Skip to content

Confidence waning?

Apr 17, 2013, 3:52 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images
Dan Haren watches as Adeiny Hechavarria circles the bases in the fourth.

MIAMI — The Nationals took the field two weeks ago for the start of the most-anticipated season in club history brimming with confidence. They had a potent and balanced lineup, they had one of baseball’s most-dominant rotations, they had a ridiculously deep bullpen and they had a talented bench more than capable of plugging any holes that developed along the way.

They also had a swagger, starting with their manager, that suggested a ballclub with no fear and every reason to believe it could live up to the lofty expectations placed upon it.

That may still all prove true in the end, and the Nationals are by no means in shambles at the moment, still sitting two games above .500 with as talented a roster as there is in the sport. But there’s no question that swagger has diminished some during the season’s first two weeks, especially in the case of a couple of veteran players with strong track records who suddenly find themselves struggling unlike either ever has before.

The Nationals’ 8-2 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday night — their fourth loss in five days — became reality after a mid-game meltdown precipitated by mistakes made by Ryan Zimmerman and Dan Haren.
Read more

  1. peric - Apr 17, 2013 at 4:53 AM

    The pressure is on both players … if both continue to do this the Nats do have "understudies" fully capable of stepping in and giving it a whirl. However, again, unfortunately the Nats do not have ready replacements for Stras, JZimmnn, Gio, and Det. At least not yet that's going to take quite a bit longer. So, if any of those four get injured or falter it just might be time to panic.Beyond those players its either step up and do it or they'll have a prospect attempting to do it in their place.

  2. Clip&Store - Apr 17, 2013 at 5:31 AM

    This might be the worst looking 8-6 team i have ever seen. Not sure if its because half the time they lose its a blowout, or the fact that almost half of their wins are against a mediocre AAA team.

  3. K Elk - Apr 17, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    Would you take 80 wins going into the last month of the season, and have 22 games to make the playoffs?That being said, the blowouts go back to the hateful playoff series. Average pitchers get blown out every once in a while, good pitchers rarely, great pitchers once a year. What do we have.

  4. K Elk - Apr 17, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    By the way, the inclusion of the word "out" is important.

  5. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 17, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    The IF defense has been atrocious, and the relief pitching continues to fail the team. Haren was cruising until that error. He was a different pitcher from the stretch than he had been using the full windup. It shouldn't make that much difference, but it did last night. He lost his edge and his command, and started leaving the ball up and in the groove.I don't understand how Zim can play so well one game, and then fail to make an easy, routine play the next. Is he the 3rd baseman's equivalent of Rick Ankiel? Is it psychological? You cannot win if you continually fail to make the routine play, whatever the cause. The Nats will continue to lose with 3rd base play like that.Well, Lombo and Moore played well, and Lombo continues to hit like he belongs in the lineup. If the Nats want to win this year, they are going to have to make some changes. If you hold a losing hand, change some of the cards.

  6. Secret wasian man - Apr 17, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    To steals thought from the redskins. I think we got rid of some CORE Nationals. Lannen and Morse. The team was tweaked ever so slightly and now has no mojo.

  7. Nats In Athens - Apr 17, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    I wrote about this a few months ago, when we signed Soriano and the next day traded away Michael Morse. For some reason the post never showed up and I kept quiet since then.The Nationals are neither as good (yet) as their 2012 record would show, nor as "bad" as we may see from their start of season form. That being said people must start to realize that what is good about this team is in many ways the work of Bowden (and I do not like the guy). I believe that what in many ways is wrong is that Rizzo has made a number of moves over the past two years that have not panned out and could not pan out. He gutted the farm system to get Gio. Yes he is an MVP caliber pitcher and yes he was a big reason we got to where we got last year. BUT there were other moves he could have done that could most probably resulted in the same position, including taking a reasonable gamble on Yu Darvish. Let us not forget that the reason Oakland was able to have the season it had was the players it got from us, two of whom are now starters in the ML.He let go of Lannan and signed a reclamation project in Harren. Which shows that the Wang fiasco did not teach him one thing. He insisted on resigning La Roche when the guy clearly did not want to come back. So he signed a despondent player for 11 million when he had a perfectly good player in Michael Morse for 6 million, who he then traded for next to nothing, reminding us of what he did when he essentially gave away Josh Willingham a couple of years ago. He signed Soriano for two years, while gutting the rest of the bullpen and destroying Storen's confidence. This will probably be the crowning achievement in his disasters when signing relief pitchers.In fact is seems to me that Rizzo has one goal and that is to show what a great eye he has by doing a deal nobody else would do with the hope that it pans out.Rizzo built his reputation on two trades: The one that brought Ramos and the one that now has gotten Span. He did sign Harper and Strasburg but everyone would have done that. He did not however get a later round gem such as Espinosa (3rd) Lombadozzi (16th) Malone (10th) Peacock (41st). He gamed the draft system to the point of causing it be revised. I am not what you would call a baseball expert. But I am probably one of the few people on this board to have actually been involved at the top level of managing a high level soccer team, and in that capacity I did sign a number of players in my day. Now I do not claim that Greek soccer is at the level of ML, not by a long shot but in many ways what I learned applies here as well. And the two things I learned over the 15 years I was involved is that you must keep your powder dry and you must maximize the resources at your disposal. Rizzo has done neither. And in North American sports the team will always pay when trades and signings are not done right.I hope this time my comment makes it…

