Nats skipper Jim Riggleman keeps the lines of communication open with his players and they appreciate his open door policy.
Jim talks to the guys before, during and after the games. The conversations can be about baseball strategy or they might not even pertain to the game at all. Being able to talk to the manager is something the players do with ease.
They also know Jim has their backs. Jim is unlike former Nationals manager Manny Acta who would rarely argue with umpires. Acta was very stoic in the dugout. He knew the cameras would be on him and he even explained to the players that he wanted to maintain his composure.
One player told me in Chicago that the former manager's style was too lackadaisical at times and it trickled down to the players. Now they get fired up when their manager fights for them.
There have been many calls this season that have not gone the Nationals way when replays show the umpires have clearly made the wrong call. Jim will jump out of that dugout on instinct, stick up for his players, and let the umpires know he is questioning a call. He's not trying to be controversial, he just wants the calls to be right and his players appreciate that.
Jim has also done a nice job of keeping all his players sharp and in the game. Ian Desmond told me a guy may not be in the starting lineup, but each one knows he may have an impact on the outcome of the game later because he may be called on to come off the bench and hit or be a defensive replacement. Jim does a great job of shuffling the guys in and out of the lineup.
What also impresses GM Mike Rizzo is Jim's ability to be both a players' manager and a disciplinarian. He noted that such a combination can be hard to do in this age of egos.
Everyone seems comfortable, and getting that playing time keeps them fresh. It's the true definition of a team. And, this Nats team is getting stronger and stronger every day. It starts from the top step of the dugout with a manager that keeps on talking.