his career, and, besides Papelbon, I have no faith in anyone else in our bullpen. Strasburg was done, and Storen is his go-to shutdown guy…who happens to not be pitching well right now. But who else are you going to bring in? Everyone in the bullpen is terrible.

      Besides, the way Cespedes is swinging the bat, Sandy Koufax couldn’t have gotten him out.

      • ehay2k - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        The issue is that Storen does not pitch well with men on base, and never has. That is where MW fails to understand his players.

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:11 AM

        Yes, he needs to start with a clean inning. He’s awful from the stretch.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:27 AM

        I third the motion regarding Storen coming in with runners on base. Then he is exceptionally bad company.

      • Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:48 AM

        He pitches from the stretch whether or not runners are on base, but then he doesn’t use that weird pause in his leg kick thing.

        Anyway, if a reliever can’t pitch with runners on base, then he has no value to me. I can’t expect everything to be pristine when bringing in a reliever; sometimes you have to get your feet dirty and really dig deep and get out of a jam.

  2. corkybb - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:06 AM

    In order, I think the biggest factors in why this season has gone so wrong are:

    1) Injuries
    2) The bullpen implosion
    3) Poor in-game managing:
    (A) Bunting far too often
    (B) Having starting pitchers hit too late in late, high-leverage situations when they needed runs.
    (C) Using worse relievers for earlier higher-leverage situations, and saving better pitchers for later, lower-leverage situations.

    • corkybb - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:09 AM

      *hit too often in late, high-leverage situations*

    • BatBoy - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:14 AM

      Idiot! U R ! Get real!

    • npb99 - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:10 AM

      I’d add underperformance by apparently healthy players, i.e. Desmond (pre-ASB in particular) and Scherzer (post ASB). Some of the bullpen woes fit into this category too, particularly Storen.

    • Guapo - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Good discussion. Here are mine.

      1. Very average starting rotation. Nats were WS favorites on the assumption that the starters would be dominant. They were average instead. Dominant starting pitching would have lessened the impact of the bull pen. The talent is there, they just under performed as a group.

      2. Bullpen struggles. Especially down the stretch, when it mattered. They were horrible. They’ve been horrible in the playoffs when the Nats have been there. Scouting needs to find pitchers who might have inferior stuff, but better mental makeups.

      3. Injuries, obviously. Although, strong showings from MAT, Robinson, Ross and Espinosa mitigated this issue to a large extent. Overall, the offense was good enough to win the division. They were certainly good enough to take 2 out of the 3 this week against the Mets.

      4. Manager. This team never gelled. They rarely looked like they were loose and having fun. Poor decisions started in ST, when Roark was left off the starting rotation. His performance in 2014 was spectacular and he was absolutely one of the five best starters on the team. Blunders all the way through are too numerous to list, but they carried all the way through to last night. Removing a still strong Strasburg for a scared puppy Storen who peed himself on the mound then gave up the lead. Horrific decision making, terrible team mental approach all year, just a poor leadership job from the coaching staff.

      The starters will rebound. Ross will be good. Giolito is on the way. The Pen needs some serious attention from Rizzo, but they have enough talent in the org for trades to fix that. Hopefully heath is better in ’16. But if this team enters the season with MW at the helm, they have no shot.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:29 AM

        Great post, Guapo.

      • soonernat - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:58 AM

        Just for giggles…who do leave out of the rotation if you put Roark in? Scherzer? Strasburg? JZimnn? Gio? And how do you explain that to a locker room that is giddy with the signing of one of the best pitchers in baseball?
        Also I don’t agree with a lot of what MW has done this year but I don’t fault him pulling Stras last night. Can you imagine the wailing around here is he left him in then Stras gave up 2 or 3 more runs?????

  3. Karl Kolchak - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:36 AM

    Those Most Responsible for the Nats’ 2015 Collapse–A Top 10 List

    10. Aaron Barrett
    9. Blake Treinen
    8. Ryan Zimmerman
    7. Casey Janssen
    6. Jayson Werth
    5. Doug Fister
    4. Ian Desmond
    3. Drew Storen
    2. Matt Williams
    1. Mike Rizzo

    • wadelefler556 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:47 AM

      Agree on all points! Esp #1

      • wadelefler556 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:48 AM

        Our true MVP this year, Danny Espinosa…seriously…

      • therealjohnc - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:02 PM

        If you think that Espinosa is the “true MVP” for the Nats this season … while Harper is the consensus MVP of the National League?

        Okay. Interesting. Thanks for offering that.

    • cosmova - Sep 10, 2015 at 6:01 AM

      I would add Wilson Ramos to that list, and pretty high up too. Not only did he have a horrible year offensively, his inability to field his position likely cost the team a couple of games. People wanted to see a whole season of a healthy Ramos and the results were mighty disappointing.