  8. baseballswami - Apr 17, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Best 25 go north. Best shape of his life. Marathon not a sprint. April 2013 version– It's not how you start, it's how you finish. My new mantra.

  9. Joe Seamhead - Apr 17, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    Relax. We got this. You'll see.

  10. baseballswami - Apr 17, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Werth and Desi hitting. Stammen and Mattheus held it together, Moore another hit, Lombo two more. ALR a concern, but slow starts usual for him. HRod- no surprises except to be happy when he doesn't give up a run or throw the ball to the backstop. Some things are going ok, everything is not out of sync. Weird to see this team be inconsistent, but every season is different.

  11. mick - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Let me just say this, the Nats confidence better not be waning after only 14 games! Mark's premise is bothersome and surprising to me. This team is built like the Braves of the 90's. Even if there is as a slip in record this year, the club will be solid the next decade. I am looking historically at teams that go on the rise, fall back 1 year then put it together in year 3 or 4. The only red flag I see is that 2013 was suppose to really be the break out year. It still may, as we have 4 stud starting pitchers. Haren I believe was a major gaffe. Every great team makes mistakes, this was ours. But, great teams make adjustments and I believe Mike and Davey will do just that

  12. mick - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    let me add 1 more item, trading Morse was a mistake, not just his bat is missed, but his club house energy and presence.

  13. Unknown - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    OK folks – the note above on Rizzo is something I disagree with, but it is written respectfully and thoughtfully.This is a key point – I am asking everyone to join me in "Taking Back the Blog" from the trolls and personal attackers. Here's how we do it:– Ignore the trolls. We know who they are. Scroll past. Don't read their comments. Don't respond. — Post thoughtful, respectful comments and respect one another.– Refrain from personal attacksWe need to treat trolls like Phillies fans at Nats Park — claim this blog as ours, show up, ignore them and all their baiting, and make Nats Insider ours.Who knows, maybe the renewed positive vibe here, which has been missing, sadly, will transfer to our beloved Nats, and they'll start playing the way we know they can!(Also – SF Giants were 7-7 last year and looked bad….everything changes everything!)

  14. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Grear post, Unknown……I agree.

  15. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Great.

  16. Dryw Loves the Nats - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Swami and Joe, thanks for that. I'm usually full of kool-aid, but I needed a little reminder this morning!

  17. Rabbit34 - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Gee, maybe I am too optimistic in my .500 season for the Nationals! Started off not being too serious, but we need bats! Come on guys. The back end of the Braves bus is getting mighty small.

  18. sjm308 - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    On one positive note, look who is "leading off" Other Nats Blogs this morning. Way to go Natslady!!I am not sure who trolls are but since I stopped reading the in-game posts, I bet I miss most of them. It seems we have so disappointed fans and I don't blame them. I also disagree with a lot of what our friend from Greece said but like Unknown mentioned, he did it in a respectful way. He was not totally wrong on that long post but it is easy to look at things in hindsight and make judgements. On the Morse/LaRoche situation, which can't be reversed by the way. Do any of you remember how much Davey wanted LaRoche? Don't you think that went into Rizzo's thinking? I mean, your manager of the year has already announced he is in his last year and is screaming off the roof top to sign LaRoche. I don't know if LaRoche was the right move but you sure can't totally blame Rizzo for that. I hope Adam returns to form and that this is a total non-issue as we fight for the playoffs. I am looking to be 9-6 after tonight and that will be better than a whole bunch of teams.Go Nats!!! Win this series!

  19. baseballswami - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    Seems like a lot of teams that are being predicted to win big are struggling in April- operative word here is – April. Interesting that the blogger asking for us to take back the blog is unknown :). I will admit I sometimes rise to the bait. I love chatting about all things baseball, don't like the nasty stuff, scroll past long screeds. Yes, we miss Morse and DeRo in the dugout , but you can't keep players around just for that if they don't fit long term. There are good things going on. Some concerns, too. It's not how you start it's how you finish.

