Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for the ‘barry svrluga’ tag

First off-season shoe drops: Dusty Baker is not coming back

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Sayonara Baker. Photo via UPI

Sayonara Baker. Photo via UPI

In a move that surprised me, the Nats announced mid friday 10/20/17 that Dusty Baker would not be renewed.  I’m guessing that also goes for his whole staff.

I think he did an excellent job with the team this year, given the ridiculous number of injuries the team face.  He clearly stabilized the clubhouse post Matt Williams.  The knock on him prior to his Nats career was handling of pitchers, over-use of relievers, and a general lack of modern baseball strategy.  But his tenure here has seen none of these issues; there’s quibbles about starter over-use earlier in the year, but that was more about his decrept bullpen than him riding his arms too heavily.  The team shifts and plays modern baseball; I see no evidence that he’s a Mike Scoscia-level old-school hard  head.  So I’m not exactly sure why they felt the need to move on.

I don’t think you can pin the playoff loss on Baker either; when your team  hits .186 and loses two games where the starter threw 6-no hit innings … its tough to win.  Some people keep mentioning his sticking with Jayson Werth instead of Howie Kendrick … or his lineup construction choices batting Werth 2nd (nevermind that lineup construction theory has been proven to be practically negligible over an entire season).   I’m not sure I agreed with the quick hook of Scherzer in his start, much like I hated the quick hook of Scherzer in game 5 of 2016’s NLDS.  But otherwise, its hard to blame the manager for this playoff loss.  I mean, if Jose Lobaton‘s foot doesn’t come off the bag, do the Nats rally and win game 5 and we’re still playing playoff baseball right now?  If the ridiculous 5th inning sequence of events doesn’t befell Scherzer’s outing … are we having a different conversation?

Mike Rizzo took over in 2009 and he’s now set to be on his 6th full time manager.   I’m beginning to wonder about the workability of this front office.  Here’s the history step by step of Rizzo’s manager selections:

  • in 2009, He inherited Manny Acta and an awful team and whacked him mid-season.  Fair enough.
  • He elevated then-bench coach players’ manager Jim Riggleman to the job and let him lead a mediocre to bad team for another year and a half.
  • In 2011, when Riggleman finally had the team playing .500 ball, by all accounts Rizzo refused to even take a meeting with him to discuss his job status, leading to Riggleman’s resignation (my take on it here from the time).
  • He then appoints the guy he apparently wanted all along in Davey Johnson … who led the team to a .500 record the rest of the way, just as Riggleman was doing.
  • The team improves 18 games in 2012, but then slumps and misses the playoffs in 2013, at which point Johnson gets whacked.
  • Rizzo brings in his old Arizona buddy Matt Williams, who catches the team as it recovers from its injury issues and leads them to the 2014 playoffs, where he badly over-manages and the team loses in four.
  • By the end of 2015, the clubhouse is in absolute disarray, as documented by WP beat writer Barry Svrluga  here: Part 1Part 2Part 3.  There’s some amazing information here, and its no shock that the team not only missed the playoffs but whacked Williams soon after the season was over.
  • The team then had the embarrassing interlude with Bud Black.
  • then they hired on Dusty Baker and tried to save-face with the Black situation, saying Baker was their choice all along.
  • And now they’ve whacked Baker after a season where he’s possibly in line to be Manager of the year.

That’s 5 full time managers in 8 seasons at the helm.  Does this sound like a good strategy to you?  Look at some of the better teams out there; they’re not cycling through managers every two seasons.

Is this a concern?

Nats Blogosphere/Blog-Roll and RSS Feed Review 2015

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So, with the addition of TalkNats.com to the Nats Blogosphere, I decided to re-visit my blogroll and to do some adding/removing as necessary.  I culled through my RSS feed and did some re-arranging.  The last time I really dug into a review of the Nats blogosphere was in March 2013, and lots has changed since then.

Here’s what my collection of Natsmosphere links looks like now.  Let me know if you think i’m missing any.  This is a combination of Nats blogs and “blogs” run by Nats beat reporters.  I don’t count baseball columnists like Tom Boswell or Thom Loverro as “bloggers” here since they’re columnists and don’t entirely focus on the nats.