    • npb99 - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:12 AM

      Not sure RZ belongs on that list. He’s been great after returning from DL. If you want to hold injuries against players, then Span should be on the list,

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:13 AM

        If that’s the case, Rendon should be skewered for getting hurt.

    • edgs3rd1978 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:11 PM

      Didn’t see the 200 million dollar man on your list…you know, the reason that you not only succeeded this year, but also the reason you’ll be handcuffed for the foreseeable future.

    • richardp6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      my Top 10- and if you need justification, he ended the nats season by putting Storen back out there last night.

      1. Matt Williams
      1. Matt Williams

      1. Matt Williams

      1. Matt Williams
      1. Matt Williams

      1. Matt Williams
      1. Matt Williams
      1. Matt Williams

      1. Matt Williams
      1. Matt Williams

  4. rabbit433 - Sep 10, 2015 at 5:09 AM

    Gotta like the Mets. Don’t need to worry about the Nats. It will be an enjoyable and relaxing Sunday when I go to the Phillies game, not having to worry about making the playoffs. It will actually be refreshing to see newer players who will be starting next year and in the near future. The team we have now is just so boring and predictable. So, Go Nats….next season!

  5. robertrobert104 - Sep 10, 2015 at 5:52 AM

    Well, now we have proof: Bunch of chockers on that team. And stuPid matt williams use again storen? Talk about wanting to lose….

  6. ArVAFan - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    Obviously, the only way the Nats are going to win any more games this year is get six innings from the starter, two HR from Bryce, and pray for rain.

    That probably won’t work in Miami, but maybe the roof will leak.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:13 AM

    I am not a Matt Williams fan, but he was dealt a poor hand, and it started with Jayson Werth believing he could rehab his shoulder, and then ultimately getting surgery right before the start of the season. Then McLouth had what turned into a permanent setback on his recovery. And Denard Span gets the groin surgery and starts late, only to injure his other side, which turned into a season long tragedy. Other than Bryce Harper the outfield was piecemeal from the get go. Rizzo makes a baseball decision not to keep Tyler Clippard and signs Casey Janssen to fill the gap and he turns out to be a wounded duck. Jerry Blevins, the team’s one loogy, pisses Rizzo off by taking the team to arbitration and wins, but is sent packing for a AAAA outfielder. Anthony Rendon starts off spring training with a bruise that basically kept him out with weird mystery ailments for half the season which necessitated the revamping of the infield that had been planned. Ryan Zimmerman shows up for spring training with a wounded foot and had to go on a trip to the DL. Ian Desmond had an even worse than his normal poor start, but this time with both the bat and the glove. Then, after a fairly hot spring, Wilson Ramos’ bat went cold and neither Ramos or Jose Loboton seemed to be able to field well thrown balls from the outfield. Then MW had Strasburg seemingly having an injury du jour on almost every outing. The middle inning relief suffers what I think was the cruelest blow for MW when Craig Stammen goes down for the season. Nobody, nor everybody combined, could give Matt the innings Craig Stammen did. Then Doug Fister can’t get the pitches down and is horridly disappointing. Now, MW did get lucky with Yunel Escobar’s better than expected play, along with Danny Espinosa playing to a ML level ball player. Mad Scherzer was everything expected, and then some, until Williams left him in too long for too many games. Then Max couldn’t win anymore. Actually, all along MW’s management of his pitching staff seemed to backfire way too often, no matter who, what, how he tried.

    Like I said to start this post, I am not a Matt Williams fan, but the guy had to deal with a ton of adversity that was not of his choosing, and much of that adversity makes him look like a dumb ass in the eyes of the fans. I don’t think many managers could have won with all that went wrong this year. But that doesn’t matter, does it? The guy should do the honorable thing and fall on his sword.

    • Reverendp - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      That was a pretty spot on recap of what went wrong and well explains how a team so highly regarded can have a compromised outcome.

      Many of those items were somewhat unavoidable. Burning up Max was well within the teams sphere of influence however.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:18 PM

        I think the idea that the Nats were “burning up Max” is fairly silly. His workload isn’t out of line with his previous seasons. Scherzer’s innings pitched last season at this time are ahead of his current numbers (200.1 IP through 9 Sep last year, 190 IP this year total). And even when his innings were running ahead of last year’s pace, his efficiency meant that he had actually thrown fewer pitches. And despite all that, last year Scherzer’s August was one of his better months.

    • Another_Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:35 AM

      Right on, Joe. I’m ready to move on from this this year. Thanks for the summation.

      I have many negative surprises on my list, but you nail most of ’em in a classier way than I might have done. Thanks, man.

      BTW, I have a several quite upbeat things on my list — positive surprises this season:

      1. RZ’s very smooth transition to first base tops my list.
      2. Clint Robinson
      3. Matt denDekker

      IMHO the biggest flaw that Matt Williams has is poor press conference skills. [I’m more or less serious about this.] If he scratched himself and spit a bit, trafficked in baseball clichés, called out horrid play, grumbled and so on, fans would have a more charitable attitude. [Think Showalter.]

