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Errors of aggression, or trying too hard?

Apr 6, 2011, 4:48 AM EDT

US Presswire photo
Jayson Werth’s error after calling off Danny Espinosa led to the Marlins’ winning run.

MIAMI — The ball came off Omar Infante’s bat and went high into the South Florida night, a big-league pop-up that Danny Espinosa needed only to back up five or six steps from his second-base position to camp underneath.

And then Espinosa heard Jayson Werth charging in from right field, calling him off.

“I wasn’t totally sure that Espi was going to get it,” Werth explained. “So I called it.”

Werth was probably the only one inside Sun Life Stadium who didn’t realize Espinosa had the play made with ease. He was at most 10 feet behind the infield dirt. Werth had absolutely no business barging in.

And by night’s end, after he had dropped the ball and set in motion the chain of events that gave the Florida Marlins a 3-2, 10-inning victory over the Washington Nationals, Werth knew he alone was to blame.

“That cost us the game,” he said. “Tough spot. Obviously, I take total responsibility for that one.”

Werth’s inexplicable gaffe may have been the leading cause of this punch-to-the-gut loss, but it was hardly the only mistake made over the course of three hours and 30 minutes.
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  1. Big Cat - Apr 6, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Memo to Werth: Keep playing aggressive, I love it. This team needs someone to take the bull by the horns. It surely isn't gonna be ol gloom n doom Riggleman to do it. As soon as the Marlins tied it, he slunk back in the corner of the dugout and shivered. He looked like my Fox Terrier in a thunderstorm

  2. JayB - Apr 6, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    I agree Werth is the best thing this team has right now….Keep pushing and playing hard. Last year they would have been blown out by FLA in this game. They are going to be fine after they fire Riggs. If Danny E had started the game at then I think Werth is comfortable with him and let's him take the ball….to me this was caused by Riggs not sticking with a set line up of starters and letting them get interdependent on each other…..Now they need to show some heart and win the next two…big test for them but they can do it.

  3. Rabbit - Apr 6, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    The Nats just looked bad, bad, bad. I was nice to read Werth's comments. I don't want him to feel he is on the same type of team we have had all these past years. Riggleman's comment is typical of him…."I just like the effort". "Error of aggression". I really just wish he would go be a coach for Acta. We still have a long way to go to shake the resemblance of last year's team, and the year before, and before…… I do think we are on the way, but boy, it sure will take a while. In the mean time, I will take it "one game at a time" and still go to watch them this year. Although, being a Nats fan, I do hope the Orioles keep up their fine play and it just isn't a fluke. Camden yards is on my schedule for this year too. GO NATS!!!!

  4. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    So the Riggleman watch has officially started. Four games in

  5. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    This season turned twice tonight, on Porter waving home Hairston, then putting on the breaks and the runner being thrown out, and then Werth dropping a pop-up…They will not recover.The Nationals remind me of the New York Knights. Until the Hobb boys get here (Strasburg and Harper), they're toast…UNTERP

  6. Ernie - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    I really don't follow the Phillies closely. I know Werth is supposed to have a good arm, but is he typically a good defender? Last night was not the only misplayed ball out there in right field so far. He lost that double in the sun on Saturday and had trouble picking up the ball (I mean picking it up off the ground) on a couple plays on Thursday and Sunday. I think I remember him calling off Ankiel on a play against the Braves as well. He seems to get a better read on fly balls than any of our right fielders in the past few years, but that's not a high standard to meet.So is this typical play from Werth? Is he taking on too much to justify the salary? Is there some kind of right field curse on this team?

  7. JayB - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Werth is the real deal…yes he is over paid but he is an elite talent and Nats have to over pay for any talent. He is a very good RFer…way above average.

  8. joemktg - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:45 AM

    1) Mental mistakes beat them, not talent-deficiency. My "Watch For": they trend downward mentally. Nothing a few kegs and adult brown liquid can't resolve.2) We've learned that Riggleman is not a laid-back guy in the clubhouse, and that he will rip a few new holes even though he may present a positive spin to the press. But I am concerned that the players not respond to him as we move forward into the season.3) Looking ahead to tonight's lineup: Riggleman HAS created a landmine for himself. Should Espy not perform at the top of the lineup, and Desmond is still in the doldrums, Riggleman will be charged with the crime by making a bad situation worse without a clear path out of it. Hoping he is smart enough to have thought through scenarios and responses.

