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Aggressive tone paying off

Mar 1, 2011, 11:40 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Danny Espinosa watches his fourth-inning homer sail over the fence.

VIERA, Fla. — It's probably not possible to establish an identity after only two spring training games, but the Nationals sure are trying their best. If there's any broad theme that can be taken out of their two Grapefruit League victories over the Mets (9-3 yesterday, 5-3 today) it is the aggressive manner in which this team has run the bases and played in the field.

Every time you look up, someone is attempting to steal a base or advance from first to third or hustling after a ball in the field.

Yes, it's only March 1, but some members of this roster are attempting to establish a particular tone right now.

"You have to set a tempo now, I believe," rookie second baseman Danny Espinosa said. "You can't just go through the motions here and expect to, when you get out there in the season, turn a switch on and expect to play at a level that you're not used to."

What is that tone these Nationals are trying to set?

"I think there's a new energy that we're trying to bring," Espinosa said. "We have a good team, and we want everyone to know that we're going to beRead more »

  1. MicheleS - Mar 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    Mark, Thanks for the quick response on the redesign. My eyes thank you.On to the good stuff. How long (or short) of a leash does Nyjer have? If Bernadina and Morse continue to impress does that leave him as the odd man out? Also, what is going on with Ankiel? What is the impression of him?

  2. Padre-NATS - Mar 1, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    I was wondering the very same thing. How long till Bernidina and Morse take left and center and Morgan takes the bench? Morse is lighting it up.

  3. fpcsteve - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:16 AM

    I wonder if Detwiler is more open to coaching than he may have been in the past (there were allusions to conflict with St. Claire when he was here). Successful athletes like to do what made them successful, but that apparently wasn't translating into professional success for Detwiler. Any opinions on that? That said, it's good to see him doing well.

  4. Sec 3, My Sofa - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    I doubt Mark is in a positon to say where Nyjer stands. Even if he knows.

  5. Wally - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    Nice start so far. Sorry I missed all the hoopla over the site. Sounds like you made some changes already.FWIW, I like it. It sure as heck loads faster on the iPad, too.

  6. WhatsaNattaU - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    Dude, nice pic. Didn't you used to be younger?

  7. bigfitzva - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:38 AM

    Thanks for all your hard work Mark. I've enjoyed this site since finding it last year and glad to see its paying off for you.

  8. Positively Half St. - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:47 AM

    Heyman had a story about Zach Greinke which described why he rejected the Nats. This is only sports, folks- please in me in wishing him and the Brewers a hideous season. Dude is rich- we need not wish additional good luck on someone who rejected us.+1/2St.

  9. joemktg - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    The aggressive play is very evident, starting with the first ABs yesterday. My hope is that it continues throughout the season.Love the redesign: clean, bright, simple. With future modifications in store, please do NOT go down the path of Deadspin's redesign. One more thing…your photo: bad shadowing, or is there Hair Club for Men in your future?

  10. Tim - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    I know aggressiveness is great, but doesn't it seem like everyone is swinging at the first pitch?Mark – I like the new-look Nats… and the new-look Nats Insider.

  11. James Bjork - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:23 AM

    Yep, thanks for this much easier color scheme!

  12. Doc - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    Greatly updated site–you deserve the best MarkMeister. I liked your former picture though–more like Fanboy 1. The new picture makes you look like a cross between my Uncle Gordon the professor and some baseball executive! In spite of what Wiggleman says, I think that there is a new spirt on the team. Kick-Ass Bo Porter has them running the bases like a baseball athlete should run the bases. Ramos going from 1st to 3rd in the first ST game was awesome.This is definitely a better team. By July we'll know how much better. Uncle Jimmy may need to step it up to meet the challenge!

  13. The Great Unwashed - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    Get off Mark's case about his picture. I mean really, folks.

  14. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    Mark with all the articles about hustle I was wonder what you thought of Matt Stairs' hustle. I was watching the Nats first spring training game against the mets and to me it seemed like stairs didn't completly hustle all the way down to first. Whats your take?

  15. Sunderland - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:08 AM

    So one week in, the guy who has impressed me the most is Bo Porter. I don't know how much credit he deserves, but it sure does seem (like Doc sorta mentioned) that he's pushing the aggressiveness.

  16. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    The Great Unwashed said…Get off Mark's case about his picture, I mean really, folks.————————————————————————For sure. What's wrong with a middle aged bookkeeper/accountant having an opinion about baseball?

  17. Anonymous8 - Mar 2, 2011 at 7:31 AM Pirates and Scott Olsen are already having issues. Johnson signs Minor League contract with the Cleveland Indians now known as a place ex-Nats can go on a circuitous route that also includes the NY Yankees. Just ask Kearns and Nick.

  18. Rabbit - Mar 2, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    Ah, compared to yesterday's page, I feel like I've just gotten a new pair of glasses!! Thanks.

  19. masnstinks - Mar 2, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    Anyone want to place a bet that Flores is an Indian before the all-star break?