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:50 AM

        Thanks, Sam. I was thrilled for all of the players you mentioned, but I will add that Michael Taylor has established himself as a ML player. The league got an early book on him to throw him a lot of low and outside sucker pitches and though it succeeded for a while, a long while, he made some adjustments as time went on. I actually wonder how much influence Matt Williams had on Harper’s, MAT’s, and Espinosa’s improvement at the plate.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 7:59 AM

        As to him falling on his sword? That could really have Garden Gnome possibilities.

      • Another_Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:09 AM

        Yes about MAT. I think I had a hard time seeing him for what he is; I kept thinking of him as a place holder until Spann returned to action and to form. But you are correct about his development.

        Also, after I posted I realized that I’d forgotten to include Espinoza’s reinvention of himself in my posting. He’s also on my list of welcome positive surprises.

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:14 AM

        Joe Ross was a bright spot

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:14 AM

        Joe Ross was a bright spot

      • Guapo - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:19 AM

        + Joe Ross and an MVP season from #34.

    • alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:23 AM

      “and much of that adversity makes him look like a dumb ass in the eyes of the fans”

      sorry but he needs little if any help to prove his inability to manage a game and roster

      100% to blame? of course not. but we will never know how much of the underperforming can be laid at his feet.

    • akiterp - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:44 AM

      Joe … thanks for the non-rant recap …. makes you wonder more about the offseason management of the team. Does that fall more on MW or Rizzo?

      Though I’ll disagree with 70% of the MW hate, agreed, at this point he needs to take the fall

    • NatsNut - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:49 AM

      Pretty good synopsis and well said. Man, i totally forgot about werth’s shoulder.
      All the fans’ moaning and complaining about MW just seems like such an easy, lazy target. As if that ONE FACTOR is the only thing standing between the Nats and a world series trophy. Just put a better manager in there and we would have been golden!!
      Seamhead, this post highlights how silly that seems now.

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:15 AM

        I commented in a previous thread about having players who need surgery just go ahead and get it now. I mean, like, right now.

      • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:25 AM

        Nope not what anyone is says…..but I am sawing just but a real manager in there and we would be a weak playoff team with a chance to catch lightning if a bottle. Still would have only 88 wins or so but that should have been enough….the Mets will have more because the Nats are giving them these games.

    • jd - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      Joe much of what you say is true but in the end I think the division was still there for the taking. So many of the games we lost were a Nats giveaway not an opposition takeaway. Teams face adversity, the Cardinals lost Wainright ,Adams, Holiday and Jay either for the season or for very long parts of the season.

      Thinking that MW failed simply because of misfortune is delusional, he is a ridiculously poor in game manager. Look no further than last night, his reasoning for bringing in Storen to face Cespedes was ‘righty righty’ matchup but Cespedes has ridiculous reverse splits, he murders righties and struggles against lefties. How does MW not know this?

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:41 AM

        Well, I could’ve said that he didn’t play the hand that he was dealt very well instead of saying that he was dealt a poor hand, but like Johnson in 2013, I don’t feel that Williams deserves all the hate directed his way. But, like Davey after 2013, I think Matt Williams has reached the time to say goodbye. The lynch mob that is theCourt of Public Opinion has found him guilty of high crimes and dumb assedness. Between the disappointing season and the ticket price increases, if the Nats bring back Williams,I think the public outcry would be deafening.

      • Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        Conversely, Storen has been great against righties and terrible against lefties this year. That move was not totally illogical…besides, none of our lefties can get anyone out anyway. What other choice did he have?

        Personally, I would have voted for Clint Robinson in that situation. He was great in his one inning of relief this year.

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:24 AM

        It’s ridiculous to think that it’s a good argument for bringing in Storen that Storen been good against righties this year. Most RH relievers are good against righties. So what? That proves nothing. Treinen is better against righties, so is Janssen, so is Martin, so is Doug Fister I would guess.

        Who else could he have brought in? Well,how about Matt Thornton? (He was up in the bullpen along with Storen.) Oh, you say, but Thornton is better against lefties than righties. Yes, but he’s not pitching to “righties,” he’s pitching to Cespedes, who for some reason struggles against LH pitching. And, bonus, Murphy is up after Cespedes. Get those two and you’re out of the inning.

      • sunshinebobby - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:03 PM

        As somebody mentioned last night with Matty’s obsession with getting a righty-righty matchup against Cespedes, Storen was not his only choice to get that. As I recall, Stephen Strasburg also pitches right-handed.

        Your move, Matty.

      • fstop1970 - Sep 10, 2015 at 5:38 PM

        Taking out Stras and having Storen pitch to Cespedes last night made zero sense. Yes, Stras gave a up homer to Johnson and gave up a single to Granderson. But in between, he struck out Nieuwenhuis. All three lefties BTW, and he was still hitting 95 & 96 on his fastball. He was hardly tanking and besides that, Stras owned Cespedes his last 2 at bats, both strike-outs. To boot, the pitcher (Storen) he brought in replace Stras, was the very one who gave up a bases clearing 3 run double the night before to Cespedes.

