I know this is blasphemous to say.
I know it’ll never happen, not under this GM and not under this ownership group, both of whom have far more respect for Davey Johnson than to give him such an ignominious end to his time here.
And I know that Johnson is as good of a manager as is out there. I may have been critical of his decisions here and there (especially related to yanking starters on low pitch counts), but I recognize he’s a Hall of Famer and cannot argue against his career accomplishments.
But I’m beginning to believe that the only way to shake this team out of its current malaise is to change the message coming from the top.
They tried demoting players who weren’t hitting (Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore). They’ve tried calling up their best remaining prospects (Anthony Rendon, Nathan Karns and Taylor Jordan). They’ve tried cleaning house of underperforming relievers (Henry Rodriguez, Zach Duke, and Drew Storen). They’ve tried changing key staff (firing Rick Eckstein). They’ve tried ridiculous lineups (your best power hitter Bryce Harper leading off??) Nothing has made a difference; the team has basically been playing .500 ball for weeks and weeks now.
For whatever reason, this team of players, picked by every baseball pundit out there to make the playoffs and by a good portion to make it to or win the World Series, is now 10 games out of of the divisional lead. They’re 10 games back of Atlanta, which themselves has only played .500 ball since mid April after a 12-1 start. The Nats just finished June and July playing 50 games in a row against teams that missed the 2012 playoffs (perhaps not the best bench mark, since Pittsburgh has the best record in baseball this year, but still), and finished the stretch 5 games south of .500.
The team looks like its sleepwaking through games. They look like they have no voice, no spark, no sense of urgency. No leadership.
The trade deadline won’t help at all; the Nats have practically no tradeable assets. Their only FAs to be are Dan Haren and Chad Tracy. Kurt Suzuki has a 2014 option that clearly won’t be exercised, so he counts too. But who is out there lineing up for these 3 guys? Meanwhile, despite their offensive woes, there’s really not a spot on the field that can be improved through trade. Go around the field and you’ve got players on deals that at least extend through 2014 (LaRoche and Span), or you’ve got guys on major contracts (Zimmerman and Werth) or you’ve got cornerstone younger players (Harper, Ramos, Desmond and Rendon). Who are you going to replace? Maybe you think about trading Rafael Soriano (after all, the last thing a losing team needs is a high-priced closer) but a quick glance at the teams in playoff contention does not easily find a team in need of a closer (the best candidate may be Pittsburgh, who just lost their closer Jason Grilli to a forearm injury, but they’re not exactly rolling in dollars nor likely to take on an $11M/year guy).
Maybe its time to bring in a new voice, and see if he can scare this team into an August and September run.
Sorry Davey; you know how the old saying goes. You can’t fire 25 players, but its pretty easy to fire the manager.