  20. 3on2out - Apr 17, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Unknown, Swami, Joe:Absolutely. Before the season started we all anticipated this. The Nats will lose 3 in a row and Legion of Doom will be out in full force. They did and they are. No matter. the Kool-Aid tastes fine. This is a hiccup. Nothing more. Everybody should save their favorite "the sky is falling" post and plan on re-posting it in September.

  21. blovy8 - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Haren needs to command his fastball ALL the time at this point. I suspect he'll adjust. Zim needs to do the same with his throwing arm, but I'm less certain he can after a few years of this.

  22. Joe Seamhead - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Athens had things to say that I don't agree with, either, but agreed that they were put forth in a respectful way. Unknown, I've just been leaving the game thread to those folks for the past few games. I don't like it, but I have more important things to worry about in my life. Like how come my local market was out of my favorite beer yesterday. I will still post if I feel the need.As to everybody claiming how the parting with Morse is the problem, I say,"Really?' Do tell. Would Michael be relieving a struggling starting pitcher? Would Michael be making the throw from third to first? Would Michael put up 16 runs, 10, runs, or 9 runs respectfully to offset the 15-0, 9-0, and 8-2 trouncings that have been laid on us? Our bullpen has had more failings so far then the loss of Burnette, Gorzo, and Gonzo would have overcome, too. We have lost games in a wide variety of ways, but mostly because we're playing crappy defense and because we're not pitching well.I still think this team has the talent, and management, to excel. But the time to get off the pot is pretty much now.

  23. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    On a better note, Robbie Ray had his third straight solid outing for the P-Nats last night. Looks like all the hard work on his mechanics are paying off.

  24. blovy8 - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    What struck me last night was that they missed some chances on the bases. For instance, Desmond was on second and Sanabia never even looked at him – he could have jogged to third base and it probably would have been an easy run.

  25. Nats In Athens - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    SJM308: the post I wrote today has been on my mind for a long time and a slightly different version of it was first written (as I mention above) in mid January. For some reason it did not publish. I want to thank you all for the respect you show to divergent opinions. It is a good sign for the quality of the board.

  26. Dave - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I do appreciate Athens's thoughtful analysis, but there's at least one thing in it with which I disagree strongly:"He insisted on resigning La Roche when the guy clearly did not want to come back."Is this true? Maybe I didn't pay close attention, but I had the strong impression that ALR wanted to come back so much he really wanted a full 3-year deal instead of just 2 with options (which is what he got). I also share a slight bafflement with the rather alarming title of this post. I don't think, at least, that Davey's confidence is waning. If he can convey that to the players, the ship can get righted again.And as somebody posted on Twitter last night (or maybe here?), the Nats were not going to go 18-0 against the Marlins. Even a blind Fish finds a marine acorn once in awhile.But I look forward to the next couple weeks with more than a smidge of trepidation, I must say.

  27. Rabbit34 - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Joe Seamhead….exactly right. It is a team effort, winning or losing.

  28. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    And we're just the guys [ed note: and gals] to do it.Let's do it.Let's do it!Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!Unknown said… OK folks – the note above on Rizzo is something I disagree with, but it is written respectfully and thoughtfully. This is a key point – I am asking everyone to join me in "Taking Back the Blog" from the trolls and personal attackers. Here's how we do it: — Ignore the trolls. We know who they are. Scroll past. Don't read their comments. Don't respond. — Post thoughtful, respectful comments and respect one another. — Refrain from personal attacks We need to treat trolls like Phillies fans at Nats Park — claim this blog as ours, show up, ignore them and all their baiting, and make Nats Insider ours. Who knows, maybe the renewed positive vibe here, which has been missing, sadly, will transfer to our beloved Nats, and they'll start playing the way we know they can! (Also – SF Giants were 7-7 last year and looked bad….everything changes everything!) April 17, 2013 7:18 AM

  29. NatsJack in Florida - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    If there is one thing that WONT'T wane in Davey, it's confidence.

  30. Candide - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Bears repeating. In particular the scroll past the troll part:Unknown said… This is a key point – I am asking everyone to join me in "Taking Back the Blog" from the trolls and personal attackers. Here's how we do it: — Ignore the trolls. We know who they are. Scroll past. Don't read their comments. Don't respond. — Post thoughtful, respectful comments and respect one another. — Refrain from personal attacks We need to treat trolls like Phillies fans at Nats Park — claim this blog as ours, show up, ignore them and all their baiting, and make Nats Insider ours.Emphasis mine.You will NOT persuade the trolls of the error of their ways. They will NOT wake up one fine day, slap their foreheads, and exclaim, "They're right! What a fool I've been! hallelujah, I'm reforming my ways!"Scroll past the trolls.