  9. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    Yup, had Espy started then Werth has 8 innings of comfort he didn't have because Riggleman started Hariston and he makes that catch, comfortably.Give me a break. It would have been comforting to have scored 5 runs by the ninth instead of leaving 11 risp. This loss was about missed opportunities, nothing more.

  10. Doc - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Mark, you didn't mention Riggleman's mistakes. Sitting both MIs after a day off, when leaving one on the bench would have been somewhat justified. Also, Riggleman's goofy benching of Morse (team's best hitter up until a week ago) for the 2nd game in a row, in his infamous double switch routine. He must be overly influenced by Walt Disney baseball comic book stories!

  11. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    This team is a blooper reel. I can't believe how much blooper material they've already generated.

  12. Overanalyze This - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    This season is four games old and we have a team laced with people who have never played in high pressure situations together before. Let's wait until May before we decide they haven't changed.

  13. Knoxville Nat - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    I have no problem with Riggleman sitting Desi and Espi. Desmond hasn't had a hit, looks out of place as a lead off hitter and I can accept the idea of wanting to keep Cora & Hairston "fresh" early in the season with all of the off days. Nothing wrong there at all.As for the double switch that happened last night, or the game before that, it was absolutely the right call in both instances given where the Nats were in the line up at the time. And switching out for Morse who had just hit in both scenarios wasn't a bad call by Riggs either. The typical DS involving a pitcher calls for removing a player who had just hit and wasn't due to hit for another 6-8 batters. Standard National League baseball in my opinion.

  14. Nats fan in NC - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    When is someone going to mention to Jimmy that he is managing a BIG LEAGUE TEAM, not a little league team……absolutely disgraceful…if Wizzo and Teddy are serious about changing the culture how can they possibly keep this man around…look down the road and see what happens when a big league manager takes over

  15. Peyton Dowdy - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    My only real issue with Riggleman is how early he lifts a starter. Livan was pitching well opening day and he brought in Slaten who immediately walked a guy. Last night Marquis was only at 78 pitches and had a runner on 3rd base with 1 out when he pulled him. Clippard got an out but it was on a fly ball. Marquid could have done that. It wasn't like he had the bases loaded and had been awful the whole game. Livo and Marquis are on the staff to eat innings, let em do it. Now Clippard threw 1 2/3 innings last night and then Storen threw 35 pitches. If it is a close game tonight, who is supposed to pitch in a high leverage scenario? Slaten? Coffey? Not the best pitching management so far…

  16. Feel Wood - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    This is a game the Nats should have won. But notwithstanding all the other mistakes made and documented, ultimately this loss needs to be pinned on Riggleman. But not because of his lineup construction as others have argued. The problem is his quick hook and lack of trust in his starting pitchers. He NEVER should have pulled Marquis when he did. Marquis was not struggling at all, his pitch count was still low so he shouldn't have been tired. He'd already managed to work his way out of men-on-base situations in previous innings. With a runner on third with one out in a game you're ahead by one, your priority is to keep that runner from scoring. A pitch-to-contact groundball pitcher who's been hitting his spots all night is your best bet to do that. Not a reliever whose biggest problem for the better part of two seasons is keeping inherited runners from scoring. Common sense says you stay with Marquis there, perhaps pull the infield in, get a couple of groundball outs and you're out of the inning. But as soon as Riggleman brought in Clippard, it was clear he was conceding the run because any fly ball to the outfield brings it in. Sure enough, that's what happened. With that decision, the Nats went from playing to win to playing to not lose. There's no guarantee of course that Marquis would have worked his way out of that jam, but if Riggleman is unwilling to place his trust in a tough, veteran pitcher who's at the top of his game that night, who IS he willing to trust? And what kind of message is this sending to the young starters that Riggleman is supposed to be developing, like Lannan, Zimmermann and Strasburg?