        Anyone see the look on Stras’ face when Storen promptly gave up the game? He was pissed. I would also not be surprised if Gio’s comments from a few days ago, when Gio praised Matt for not taking him out at crucial point in the game and letting get out of his own mess, might be somewhere in the back of Stras’ head as Matt took the ball from him. That may a stretch on my part, but I would not be at all surprised if there was some measure of truth in that.

    • wmlsays - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      Other teams had injuries as well. The Mets actually lost as much, if not more hours to injuries than the Nats. And the Cards lost players for longer periods of time. This is all excuse making. Rizzo did not build a deep team and he did not built a logically cohesive team. Before blaming Matt Williams too much, I believe Mike Rizzo did a great disservice to the organization this year. Many of the players are future free agents and instead of making sure that the team can be successful by ensuring that the middle relief is at least good enough to withstand the pressure that they were put under. Ultimately, it appears that his assessment of the talent in the team did not match reality. He has been unsuccessful in crafting a roster that can go deep into the playoffs. His choice for manager is not exactly a great hit. The team has missed the playoffs twice in three years, even though they are supposedly a talent laden team. Talent is great, but without chemistry, you get the Nats. If I were the Lerners, I would look at Rizzo and make sure that they don’t have the next George McPhee. Great at selecting first round draft picks, able to put together talented rosters, but ultimately a failure in putting a championship team together. Yes, there are a lot of Rizzo fans out there. I am not convinced that he is the GM that will put a team together that is truly elite. Or at least close to it.

      • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:54 AM

        +99999

      • richardp6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:52 PM

        MW gambled the season and his job by putting Storen back in. I think he has a death wish. You don’t put a player in who is obviously in a slump for so long. I’d have lived and died with Strasburg because no one would argued that he should have gone to Storen. He’s sealed his fate.

    • soonernat - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:04 AM

      +1 Joe an excellent recap. Time to start thinking about next year. Do you QO Desi? Can you trade Storen for anything of value? Do you keep Escobar? Do you QO Fister and JZimnn? What about Span? Lots of questions for us to consider over the next 6 months or so….

  8. Candide - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:13 AM

    Cunegonde got home late last night during the second inning, was surprised I was watching the game. Told her that since the Nats weren’t going anywhere, I could just watch it for the pleasure of watching a ball game, regardless of the outcome.

    And there WERE things to enjoy, in particular, Strasburg’s command of the mound.

    But the fact that after that kind of performance, Strasburg ended up getting tagged with the loss is just more proof – if any was needed – that God hates the Nats.

    BTW, am I the only one who felt bad for Storen sitting in the dugout after his inning? I was hoping there weren’t any sharp objects near where he was sitting.

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:30 AM

      I’m sure you’re not the only one who felt bad for Storen. But I didn’t. Well, I couldn’t see him from my seat at the park, so maybe if I had seen the hang dog, shellshocked, poor me expression he undoubtedly had on this face I might have. But I doubt it. He has failed way too many times, and way too spectacularly, in way too important situations, to get my sympathy. And his self-centered response to the acquisition of Papelbon still sticks in my craw. That was inexcusable for a professional.

      At this point, I just look forward to his departure from this team. Thanks for building those cool bleachers in the bullpen though.

      • Dave - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:38 PM

        I am tired of the “poor Storen” meme. He did not behave like a professional ballplayer when his role shifted. Not only will I not be sorry to see him go; I have to say I will welcome it.

      • Candide - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:34 PM

        Wow, tough crowd.

        I’m not denying he’s failed badly time and again when the pressure was on, and he’s had more than enough chances to redeem himself. I won’t complain if he never pitches another game for the Nats.

        But it’s not like he deliberately gave up a home run, and it’s because of that that I feel some sympathy for him; he looked like a guy who wanted to kill himself, or at least find a deep hole to hide in after having failed so miserably in front of thousands of people. Most of us never make terrible mistakes for thousands of people to instantly condemn, and have the howling mob scream for our scalps.

        Of course, most of us don’t make anything like the kind of money he does, either…

  9. Mrsb loves the Nats - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    Im sticking by my guns. I don’t think MW will be fired. I think that the Lerners and Rizzo will say sure he didnt help but it wasnt all on him. In a season where virtually everything went wrong, his porous in game mgmt/bp management and people not performing didnt help him.

    With that said – I wouldnt be surprised if members of his staff – McCatty and Weidemheir – notably are gone.

    • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      No way. Someone will pay for what has happened and RIzzo won’t be the scapegoat. Book that.

