Before yesterday's game against the Phillies, the Nationals had what pitcher Jason Marquis called a "reinforcement meeting," a kind of progress report as the team hit the one-third mark of the season. Manager Jim Riggleman said he always has a meeting at that juncture of the season, but it happened to come at a time where the Nationals had a few things to talk about.
The team had lost 10 of 12 before yesterday's game, and tensions had started to bubble up around the clubhouse. Riggleman and Marquis had a heated argument on May 20 in Baltimore, when the manager pulled the pitcher after four innings of a 17-5 win over the Orioles, and last Wednesday in Milwaukee, after the team had gotten swept, right fielder Jayson Werth said the Nationals needed to make some changes. He didn't elaborate on what those changes were, but it prompted a meeting between Werth and Riggleman last Thursday.
So as he assembled the team yesterday, Riggleman took a chance to clear the air.
"I told the guys, 'Look, we've played one-third of the season. That's a lot of baseball, but there's way more left. Let's put that behind us, what's happened so far: any negativity, any feeling about our ballclub that we're not hitting or whatever,'" Riggleman said. "'Let's do what we do on that field - because we play hard - and let's bring that into the clubhouse, too. Let's be united in this clubhouse. Let's just keep getting after it, don't let a few losses take us down and get us into a rut that we've fallen into the last few years.' Just a reminder that we've got talent in here. It's starting to surface - the offense is starting to come along. So let's go out and have some fun and play baseball."
Riggleman said he could sense some frustration building over the last few days. "You can't really put your finger on it," he said. "It's just a feeling you get that guys are getting frustrated, their numbers aren't there, we're finding ways to lose games. The heck with all that, you know? It's baseball. This is not the cure for cancer. Let's get out there and play baseball."