  17. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 6, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    It's not the double switch or the benching of Desi and Espi that frustrate me so much. It's the incremental failure in play by play starting with Coughlin's catch in the first inning followed by the failure to hit with runners in scoring position and finally the base running blunder and the error by Werth against a team that I KNOW we are better than.The "gut punch" comes every time we lose to these guys.

  18. Don - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    I know there are Riggleman haters on the board and I certainly don't expect him to be around next year. I just have a question, what do you expect him to come out and say? Do you expect him to throw the team or individuals under the bus? So and so played terribly and because of him we lost the game, just curious, what do you expect him to say?df

  19. Jimmy - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Yes, the Riggleman watch should be over! He is at best a ML Coach or Little League Manager with the mandatory playing rule. What other ML Manager would bench his middle infield after 3 games. Thats way non starters are called utility players. Also, Riggleman can't realize, as of now, his lead off hitter maybe Werth. Werth has a good eye and takes pitches. Ricky Henderson hit will some power and batted lead off.

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    Don… I expect him to say "We have to be better than that." I'm tired of the same old "he was overly aggressive, a little bit and I like that. You can't fault him for that."You can express the determination to be "better than that".

  21. Wally - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    They may be 1-3, but I see them playing much better than in past years. We are one turn through the rotation and they have gotten great starting pitching. Generally speaking, the defense is better. If that holds though the year, this team will win a good amount of games. The problem right now is hitting with RISP. There is a degree of luck involved there, and so they should revert to the mean on those chances. Morse and Laroche haven't started hitting yet.The danger is what joemktg alluded to: these guys are trying very hard to make something happen; the longer things go without seeing results, the more chance they become defeatist mentally. This is where Riggs needs to earn his pay.

  22. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    And if the desire is to keep Hairston and Cora "fresh", I submit that their expiration date has long since expired and that's why they've become veteran "role" players. They are here to play a role, not start.

  23. P Angelos - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Looks like the Nats are like the Bad News Bears. Come up and watch a real team up at Camden Yards.

  24. JayB - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Riggs only got the job because he was cheap….so if he did earn his pay it would not get you much. Porter would kick some butt….June 15 is the day as I see it.

  25. joemktg - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    @Jimmy re: Riggleman"He is at best a Little League Manager with the mandatory playing rule."That is seriously funny: with all the double switches, he can easily get the mandatory 1AB and 6 consecutive outs!

  26. Ernie - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    I get the griping about benching the middle infield in the same game, and I don't think it made sense either. That said, I don't think it had much of an impact on the outcome last night. If anything it made me feel comfortable with these guys as back-ups. The defense up the middle looked professional to me. The baserunning gaffe is on Porter. The errors were on Zimmerman and Werth, and Zimmerman's was ultimately meaningless.The problems were a mental mistake in the outfield, a baserunning error where the runner was actually doing what he is told to do, which is obey the coach's signs, and batting with RISP. I'm not a big Riggleman fan but I see little reason to pin the blame on him.

  27. Theophilus - Apr 6, 2011 at 1:57 PM

    The complaints about Riggleman's "hook" are off the mark. By and large, the Nats starting pitchers are not good enough to get themselves off the hook in late inning jams, going around the batting order the third or fourth time. What do you suppose Marquis's BAA is in such situations? Probably around .300. The whiners complain that not using Stairs in the 7th is a "waste;" then what is it if you don't use Clippard in the 7th? Someday, when you've got Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine and Avery or the equivalent in the rotation, you'll have a right to complain about pulling a pitcher who looks like he might be about to come apart. Until then, it's Riggleman's job to get the most out of the available parts.If Werth makes up his mind to run over Espinosa on the way to that pop up, John J. McGraw, Gene Mauch and Tony LaRussa aren't going to win that game either.

  28. Feel Wood - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    Marquis wasn't "about to come apart" last night. He had only thrown 78 pitchas all night. Not even one walk. He was throwing strikes and hitting his spots. And while he may not be Maddux, Smoltz or Glavine, he's somehow managed to win 96 big league games against only 92 losses in his career. He probably had to work his way out of jams worse than the one he faced last night to pick up a few of those wins, I'd bet. Riggleman should have left him in last night. A good manager would have.