  10. Sam - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    One thing that (I believe) HAS to happen next year – assuming we don’t trade Escobar in the offseason – is a shift to second base. He’s just been brutal at third base this year. And Rendon is a helluva lot more fun to watch at 3B with his quick reactions and great instincts.

    Honestly, though, despite how well Escobar has performed offensively this season, I’d prefer a shift to another team. I do not like his antics in the batter’s box, and he seems aloof to me. Obviously, this is all based on what I see watching him on TV and nothing more, so there may be absolutely no truth to this.

    • jd - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      I agree 100%. A great time to sell high on Esco.

      • sec112 - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:44 AM

        Selling high might make sense if the right offer comes along. But I would be careful not to create a situation that relies on Danny Espinosa as a starter for any extended period. He proved this year that he belongs in the Major Leagues (I had my doubts), but not as a starter unless you have a stacked lineup (which is why I could see Espinosa being offered – also as a sell high situation – to an offense heavy AL club that can afford a light hitting strong fielding shortstop).

    • jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      I love his demeanor in the batter’s box, but hate his brain lapses in the field and on the bases

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      I fully expect Yunel Escobar to be traded during the offseason.

    • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:35 AM

      Sam, I agree that selling high on Esco makes some sense, especially if he can’t or won’t move to 2B. Rendon is a GG 3B, and Esco is a liability there despite his effort. He likely won’t repeat his career year at the plate either. Whether we make that move depends on whether Turner or Difo seem ready to play every day next year. I have my doubts about that.

      That said, I totally disagree with your criticism of his on-field comportment. He’s genuine and plays with fire and joy. I suspect you are right on one thing though — that there is no truth to your observation from your couch that he’s aloof.

      • sunshinebobby - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:07 PM

        2016 Nats infield:
        1B-Zimm (with Clint playing 100 games against tough righties, and when Zimm is inevitably injured)
        2B-Espinosa (or Trea, whichever works best)
        SS-Trea (or Espinosa, whichever works best)
        3B-Rendon

        Utility–whoever we get when we unload Escobar.

      • therealjohnc - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:32 PM

        Nationals probable infield 2016:

        Opening Day:
        1b Zim
        2b Escobar
        SS Espinosa
        3b Rendon

        June 1 (approx)
        1b Zim
        2b Turner
        SS Espinosa/Escobar (depending on how the season goes)
        3b Rendon

        They will give Escobar and Espinosa every chance to prove that 2015 was no fluke for them. It’s likely that one of them (possibly both) will fail that test. Regardless, around June 1 Turner will be able to be called up and will still not (as of the end of the season) will not have accumulated 173 days of MLB service – and thus not have one year of service under the CBA. Which further means that the Nats will retain the rights to his services for the extra year.

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:57 PM

        Really smart post johnc. I had forgotten the service time issue for Turner. You’re absolutely right that he won’t be playing in big leagues until Rizzo can assure that he remains under team control for the full six years. And that severely undercuts the argument for trading Esco.

  11. raleighnat - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:37 AM

    Players just didn’t perform – whether due to injury or simply execution. Williams didn’t help that for sure. Really disappointing season, and Rizzo really needs to shake things up this offseason. With free agent departures and some trades, he has a chance to remake this team’s personality.

    • raleighnat - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:38 AM

      and a new manager, of course.

    • alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:20 AM

      I think you will see a different team on the field next year and I don’t just meant the names.

      I would expect more contact hitters, speed and a more experienced bullpen.

      In Rizzo I trust

      • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        Why….what has Rizzo done to produce MLB team that can win….he always has that BP or Bench or flawed manager to kill the potential….he learns nothing from what is placed in front of him in a 162+ season…..he will try to cheaply rebuild the pen yet again and find flawed players on the cheap to build the bench.

      • alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:48 AM

        I think the bench players did just fine this year. I thing the bullpen suffered greatly when Stammen went down so late and Roark proved to be a flash in the pan. I think MW will be gone.

        You’ve made it clear that you don’t feel that way and for some reason you think we don’t all know that.

        So I’ll ask you for a specific team that has an expensive bench or bullpen. One will do.

      • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:01 AM

        On the Cheap does not always mean Money….you know that right?…..Lots of teams build strong BP and Benches by trading for them which means not looking for guys cut my Yankees all the time.

      • alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:14 AM

        OMG, you’re The Donald!

      • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        I don’t think Rizzo is at all interested in contact hitters. We had one named Billy Burns who was worth a year of Jerry Blevins service. Look at all the runners we leave on in scoring position. Rizzo is not a small ball guy.

  12. TimDz - Sep 10, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    Two things….one for the group and one for Mark…

    1) Is it possible that Storen has an injury? Or do folks just think that he has lost all confidence and just needs to be moved in the off season.

    2) Mark….I know that writers often see the need to use metaphors and the like, but the Hospice reference was a bit too much for someone like myself, who has seen one parent, some relatives and a few friends go through that living hell….

    • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:10 AM

      Tim, As a guy who has lost six fairly close friends and relatives over the past three months I understand your second point, but I have become insensitized to insensitive remarks made without malice. And I am telling all of my other friends not to stand to close to me as you will probably get struck by lightning.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:14 AM

        As to Drew Storen possibly being injured? I tend to doubt it is anything other than seriously wounded dignity.I think that he is by all accounts a nice young man. Too nice, and too sensitive,to be a great closer, IMHO.

      • dcwx61 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:15 AM

        and to be used last night…

      • TimDz - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:16 AM

        Joe, sorry for those losses…..that’s very tough….

        I was just pointing out my thoughts to Mr. Zuckerman…I am positive it was done without malice, but felt the need to speak my mind nonetheless….

  13. dcwx61 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    intangiball….a good book out about how the importance of leadership and team chemistry and how difficult it is to define quantitatively…MW brought anything but life to the clubhouse…SS face last night said it all.
    Has anyone worked in an environment where leadership and organizations was messed up and you didn’t have faith in management. Imagine how that can weight you down facing all the adversity of a 162 game grueling season.

  14. lovedanats - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    I was at that stinker of a game Tuesday night. I was also a little shell shocked trying to get out of the stadium surrounded by chants of “let’s go mets” and blue jerseys. Nevertheless, there I was last night watching again. This is the first time I haven’t bought playoff tickets as soon as I could. I just didn’t see how these boys could pull it out this year.
    Question? Did all season ticket prices go up dramatically this year? I am “grandfathered” in a 20 game plan in a section of the stadium that will no longer sell 20 game plans, just full season. I just assumed they were trying to get rid of us this season. My ticket prices increased by $35 per ticket. Is that what everyone is seeing?

    • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      After what happened this season, I have my doubts as to whether to not the Lerners will actually raise the prices. That would be a severe slap in the fans faces and would probably cause a lot of fans to change their minds about renewing. We shall see.

      • nats106 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:22 AM

        Dude, they already raised them.

      • Candide - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:27 AM

        Norfolk Southern club full season tickets are going from $45/game this year to $65 next year.

      • veejh - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:50 AM

        They can change their mind, right?

      • janebeard - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:42 AM

        We went from a full to hold season because the prices jumped so much. I was torn about even renewing now.

      • Section 222 - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:55 PM

        Ticket prices went up and they aren’t coming down. Increases varied by section. I’m sure the team thought that this historic World Series season would be the perfect time to do it. Another of their many miscalculations this year.

    • nats106 - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:39 AM

      I suspect the only way they will consider rolling back prices if they have less than a 50% renewal rate based upon the price increases I’ve seen. Despite the poor year I would think their budget people expect a downdraft, but not that much of one. Those increases are here to stay.

      Like I said previously-their NatsPlus program turned into NatsMinus. Can I put a trademark on that?

      • sunshinebobby - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:12 PM

        NatsMinus (Copyright, 2015, nats106, All Rights Reserved).

        Mission accomplished!

    • Nats Fan Zee - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Did you think that Max came for free? I have seen this movie in NY … it does not end well.

      • nats106 - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:57 AM

        Yeah, I said early in the year that I expected to be “Scherzered” since my 3 year commitment was over. And yeah, I was right, unfortunately.

        And you are right-they usually don’t end well.

  15. jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    What went wrong? 1- Pitching (middle relief was deplorable all year, with the exception of Thornton) all year, 2- Pitching (starting pitching was bad across the board: Max bombed after the AS break, Fister lost it, and Stras couldn’t stay off the DL, and 3- Pitching (back end relief imploded: Storen, Storen and Storen complete collapse — went from lights out to always lit up).

  16. newenglandnat - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    The only thing i’m surprised by is the level of vitriol leveled at Rizzo. He’s developed a roster that for four consecutive years has finished either first or second in the division and has played meaningful games in September each year. How many other teams can say that? Not many. And unlike other teams that go on runs for two or three or four years, we appear prepared to be able to maintain that level of success next year, given the young and controllable talent we have. Will we make the playoffs next year, let alone win a World Series? Who knows! But the GM’s job is to put the pieces in place to make it possible, have depth for contingencies, and be able to make a move late to shore up any holes.

    I think he did that this year. Given the injuries the lineup suffered, the team had pretty significant depth among everyday players that allowed it to maintain a hold on first place until the healthy guys got back. All the talk about “the Mets were just as injured” misses the point. The games missed may have been similar, but the guys the Nats lost were all of their most key players (aside from Bryce). No one has depth to deal with injuries to four of your five top offensive players. That said, Espinosa, Taylor, and Robinson played meaningful and successful roles. Most teams aren’t able to call up a starter that provides very successful innings right off the bat and the Nats did that with aplomb. (Sure, they used other guys in spot starts that weren’t successful, but that’s always the case.) And, finally, he recognized that the one area he had goofed on was the bullpen and he went out and got a top-of-the-line guy to shore that up and allow everyone else to slide into different roles.