Note: in some cases i’ve found that blogs that I thought went dark really just changed affiliations, changed their host name, eliminated their RSS feeds (like redporchreport.com), or something else.  And it definitely seems like we’ve lost a “blog” from the Washington Times after Amanda Comak left the Times to go work for the team.  So, please help me correct this list and tell me if I’m missing anyone.

Active blogs (generally have posted something in the last week, though some have been idle for a few months and have been given a pass):

All Nats All The Time (Ladson) therocket.mlblogs.com
Citizens of Natstown (Landwermeyer, Huzzard, Hogan, OHara, Davila) citizensofnatstown.wordpress.com
Clem’s Baseball (Andrew Clem) andrewclem.com/Baseball.php
DC Baseball History (Audley, Hornbaker, et al) dcbaseballhistory.com
Distinguished Senators (Senators Ryan) distinguishedsenators.blogspot.com
District on Deck (Flax, Book, Somers, et al) districtondeck.com
District Sports Page (Nichols, Levitin, et al) districtsportspage.com
Federal Baseball (Reddington & Huzzard) federalbaseball.com
Hagerstown Suns Fan Club (Spedden) sunsfanclub.blogspot.com
IBWAA – DC (Nichols) dc-ibwaa.blogspot.com
Let Teddy Win (Scott) blog.letteddywin.com
MASNsports Byron on the Nats (Kerr) masnsports.com/byron_kerr
Mayflies & Bigflies (Mick Reinhard) mayfliesandbigflies.com
Nationals 101 (Frank and Susan Lattuca) nats101.com
Nationals Baseball (Harper) natsbaseball.blogspot.com
Nationals Buzz (MASN beat rptrs Kerzel, Witherite, etc) masnsports.com/nationals-buzz
NationalsProspects.com (Erickson, Whitzman) nationalsprospects.com
Nats Enquirer (ck) natsenquirer.com
Nats Insider (Zuckerman & Hughes) natsinsider.com
Nats Journal (Wagner, Janes) blog.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal
Nats Noodles (Nat Anacostia) natsnoodles.com
NatsGM (Sullivan) natsgm.com
Natstradamus Blog (Luigi de guzman) natstradamus.wordpress.com
Notes from Natstown (Comak) curlyw.mlblogs.com
Red Porch Report (Eaton & Sullivan; RSS feed broken) redporchreport.com
TalkNats (Ghost of Steve M et al) talknats.com
The Nats Blog (Yoder, Drugan, Flax, et al) thenatsblog.com
The Nationals Review (Fleigel) thenationalsreview.com
Washington Nationals Blog: Nationals Home Plate (Yahoo) nationalshomeplate.com

Recently Inactivated blogs: per my RSS feed, no new posts in months or years.  Could be because of RSS issues; let me know.

z DC is for Baseball (Sean Hogan now at Citizens) dcisforbaseball.blogspot.com
z First Ladies of Baseball (Ashley & Maggie; blog seems dead) firstladiesofbaseball.com
z For Love of the Nationals (Lint; inactive) flotn.blogspot.com
z Lady and the Nats (NatsLady; was blogging in Apr2015 and then stopped) ladyandthenats.blogspot.com
z MASNsports The Goessling Game (went to ESPN) masnsports.com/the_goessling_game
z Nationals Inquisition (Drew Kinback; quit after 2015 season) natsnq.com
z Nationals Watch (was Comak; no WT blog?) www.washingtontimes.com/blog/nationals-watch/
z Nats Exposed (Karl Kolchak: stopped blogging Oct 2014) natsexposed.wordpress.com
z Nats Fan Girl (Jenson; no longer blogging) natsfangirl.com
z Nats Nation (Section 138; stopped writing) gnatsgnation.blogspot.com
z The Zimmerman(n) Telegram (stopped 2014) thezimmermanntelegram.wordpress.com

 


Beat Reporter Review

By the Way, am I missing any beat reporters?  By my count, here’s the outlets covering the Nats and their beat reporter:

  • MLB: Bill Ladson
  • Washington Post: James Wagner, Chelsea Janes (formerly Adam Kilgore, Barry Svrluga)
  • Washington Times: Zac Boyer, Todd Dybas?  (formerly Amanda Comak)
  • Comcast Sports Net: Mark Zuckerman, Chase Hughes
  • MASN: Byron Kerr, Chris Johnson, Pete Kerzel, Olivia Witherite
  • Washington Examiner: Stopped covering sports in 2013.

