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I got it!

Feb 28, 2010, 6:08 PM EST

VIERA, Fla. — Pretty uneventful workout today. No live BP. No dramatic bullpen sessions. If anything, the most interesting portion of the session came early on, when Jim Riggleman conducted the always-entertaining "pop-up drill."

You should be able to figure out how that works based on the name alone. Nine guys in the field. Pat Listach and Rick Eckstein at the plate, each wielding a fungo bat, each sending balls high into the blue Viera sky as the players scramble to haul them in and not kill each other in the process.

No close-calls today, though you always hold your breath when there's a foul-pop behind the plate and one of the catchers has to navigate his way around dozens of teammates and the batting cage to make the play. Otherwise, there were only a couple of botched ones. By my recollection, Cristian Guzman missed one. Chris Duncan missed at least one in left field. And Ryan Zimmerman and a catcher (can't remember who) let one fall to the ground between them.

I've seen this drill every spring, and every team does them. But I did see something new today: For the final portion of the drill, Riggleman made everyone turn their backs to the plate. They weren't allowed to turn around until the ball was in the air. The idea was to simulateRead more »

  1. JayB - Feb 28, 2010 at 6:48 PM

    Thanks Mark,I think the difference from your view that "every team does them and I have seen this before" is going to be how many times they do these drills and with what intensity and accountability when that ball drops. Riggs has said that he will not be doing any inter squad games this year in the run up to first Spring Training games because he wants to use this time to focus on fundamental drills.That is new from Acta correct…I know I have seen inter squad games during this time in the past 3 years. Mark, I know you like and respect Acta as a person and feel he got the short end on this time with the Nats but at some point I hope you get over that personal feeling and let us know that this indeed is a very diffident camp. If it is not then so be it, but all I am reading tells me different….I plan be down this coming week to see for my self and again in mid March.

  2. Anonymous - Feb 28, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Standard little league drill: have all the kids face the outfield, then throw a tennis ball up in the air. Although you make sure to throw the ball so that when it comes down it's not going to bop someone in the head, the kids wear helmets. Kids turn around, identify the flight, and adjust based on baserunner situation. Can't believe they're doing this in a big league camp.One more thing: I seem to recall an article somewhere about the changing diet of the players, and how the clubs are bringing in healthier foods and snacks. Surprised the club is deviating from this regimen.

  3. JMW4th - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:14 PM

    good lord JayB. Acta is gone. yes its a different camp from last year. let it go already.are we going to have to suffer through you being utterly unable to make a single post without mentioning Acta all season? I hope not.

  4. JayB - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    When I see it for myself then I will let it go. Just a few more days…..

  5. Anonymous - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    No you won't JayB. You'll never let it go. That's your problem. You could ease up, though, and quit making it everyone else's problem.

  6. Anonymous - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:33 PM

    Hmmm… The $1M-man club is only 13 deep – Dunn, RZimm, Guzman, Pudge, Willingham, Harris, Kennedy, Marquis, Olsen, Strasburg, Wang, Bruney & Capps. There's going to be some repetition (in both restaurants & players) before spring training is over. -BinM-

  7. JMW4th - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:41 PM

    Hey Mark, how about an evaulation post?I'm particularly interested in how Capps, Maxwell, Bernadina, Bruney, Chico, and J.D. Martin are looking so far.

  8. JMW4th - Feb 28, 2010 at 8:47 PM

    When I see it for myself then I will let it go. Just a few more days…..———–what, you believe Manny Acta is still calling the shots in secret, and you need physical proof that Acta is actually the Indians manager now and not the Nats?stop with this, JayB. or start following the Indians since you are so obsessed with Manny Acta.Mark has no obligation to you to specifically and personally confirm to you that yes, Manny is really gone. I really wish you'd just let the man do his job, instead of trying to force him to pursue some personal vendetta of yours.Manny is with Cleveland. Riggleman is our manager. He's running the camp the way he feels it should be run, and Manny has nothing to do with it. Accept and Deal with it. If you are really that interested in Manny's spring training tactics, I suggest you go ask the Cleveland Indians beat writers.

  9. natbiscuit - Feb 28, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    Nice drill. Useful and fun. Here's hoping for the wheelbarrow drill next … without the injuries. That's when you hit a pop foul where the grounds crew is working and wait until the last second to warn the fielder about the wheelbarrow.

  10. JayB - Feb 28, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    Really good indication of what I have been looking for in Marks Email of Riggs Audio file today. It is clear that he does not like the past culture of goofing off in spring training. He said he really did not like the type of soft and unfocused AB's found in inter-squad games. How these things lead to a trash talking pick up game. He called it a waste of time for the most part. LOVE IT….Things are changing in Nats Town.