    Ahhh, the bullpen. Sure, the bullpen was awful these three games. Just awful. And they lost two winnable games against St. Louis right before this. No sugar-coating that. Since August 1st, the bullpen’s ERA has been 4.6, which is just awful. But it’s a myth that the bullpen has been overall abysmal. Despite the past month, the Nats are 16th in baseball in ERA as a bullpen (3.68). Not great obviously, but that’s the same as the Cubs and better than the Dodgers. Worse in BAA — .250 (21st) in baseball. Clearly, it was a weakness for the team at the time of the trade deadline — don’t get me wrong — and so Rizzo went and tried to shore it up. Papelbon himself has been OK (not great), but the overall performance since the deal was horrible. The bottom line is that from August 1st onward, they had two guys that ought to have been able to own the eighth and ninth innings. Given their starting pitching, that ought to have been enough. Sure, you could expect times where you need guys in the sixth or seventh every so often, but the guys in those roles hadn’t been abysmal to that point.

    Which brings us to the single biggest issue this year: Starting pitching. That was supposed to be the strength of the team. It largely stayed healthy. But they couldn’t consistently get through seven innings, especially late in the year. If they had done that, we’d be a first place team right now, in spite of everything else. It’s hard to see how that’s Rizzo’s fault.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:12 AM

      +1

      • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:22 AM

        -1 – Rizzo owns MW and not a big Boz guy but he has some perspective and strengths….and he has finally seen what I have seen for years….NO BACKBONE…that is Rizzo’s guys….he hand picked players that are talented, nice to each other, good guys…who just do not care enough to get pissed and do something about bad play and or choke when it gets hot…Storen is the choker and Zimm is the guy with no backbone…..Zimm will take the off season to do all his great father, charity and vacation stuff and not think once about what he needs to do to lead this team….he wanted the lifelong contract…he wanted the face of the team roll….he does not care to earn it by working this off season and forgo all this other interests. He needs to do everything he can the next 6 months to ge ready to play 150 games and it is not golf and beach trips

      • akiterp - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:02 PM

        +1

    • newenglandnat - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:54 AM

      Rizzo owns MW. That’s absolutely fair. I agree completely.

      But I disagree with you (and Boz) on the other issues. We’re really somehow going to blame Ryan Zimmerman’s injuries on his demeanor? And on the fact that in the three months of the off-season he performs some charity work (as though he doesn’t have a few hours every day to be not getting his body in shape). That’s absurd. I mean truly, irrationally ridiculous. The guy was GREAT at the most important time of the year until his recent, unfortunate injury. Absolutely clutch in all aspects. He got hurt. Again. Very unfortunate. And it’s fair to criticize the contract given to him or question his future value because of his injury propensity. But it certainly says nothing about his or the team’s”backbone.”

      And Storen? I just want to say this, even though it will always get lost in what is a far easier narrative. In 2012, he appeared in games 1, 3, and 4, and each time pitched one inning of absolute nothing. Those (or at least games one and four) were absolute clutch performances — one run save in game one and a one run key inning with the season on the brink in game 4. Obviously, he had a bad performance in game 5. Call it a “choke” if you want, but that label is countervailed by terrific performances just days earlier. And last year? The guy threw two good pitches in game 2 and guys got hits (for that matter, some of the bad performance in 2012 game 5 was the same phenomenon). How is that a choke?

      The bullpen (most of all Storen) choked this series. But he’s pitched in a lot of very high pressure situations and performed admirably. Unless you wanted Storen gone after 2012 or gone after last year, blaming Rizzo for that is myopic.

      • soonernat - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:11 AM

        NENat – thanks for bring some rational thought to this discussion!!!

      • jd - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:13 AM

        newenglandnat,

        I agree with your post completely most especially your Storen Analysis. I have always felt that the Storen handling has been Rizzo’s biggest failure. After 2012 Rizzo should have supported his closer 100%, the game 5 meltdown should have been treated as a one time disaster when a series of unfortunate events conspired to doom Storen (a bunch of borderline pitches not being called strikes, a ground ball inches from Desmond’s glove etc).

        Instead Rizzo hired Soriano and demoted Storen resulting in a huge drop off in Storen’s performance which eventually reverted back when Soriano imploded in 2014. The game 2 misfortune which you detail correctly once again ignited the ‘choke’ label. This year despite a tremendous 1st half Rizzo went out and acquired a closer who actually pitched less well than Storen and demoted Drew one more time.

        It’s fair to say that Storen has thin skin and has reacted badly to situations and demotions and it’s also fair to say that meltdowns have come at the worst possible moments but I think that it’s also fair to say that Rizzo has botched that relationship on 2 occasions sending a message of “I don’t trust you’ no matter how well you are doing.