  29. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Theophilus the complaints about Riggleman's cronyism inspired hooks are SPOT ON. He yanks Morse for a double switch … one of this squad's only true offensive weapons … in a 2 – 1 game for? Hairston??? Ankiel??? Cora??? They remain in the game while Desmond remains on the bench? Espinosa comes in too late to be effective and he replaces Morse???HORSE HOCKEY!!! My god they should have just kept Willie Harris and Cristian Guzman because these guys aren't an improvement …its the same old defer to the veterans taking away reps and at bats needed to develop young players …. yes Mike Rizzo YOU are delusional when you say Riggleman won't affect the development of young players with this approach.FJB is spot on with his comments relative to Rizzo's excuses which I believe cover up Riggleman decisions. FIJ: Fire Interim Jim today!!!

  30. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Riggleman should have left him in last night. A good manager would have.Its not about removing the pitcher its more about ensuring Riggleman's washed up, over-the-hill software players get 300 at bats. You need to double-switch Morse out as soon as possible … even after he hits a couple of homers in the game.Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed from last year … the only difference is the record will be worst because there's no Dunn and Willingham.

  31. Peyton Dowdy - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Theophilus, Marquis is a groundball pitcher, Clippard is not. Marquis with a runner on 3rd is more likely to induce a grounder to 3rd or 1st or maybe even a comebacker than Clipp is. My whole argument though is Riggs burned Clipp and Storen last night to the extent where neither are available today. If you let Marquis pitch out of the 7th, the result probably would have been similar to Clipp allowing the inherited runner to score, then Clipp only pitches one inning and is an option late in the game today if we need him. He talked about overusing the pen last year and already Storen, Clippard and Burnett have been pitched in 3 games out of 4 and Livan and Marquis haven't even gone over 80 pitches and neither was in a true jam or in danger of letting the game get out of hand when they were pulled.

  32. Theophilus - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Clippard is also a strikeout pitcher. 112 Ks, 91 innings (something like that). Marquis is not.

  33. erocks33 - Apr 6, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    This game was lost once Riggleman double-switched Marquis and Morse out of the game. Marquis is a veteran pitcher and has been in worse "jams" than last night. Bottom of the 7th, you are up 2-1, a runner on 3rd with one out and a pinch-hitter coming up, and your starting pitcher is at 78 pitches? You absolutely do not take your SP out of the game? Especially if your SP is a ground ball pitcher. What's the worst that could have happened? The pinch-hitter gets either a hit or a sac fly and the game is tied. Guess what? That's exactly what happened when he brought in Clippard. Now he's wasted one reliever and oh yeah, he's also taken out his #5 hitter.'But Marquis' spot is due up second in the top of the 8th' you say? So what! If Cora leads off the 8th with a hit or walk, Marquis is more than capable enough to bunt him over — which would save you one pinch-hitter. What if Cora makes an out? Then you can decide to either let Marquis hit (he did have one hit already — more than Desmond has had all season), or then you can pinch-hit for him.If you still think it was right to take Marquis out and do the double switch, then why take out Morse? He didn't make the last out in the top of the inning (that was the #7 batter, Ramos and there's no way you should take him out). So why not take Ankiel out instead? He was the #6 hitter, hasn't done much except for his one HR, and he could easily have been replaced by Laynce Nix in CF, or if you still want to bring in Espinosa you could then move Hairston into CF for the last 2 innings. Sorry for the long rant, but man I was ticked off last night.

  34. JoeGish - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    Hire Bobby Valentine before its too late.

  35. Sunderland - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    Peyton Dowdy and Feelwood, you guys are carrying the ball for me today, thanks. Riggleman says he wants starters to go 7+, but if they put a runner on base anytime after 5 they're coming out. It's just stupid and it is impossible to build a winning team like this.The decision to pull Marquis was bad. Once the decision was made, the double switch was fine. The only 2 choices were Morse and Ankiel. Ankiel is a better defender, and a left handed bat to face the right handed Nunez who Riggleman guessed (correctly) would pitch the ninth.The decision to DS was bad (IMO) but the execution of the DS was fine.