Does anyone else cover this team regularly in print?

That’s all she wrote: Nats officially eliminated

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Yes its a cliche. But you laughed. Photo via allthingsd.comYes its a cliche. But you laughed. Photo via allthingsd.com

While I thought the season was symbolically “over” when the Nats got swept at home by the Mets in early September (and, if you were looking for the pin-point event that buried them, look no further than the 6-walk bullpen implosion to blow a 7-1 lead), the Mets officially clinched the NL East crown yesterday by virtue of their 10-2 defeat of Cincinnati.

So how ironic is it that this morning, finally, there’s an honest assessment of the clubhouse from one of our beat reporters.  The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga published a story titled “Manager Matt Williams lost the clubhouse; will he lose his job?”  where he quotes the well known “players who did not wish to be identified” to talk in a wide ranging factor about the ills in the Nationals clubhouse that have been alluded to and reported by National guys all season long.  Apparently, Williams’ “strategy, communication and trust” have all been issues with the players, across the spectrum of vets/rookies and position/pitchers.

Wow.

Reading the story, I think it has finally dawned on me what the big problem is with Matt Williams and this particular team.  Read this quote: “Some players now wonder whether that management of minutia leaves him unable to adjust, to think on the fly.”

He’s a classic micro manager!  Of course, how obvious was this all along.  I’ve talked frequently about his “color by numbers” managing and his inability to adjust to the situation at hand … but (tying this back to roles we all know from our own workplaces), in reality he’s a classic micro manager who fails to let his veterans do what they have always known how to do, attempting to ramrod in his methods, irritating them so much in the process that they’ve tuned him out.  The signs are all there; his famous spring training rigorous schedules, his detailed plan that he brought to his job interview, his adherence to “bullpen roles” all season costing him game after game.

How would you feel if your boss asked you to write a memo about something or another and then pulled a classic Micro Manager move like sitting over your shoulder while you typed it, editing ever sentence as you wrote it?  You’d probably be irritated at first and then if it persisted for months and months, you’d likely either tune him out, refuse to do the work or just flat out avoid him.  Now imagine if you had no outlet; you’re on a team that spends 8-10 hours a day together in a tight space, takes trips together, is forced to just “deal” with each other for 6 straight months, and you can’t stand your boss.  Yeah; no wonder someone was quoted as saying that the “environment was terrible.”

It is what it is: this 2015 team had a number of well established, long since proven they know what they’re doing veterans.  A handful of them are on long term contracts with no-trades and job security (Werth, Zimmerman, Scherzer), others are seriously accomplished players who have nothing left to prove in this league (Desmond, Escobar, Gonzalez, Span, Fister to a certain extent), and others may be younger but certainly have stated their claim for respect (Harper, Rendon, Strasburg).  I don’t think any of these guys would appreciate being told that their approach is wrong or that their method of preparation isn’t right.

Williams has to go, and the Nats brain-trust needs to really take a hard look at their next manager to make sure they find someone who can properly handle the clubhouse issues that clearly torpedoed this season.  I’m sure some of you will argue that “chemistry” is BS or who will blame this season on injuries or pitching or whatever else.  Fair enough; you can’t exactly quantify human behavior.  But everyone has injuries; hell, the best team in the NL St. Louis lost their Ace starter after just 4 games and are 40 games over .500.  And the Mets by pretty much any measure have been more affected by injury in 2015 than the Nats.

Oh well.  Better luck next year.  As others have said, we’ve just wasted an MVP season from Harper and a precious year of Strasburg; hope 2016 goes better.