  11. Anonymous - Feb 28, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    Well, if JayB won't let Manny Acta's legacy die, let's at least talk aout it correctly instead of spinning fiction.No swing zone: Today is the second and final day for "tracking' practice by hitters. Pitchers are throwing to them at full speed, but the hitters just watch the pitches go by. There's no screen in front of the pitcher and there's no batting cage for the hitter. It looks like the hitters are posing for pictures.This is manager Manny Acta's idea."I started doing it last year (in Washington)," said Acta. "Guys like it. We managers talk during the winter meetings. Some of the guys do it. I was sold on the idea."I think it's very counterproductive to have guys, the first day or two, batting against pitchers because the pitchers are ahead of them. They can take bad swings and get into bad habits."Acta feels it's a way to keep pitchers and hitters from doing too much early in spring training."You have a lot of guys in camp who want to impress right off the bat," said Acta. "It doesn't matter how much you emphasize (to ease into things), the adrenaline kicks off right away, and guys want to be getting guys out in batting practice. It's unfair to the hitters."When the "taking' drills are over, hitters take batting practice against the coaches.

  12. Anonymous - Feb 28, 2010 at 10:13 PM

    Based on readings alone, it seems the team may have a drive that has been lacking in previous years. Instead of the 'We're major leaguers, we belong here' from prior years, it's more of a 'We're tired of being a punchline, let's make this work' attitude. Granted, it's very early, but there is more hope (& talent) this year than there has been in the recent past. -BinM-

  13. Section 222 - Feb 28, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    JayB, I'm jealous that you're headed down to Viera and look forward to your impressions in the comments. And I have to agree with you about Acta. It was so dispiriting during the disastrous first half of 2009 to hear Manny's pathetic excuses — blaming a Hernandez error on how the grass was cut, suggesting that mental errors were to be expected from the "kids," who included by then quite a few veteran players. And then there was annointing Millege the leadoff hitter, sticking with Kearns for way too long and never allowing a hot reliever to pitch more than an inning. It did seem like the beat writers were reluctant to criticize him, which I guess is to be expected. So now that he's gone, I agree it would be nice to hear how this camp is different than the ones he ran, because that could give us a tangible reason to hope that the results will be different this year. And JMW, the guys who are in a position to compare the Acta and Riggelman camps are the ones who are following the Nats now, not the Indians beat writers who have the bad luck to have to listen to a daily Manny show.

  14. Anonymous - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    In evaluating the Acta regime, I tend to put much more stock in the thoughts of players, front office types, and beat writers who were here during those years than I do to randoms posting on these blogs. To a man – and even when pressed on the matter – no Nats player, executive or writer has a single bad word to say about Acta. Not. A. Single. Bad. Word. Not one. Ever.Give it up, guys. Acta lost, but that doesn't mean he was a bad manager or that what he did was wrong. To say that Riggleman is good or that he is better for this team is not to say that Acta was bad. You're never going to get anyone to lend credence to your Acta theories. No one is going to validate your continued piling on of negative opinions about him – which is all your constant questions about "what is different this year?" are. You're just fishing for someone "important" to say something bad about Acta.Acta is gone. Why don't you guys just realize that, and move on?

  15. Jim - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:17 AM

    Mark, if SS wants to make a hit when he buys food, tell him to go to Goombays in Satellite Beach — about 10 miles from stadium. I'm looking forward to eating there Saturday or Sunday.

  16. JayB - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    That line about the "grass being cut funny"…that was classic Acta excuse making. Zimm has said that the team did not work on defense…that he was embarrassed and that people were not held accountable under Acta…..Look them up if you like. I will move on from Acta just to move the conversation along. Bring on the games…the proof will be easy to spot. By expectations are that we will spot the difference in fundamentals right away!

  17. JMW4th - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    oh no, make no mistake about it…Manny was a bad manager. he was terrible. I basically agree with Section222's and JayB's evaluation of him as a Manager, I'm happy he's gone, and I think that Riggleman is doing things a bit better than Manny did.I just think that he's Cleveland's problem now, not ours, and the constant badgering of Mark about Manny accomplishes nothing. If Mark comes out and says "yeah, manny sucked, he was stooopid" what good will it do, other than to stroke the egos of a few random blog readers?everyone knows what Manny was, and what he wasn't, even if nobody will come right out and say it on record.the fact that he was fired mid-season, and isn't the Nats Manager anymore, despite all the good things everyone said about him, and despite nobody ever saying a bad thing about him, should be proof enough of that.I just don't understand why JayB just can't seem to accept that.

  18. greg - Mar 1, 2010 at 12:43 AM

    yeah, i'm in the "lets move on" camp, too. no problem asking what's different this year, the team did need some changes to be made, but sometimes the "acta is bad" obsession gets tiresome.

  19. Section 222 - Mar 1, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    Hey, I don't have a problem moving on. I just don't understand the venom against JayB expressing his opinion. If you don't like them, or think he's obsessed, ignore him or express your own. But don't argue, anonymously, that his critique of Manny is misplaced. The alleged fact that no player or front office type criticized his managing means virtually nothing, and is easily disproved anyway.

  20. Doc - Mar 1, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    I was interested in Adam Dunn's comment that a player doesn't have the opportunity to practice during he regular season—what a waste of a ball season! Its all about practice. If Ian Desmond had been given the chance to practice during the season, over the past six years,we wouldn't be wondering about him being able to replace Guzman.





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