        Nats fans who are lining up to slam the door on Drew’s rear end should not come back and say’why didn’t he do it for us?’ when Drew does it for someone else.

      • raleighnat - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:21 AM

        I like Storen. I think he is a really, really good guy and I hate like heck that he is going through this. But that said, he has to be traded. I can’t watch him any more. I think it would be good for him and the Nats have got to shed that vibe.

      • jd - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:25 AM

        raleighnat,

        I agree.

    • kkpp3 - Sep 10, 2015 at 5:48 PM

      Another great post newenglandnat. Thanks.

      On MW: he was asked to manage what turned out to be an unfortunate and unexpected mess (injuries and underperformance), but he made it worse by his in-game mismanagement. Was he most to blame? I would think probably not (the Royals seem to do OK with Yost in charge). But you can’t fire the players the way you can fire the manager, so I’m expecting MW to be gone.

      On Rizzo: for somebody who is supposed to be such a talent spotter, he sure seems to have stumbled with the bullpen. And I don’t understand why he threw Storen off a cliff twice. If you don’t trust the guy, trade him rather than punish him.

  17. jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    JayB, you just make sh** up. How do you know everything Zimmerman does in the off-season? The answer: You don’t

    • JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:31 AM

      just check twitter feeds…..it has a daily account

  18. jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    And JayB, Right or wrong, Boswell has said for a long time that this team has yet to prove it can handle pressure situations.

    And ss more evidence comes in to support yours and his assertion, it should be noted that working harder is not the answer. The ability to thrive under pressure at this elite professional is not something you develop in the off-season.

  19. JayB - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    working harder is off season comment to be ready for the season and reduce the huge number of injuries…..thrive under pressure is there in all people but most need to be lead to it with culture and confidence….this team has very little winning culture on it.

  20. janebeard - Sep 10, 2015 at 11:49 AM

    I love Drew still, and hate for him and the team and the fans that he’s going through this. AND this doesn’t happen without the move t bring in Papelbon, for two reasons: 1) What we needed was a bridge to Drew, 2) It once again said, “We don’t trust you.” A commenter above was right: Drew was great in several play off games, and he was having a stellar season. Then, in a club where the say they value “make up” they bring in a guy with a horrible reputation as a “cancer in the clubhouse.” They got him cheap because of his reputation.

    They should have grabbed Clip back instead of letting him go to the Mets. The bull-pen lost games alone wold have made the difference to us.

    I know we won;t see Drew next year, and that will be good for him. Hopefully, he will land somewhere where he can be lights out again, and where we won’t see much of him. Because he is REALLY good. Just not now.

    Matt will be gone, too. So will Desi, and the very dependable Jordan. It’s really too bad we didn’t have the pen to get us there this year.

    • jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:36 PM

      Could not disagree more. Storen is a professional and he knew, as we all did that he was absolutely as needed to shut down the 8th as he was previously needed to shut down the 9th. And he didn’t do it. He lost command of all of his pitches. He would have been a bust as a closer if the Nationals had not acquired one. And Papelbon has performed as advertised, and from all indications, is not at all a “cancer in the clubhouse”

      In hindsight, given how many games the bullpen other than Papelbon have lost for the Nationals the last month and a half, they should have tried to acquire Papelbon AND Clippard.

      • jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:37 PM

        But on the other hand, who could have predicted Storen’s complete collapse. He hasn’t choked, he has just lost it..

      • jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:40 PM

        And, like you Janebeard, I have always liked him and pulled for him and thought he was hammered way too hard for his playoff woes.

  21. sunshinebobby - Sep 10, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Like many others, I love Drew as a person, would love for him to marry one of my daughters, great guy, Stanford kid, stand-up guy, but…
    he has to go.

    We won’t get anything for him, and he may very well resurrect his career in a place like Miami, but he’s out of here.

    Who to blame? Where to start? Rizzo, Matt, the Metro operator on the Green line, Hillary, who knows? But he’s lost it, has no confidence, leaves that slider up way too many times and right now probably would not be an effective closer for the P-Nats.

    While we all though Game 5 was an aberration, a mere blip on his way to greatness, a small hurdle and easily correctable.

    Turns out Game 5 is who is is.

    • alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 3:29 PM

      and he should really lose the beard!

      I would think he has more value than Blevins and we got a serviceable part for him.

  22. alexva6 - Sep 10, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/7417714/v466993683/chris-russo-on-the-mets-and-the-nl-east

    He’s just sayin”

    he seems to have captured the mood here, that’s for sure.

  23. micksback1 - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:02 PM

    Wherever and if Drew ends up anywhere, his entrance song as to be the Beatles “I’M A LOSER”

    • jfmii - Sep 10, 2015 at 2:10 PM

      So unnecessary to denigrate. He most certainly has had a better professional sports career than you have had, micksback1.

  24. rgsie - Sep 10, 2015 at 5:50 PM

    C’mon Guys….You Can’t Win Them All.

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