  36. phil dunn - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    I have stated many times on various blogs over the past four years that the Nats need to hire a kick ass manager. The Orioles finally got it right even though they had to pay market price to get a good manager. The Nats fired one milque toast manager (Manny Acta), only to replace him by another one. Riggleman is pathetic and clueless. Post game, he spends all his time making excuses for the team's pathetic performance while praising the opposition for a job well done. Riggleman is here because he works on the cheap and because he's easy to manipulate. Both of those qualities are necessary if one wants to work for the Lerners.

  37. Ernie - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:21 PM

    Morse didn't help his case last night with that strikeout that put him on his knees after flailing wildly. He's still not a great defender. I can see the argument for leaving in Marquis, but as for pulling Morse I have no problem with that. Morse's defense is still not great, and he hasn't shown much at the plate to make his bat missed. Riggleman brought in Espinosa who is actually hitting in real (non-Spring Training) games, so it's not like last year's moves to swap in Justin Maxwell and Superwillie. We have a better defense this year in general (if they actually play to their own standards) so the double switches should be more sensible. I hope.

  38. Jaxpo Nat - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    The problem so far, plain and simple, is lack of hitting (esp. with risp). In our three losses we have scored only 2 runs each. Unacceptable. Some of these fielding miscues are more glaring because of that lack of hitting. Even good teams make errors. The difference is, when the Yankees or Phillies do it, it doesn't matter because they are still up 7-4 anyways. Not much real criticism of it yet, but batting Werth 2nd is a mistake. Werth has 3 doubles so far and 0 RBIs to show for it. Ankiel or Espinosa should have been hitting 2nd all along and Werth would have at least 3 RBIs by now. Not having a legit cleanup hitter is worse than not having a legit #2 hitter. You solved the latter problem by creating the former. LaRoche is not consistent enough to hit 4.

  39. NatsFan2005 - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    It's Riggleman, as I have been saying for two years. The dim-witted, not-quite-good-enough-for-little-league "manager" is 165 games under .500 for his non-illustrious career — and counting. The more perceptive of you have seen this coming: more losses than last year. The only net plus over the winter (and too late, at that) was ridding the team of N. Morgan. Get rid of Riggleman (Valentine is the obvious choice), but get rid of Rizzo, too, whose man Riggleman is.

  40. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    Jayson Werth is confirming all of my fears, he is a great bat to have in the lineup but is a horrendous RF, so basically we have Adam Dunn minus 20 HRs in RF! :(

  41. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Jayson Werth is a very good defensive right fielder. Don't be ridiculous. Get off the ledge.

  42. J Werth - Apr 6, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Got it, got it, got it…..woops

  43. Anonymous - Apr 6, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    I can see the argument for leaving in Marquis, but as for pulling Morse I have no problem with that. Morse's defense is still not great, and he hasn't shown much at the plate to make his bat missed. Over Cora? Over Hairston? And even Ankiel? Notorious weak bats? And they aren't all that great in the field. Hairston looked terrible in center in the spring? Why not double switch Cora out for Espinosa? Or Ankiel for Hairston?Like any other player Morse needs to see pitches, needs at bats to get going … he started off slow last year and picked it up as he went forward.And Desmond? Why does Desmond and Espinosa need a rest? Riggleman is an idiot. With him in charge I'd rather see Lombardozzi up in the majors and double switched in because they are going to lose 100 anyway as long as Riggleman is in charge.

  44. The Joker - Apr 6, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    Riggs should go for a quintuple switch. Put Nix in RF for LaRoche, put Stairs in at centerfield for Werth, put Rodriguez at first for Zimmerman, have Ankiel switch from center to pitcher, put Hairston in the pitcher's spot and play third base. That would shock the enemy.

  45. Sunderland - Apr 6, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Anon 12:15, you have no notion of what the purpose of a double switch is.The previous inning ended with ramos at bat (#7). So #8 (Cora) and #1 (Hairston) are definitely due up in the next inning. Therefore, double switching out one of those two makes no sense.

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