Almost every night during the Nationals games this season, there is a play or an event that invariably puts the team behind the proverbial 8 ball.
Whether it's wildness from the pitchers, infielders not coming up with plays - or even knocking the ball down for that matter, infielders not playing deep enough with runners on second to at least have a chance to knock the ball down, pop ups, flyballs somehow finding the ground instead of settling into someone's glove, hitters not getting runners over, hitters not driving runners in from third with less than two outs, swinging at the pitcher's pitch even when the count is in their favor, baserunners not getting enough of a lead or not enough of a secondary lead, not reacting immediately when the ball comes off the bat because they aren't playing the game ahead in there minds.
You must know where the outfielders are playing and the infielders are positioned. Wild pitches, passed balls, relievers seeming to invariably spit the bit in crucial situations by walking the lead-off hitter, getting ahead in counts 0-2, 1-2 then running the count to 3-2 as if they don't know when to go with their out pitch, pitchers when given an out on bad bunts to the advancing runners not making an aggressive play to that base instead of taking the SURE out at first. Then that run ends up beating you.
In my 40 years of professional baseball I have never seen a major league team play this poorly this long.
I don't know what the answer is...I do know that we have Great Leadership in our front office and I have not given up on Manny and his coaching staff.
But there is something missing....Is it lack of talent? Have we collected a group of players who have the physical ability to play the game but do not possess the instincts to play it correctly?
Are we so young that time will heal, and through the mistakes and lack of execution, experience will take these men to a higher level? With the young starting pitchers I say emphatically, Yes.
With our everyday players I am not sure...The ages of our usual starting eight are 29, 25, 30, 24, 29, 29, 30, 28 - hardly a young group. Our bench is 30,31,35,31 - again, not gray beards but not wet behind their ears either...Even our bullpen is rather long in the tooth...Tavares, Villone, McDougal, Beimel, Burnett, and Clippard are all at a point that they should be seasoned and effective. Yet it's not happening.
Trust me when I say, the manager can only do so much. When I managed in Cincinnati, I would always look for match ups late in the game that would give my team the edge or the best possibility to win. When you have your best pitcher (for that situation) matched up with a hitter that he has had great success against, you make the move and hope that your man wins. When he doesn't, everyone points to the manager for that decision.
The manager and pitching coach know these men inside and out. But they just can't pitch or throw for them. Manny has made a million right moves. The players are responsible for their part of those moves. Quality at bats in RBI situations, solid defense, and professional approaches as pitchers. And they aren't getting it done!
Dibs made the comment on Thursday night about the "mailing it in" thing. I knew he was as hot as I was. Those comments come from years of being on winning clubs and establishing a mindset. That mindset is "I will do what it takes to do my job, Period. Whether it's hitting, fielding, pitching, or baserunning. You must believe that you will get the job done!
If for one second Manny, Rizzo, Boone or any of the coaches feels a player is laying down, there should be some serious consequences. We all know Manny and his staff are suffering, as are the players. Most of the people that I am in contact with every day still support this group. I am a Manny believer. However, three months of this does seem to turn your stomach inside out...