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    A couple of comments on yesterdays game (5-3 Nats over Mets). Nyjer Morgan actually played well in CF and fortunately, wasn't required to make any throws of consequence. He went back on the ball hit deep and just to his right with his head down, running full speed for about 10 yards, then looked up and made the catch. Not so much at the plate. With a man on second and no outs, his job AT A MINIMUM is to get the runner to third. SO he uses his patented stab at a pitch in a vain attempt at a drag bunt and meekly pops to the pitcher. Horrible.And his other two at bats were weak ground balls to second. So far, 0 for 6 with a double play ground out to boot.Derek Norris's 4 innings were uneventful in the field. He looked much more natural behind the plate than I last saw him. The drop of the sweep tag from Bryce Harper was unfortunate but the slide coupled with the sweep caused the drop.Ross Detwiler looked filthy. His breaking stuff was unhittable and his fastball exploded the last 5 feet.

  21. Big Cat - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    "Put another curly W in the books!"

  22. Whatsanattau - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    It appears the buzzards are circling Nyjer Morgan but it seems a little bit premature. Why start counting his spring at bats from game one like it is Nyjer Morgan: Day 3. He may have competition, but a little perspective would be appropriate.

  23. Anonymous - Mar 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Yeah, what Whatsnattau said. Let's not get blood thirsty about Nyjer Morgan. See how it plays out

  24. JayB - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    NJack,Was Norris setting a target and keeping still back there? Or was he dropping his mit and during it over as the pitcher was in his motion?Morgan…how much more data do this people want…did you guys watch the season last year….over 500 AB's of bad bunting…Njack is exactly right about that drag bunt tech….that form as about a 1 in 10 chance of success and at this point of his in his carrer (age 31) if that is all he can do after an off season of being put on notice… hope….He has learned to let RF and LF take the balls they should and instead of running into them he is going behind them…..learned that in little league but he at least it is some progress for the guy. Cut him and let's keep this new attitude moving forward….Play the game correctly or get out.

  25. MGG - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    Thats the thing though we've seen this play out before and then we got what we got last year .253AVG .319OBP .314SLG with 24 RBI's (courtesy fangraphs).I for one say no more, see what bernadina can do in center and let Morse play left.

  26. Sunderland - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Don't blame fans and posters for being down on Morgan.Rizzo developed some competition for CF for a reason, no?

  27. Anonymous8 - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    Nyjer's bunt attempts down 3rd base are just a low percentage play as the 3rd basemen cheat in on the grass as there is no element of surprise.Bernie can play CF and Morse/Ankiel can play LF.The pressure here is on Rizzo as this could be his 2011 debacle like he set himself up with in 2010 in RF.

  28. JayB - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Also on Morgan….again as Njack points out….he just has no clue about team and situational baseball….None…they told him to bunt I am sure…to work on it and to move the runner…what he should be practicing there is a safe 100% get the bunt down then run for a hit bunt….not that trash he stabbed at as he was running out of the box……Days of guys who are that clueless are long gone…I hope!

  29. Anonymous8 - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    By the way, Maxwell is getting his ABs over with the Yankees and batting .143.

  30. Benj17 - Mar 2, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    Does Espinosa's power seem to be suffering from the hamate removal? I know he hit the HR yesterday, but what about BP … some projections have him hovering around 20 or so HRs, yet Zimmerman only hit 14 the season after his surgery and we all know the well documented power loss after Derek Norris' hamate was removed.

  31. Anonymous8 - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    From Zuckerman's Twitter feed…I'm sure Nyjer Morgan's not in #Nats lineup because he started last 2 days, but given history with #Marlins it's convenient he's off today.

  32. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    JayB…. as I said, Norris looked totally at ease behind the plate. He even blocked a couple of Balesters pitches that were in the dirt and to his left. His footwork has improved noticebly and his target is stable through delivery. I spoke to him after the game and he said he has been working non stop on improving his behind the plate actions and it is apparent that his work is paying off. I still haven't seen his throwong delivery and footwork on base stealers yet.

  33. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    And Mark…. is that a wax figure picture of you on the layout?

  34. JayB - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    NJack,That is really good news on Norris….he looked so bad last year and in the Bull pen a week or two ago…..practice makes perfect…I hope he knows he needs to do it all the time, not just try to work on it in a game or during a drill. Thanks You

  35. JayB - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    Mark….I have seen you in person at so many games…get them to take an action shot of you working a game…that is the Zuck we want to see every day.

  36. Disco Stu Media and Message - Mar 2, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Here's the think about being "bloodthirsty" about Nyjer – he was kind of a disaster last year, too, remember? Temper tantrums, lousy at the plate, plenty of times taking dumb lines on a ball (a career CF shouldn't do that). If we're going to talk about character and heart, we should acknowledge the guys that are also lacking in that department. Nyjer should be working harder, not being the same.

  37. N. Cognito - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Even though I don't believe Morgan is as bad as he was last year, I'd be perfectly content if the Nats jettisoned him before heading north.

  38. NatsJack in Florida - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    I'm really looking forward to seeing Lannan and Maya throw today, especially Maya.

  39. JayB - Mar 2, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Njack,Somewhere…Wpost I think said that Ross D hit 94 MPH…if so..hold on….the is effective with a good hard fastball and that curve. I think Boz was saying Maya was sitting at 92 and topping out at 94….same thing…if they have a real fastball to go with the junk….this is going to work out well….can you sneak up on a radar gun today?

  40. N Morgan - Mar 2, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    I'm reading your attacks on me and taking names.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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