  31. Laddie Blah Blah - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    The Nats can fix this. Rizzo has options almost everywhere, except at starting pitcher. But the rotation has not been the problem (forgetting Haren, for the moment).Zim is key to the success of that team, and he is just not right. He will regain his strength and be the old Zim, we hope, but how long will it take? Zim's problems are not Rizzo's fault. And last I checked, Morse, himself, was already on the DL less than 2 weeks into the season.ALR is almost always a slow starter, and will come around, as he always does.Lombo is a better hitter than Danny, and he is already on the 25-man roster. TyMo has shown, once again, that he can rake when given the opportunity. Rendon (surprise!) is raking in AA.I believe in putting the best team on the field, the team that gives you the best chance to win. I do not believe in sacred cows. Neither do the Braves. They tried several guys at SS until they found the guy who performed the best, and gave the job to him. Freeman can't perform so they are playing Johnson. McCann can't perform so they are playing Gattis. The Nats have options at 3rd base, 2nd base, and 1st base, if the incumbents are not doing the job. They have competent relievers in the minors who can help in the pen. For whatever reason, the Nats are content to stand pat. It is embarrassing to see a superb athlete like Zim unable to execute the easiest of routine plays. Let him heal and come back to play up to his abilities. Lombo is a better option at 2nd base than Espinoza. That should be a no-brainer. And TyMo can spell ALR at 1st base until La Roche gets into his groove. Rizzo has put together a team. It is the team that wins or loses. You play the guys who give you the best chance to win. No sacred cows, please.The Nats can fix this.

  32. A DC Wonk - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    I also disagree with Athens' assessment. Rizzo has done a number of other things that show his skill. E.g., _not_ resigning Dunn when everyone wanted him to, and letting him go, and getting two sandwich picks.Then, using sandwich picks to pick guys who were going to go to college, and paying them way over slot (to the consternation of MLB) to sign them (if this was so obvious, why didn't other teams do that?), resulting in the consensus "best draft class" that year.Further, we didn't trade away the whole farm and our future for Gio — we've got a bunch of mighty fine prospects and some darn good AAA and AA teams.Yeah — we don't have Morse, but we have a mighty fine defensive outfield, and a guy (Span) who, last I checked (2-3 days ago) had the third highest OBP of any leadoff guy. For a team that's lacked a true leadoff guy for many years, that's a fair tradeoff.Not only that — but "yes" to what Seamhead said at 8:21. The Nats currently have five (as in "five") relievers with an ERA of over 5.00. So, unless Morse could have been converted to a top-notch reliever . . . And, finally: judging a trade after 14 games is really the height of short-sightedness.As for LaRoche — I said it in a thread yesterday, I'll say it again:LaRoche is a lifetime .220 hitter in AprilAnd his lifetime stats for July/Aug/Sept are .291, .302, .293Fans _always_ hate LaRoche in April. To say "he'd better get it going" is a waste of time. That's who he is. Every player has slumps. LaRoche's slumps are predictable: April, April, and April.(ok, except for last year, when he helped carry the team, batting .329 in April — but even _including_ last year, he's lifetime .220 in April!)

  33. A DC Wonk - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    (oh, and one more thing: isn't this Morse's "walk" year? Which means his trade value would have been dropping as he's a free agent in October?)

  34. Don - Apr 17, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Zim's throwing problems have been going on for a couple of years. He cannot/will not throw overhand. There's really not much reason to expect Zim to just figure it out over night. This is a big problem for the club as they don;t have great flexibility in terms of where Zim can play if he's not able to fix the arm such that he can play Third.

  35. natsfan1a - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    (Second attempt, as the first evidently went off into the ether.)Must be kinda hard for Zimm to stay out of his own head with so many others trying to get in there. ("Poke, poke. Everything okay in there? Zimm? Hello?")

  36. Candide - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    natsfan1a said…Must be kinda hard for Zimm to stay out of his own head with so many others trying to get in there. ("Poke, poke. Everything okay in there? Zimm? Hello?")Maybe it's time for a "Leave Zim Alone!" video.

  37. sjm308 - Apr 17, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Wonk – I mentioned this being Morse's walk year last night in the post following the game thread. It is now the easiest post for me to read and respond to and I appreciate the positive vibes from that post as well as this one.Go Nats!!

  38. Sec. 3, My Untucked Sofa - Apr 17, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    For my part, I don't mind the trolls, I can scroll with the best of them. What makes the board unreadable for me is the feeding, and the poking. Makes me go to the corner to see if they got my beer in yet.

  39. Scott Margenau - Apr 18, 2013 at 4:05 AM

    Omg Candide. Funniest shizzle I've seen in a while. Lady blah blah: well said! I agree. Trolls annoy and make me laugh….but what really steams my clams are the overly self righteous and those who get upset if somebody has an opinion that doesn't kiss Davey/Rizzo &@$

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 58 47 --
ATLANTA 58 50 1.5
MIAMI 53 54 6.0
NEW YORK 52 56 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 47 61 12.5
Through Wednesday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter