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Harsh reality sets in

Aug 8, 2013, 5:10 AM EST

The Nationals took the field Monday night still clinging to the hope — ill-fated as it may have been — they could save their season with a dominant showing against the Braves.

They trudged off that same field Wednesday night all but acknowledging that hope has been dashed, and suddenly taking a long-term view about this franchise’s potential. In some cases, even looking beyond 2013.

“It’s getting to a point where we’re just not winning games,” right fielder Jayson Werth said following a 6-3 loss that completed a three-game sweep at the hands of Atlanta. “You hate to accept losing at any point. But the losses are definitely piling up.”

The losses, and the deficit. The Nationals came out of the All-Star break trailing the Braves by six games, a legitimate hole but certainly one that could be overcome. Less than three weeks later, they now sit a staggering 15 1/2 games back in the NL East.
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  1. do1teach1 - Aug 8, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    It all started with the fatal phrase, "It's still early."Phil Wood, Ryan Zimmerman, and Davey Johnson said these words, every night and day, for April, May, and June. "It's still early."Wood said the words because he's a team-employed media person, paid to keep people tuning in.Zimmerman said the words because he has an ungodly tolerance for losing and for mediocrity. Plus, saying "It's still early" diverts attention from his being the only third baseman in Major League Baseball who cannot reliably throw to first.Johnson loved the phrase because everytime he used it, and stupid people bought it, it extended his unearned reign as the baseball prince who won 98 games.Put this on your calendars, Nats Insiders, for April 2014 and every April thereafter: It is NEVER early to play lousy baseball! It is NEVER early for a new restaurant to food-poison its customers! It is NEVER early for the US Army to lose American territory! It is NEVER early for a new surgeon to repeatedly and accidentally slash the colons of patients!Phil Wood, Ryan, Davey: It is never early to play lousy baseball, because it becomes a habit.

  2. karlkolchak - Aug 8, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    do1teach1 – Amen.My other favorite quote was Desmond a couple of months ago, and I'm surprised he didn't trot it out again last night–"We got the tying run to the plate in the 9th, so that shows we're moving in the right direction."Painful as it is for those of us who have followed the team since the beginning to admit, last year was a mirage. This team and this organization is not nearly as talent laden as it had convinced itself it was.Deeper in the story, Werth talks about how they still have a lot of "young talent." Well, three of those young players who they were counting on to be part of the core for years to come (Detwiler, Espinosa and Storen) blew up in spectacular fashion this year. This team cannot be content saying to itself that all they need are a few tweaks to put them over the top next season. They need a major overhaul, and it should start with accountability in the manager's chair.

  3. kc21 - Aug 8, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    I think most objective fans could tell back in late May, that this team didn't have "it" like they did last year. They are living the past when they say "this is still a good team."I wish someone would have the guts to say "we suck and we're going to have to grow, improve, and change" in order to become winners again. If you keep living w delusion, you'll never improve.Try successfully bunting, or hitting a sacrifice fly, or keeping a runner close to 1st base, or hustling to get an extra base. The little things add up, but more importantly, they show character. Something this team sorely lacks. Could it be that DeRosa, Morse, Gorzo, Mike Gonzalez, Sean Burnett, and Edwin Jackson were character guys?I hate that we didn't plunk a Brave after Bryce got hit.I hate that we never seem to come back after being down.I hate that we seem to implode defensively and pitching wise when other teams are coming back.This team lacks character, grit, and passion. That is a combination for a very bad team.

  4. Laddie Blah Blah - Aug 8, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    The guy I do not understand is Ryan Zimmerman. Maybe he played on losing teams for too long, and it just became a habit. I am not faulting his effort on the field, which is exemplary, but his passive attitude in the acceptance of defeat after defeat. Most players have off-years, and Ryan still seems to be having trouble with that shoulder. That he is playing as well as he is with that kind of impediment is testament to his toughness as well as his ability. But there are fans who show a lot more passion about the Nats than he does.Desi, Werth, and, especially, Harper are the guys who represent the kind of players I am rooting for. Play clean, hard, tough, respect the game, and never, ever give up. They need a manager like that, too.Try and pretend that "What, me worry?" Davey has already retired. That's pretty much what has happened, anyway. Get ready for next season by developing a winning attitude now, and win some damn games. The Braves just showed how it is done. They deserve to be division champs.

  5. jeeves - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    The other excuse that the veterans and Davey consistently say is that the team is still young. Excuse me, but LaRoche, Zimmerman, Span, Haren, four of the main reasons the Nats are in this position, are veterans. Overall, it is the younger players who have been playing better, although admittedly, they still display signs of immaturity baseball wise.

  6. Ivan Tuski - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    was it over when the Americans bombed Japan?-Yup

  7. Candide - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Candide - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    "They're still playing hard, with intensity…"Maybe that's the problem. Bear with me here.I wasn't keeping track, but it seemed to me the Braves were hitting a LOT of foul balls last night. Our guys, not so much; the only memorable AB I can recall in that regard was RZ in the 8th, where he fouled off five or six pitches before popping up on the ninth pitch.Meanwhile it seemed the Braves were putting two or three hits together every couple of innings, while Carp and FP sounded like they'd seen something miraculous when Werth and LaRoche hit consecutive singles in the 7th.My take is that everyone in the lineup is thinking, "Nobody's hitting, so it's up to me to win the game with a six-run homer." So they swing out of their cleats at stuff they can't hit, and lo, the prophecy is fulfilled – nobody hits.By contrast, Braves shorten up, patiently foul off pitches they know they can't drive, and wait for that mistake pitch. Get the whole lineup doing that, you'll put one or two runs up on the board several times a game. Seems every game this series the Braves got several bloop hits or seeing-eye grounders. "Stras pitched great, he just got done in by a couple of cheap hits."Meanwhile, the Nats are swinging for the fences every time, and on those occasions when they DO hit one out, there's usually nobody on base.The question is, how do you change the mentality of the entire lineup? Because all the other teams seem to have the Nats figured out – prey on their aggressiveness, and let them get themselves out. If this doesn't change, things are going to get worse – a LOT worse.

  9. Bote Man - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    "It's getting to a point where we're just not winning games," right fielder Jayson Werth said.Ya think??

  10. natsfan1a - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I know! I know! A new hitting coach. No, wait…The question is, how do you change the mentality of the entire lineup?

  11. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    When Harper does not run hard that is the day Rizzo must act decisively to change the culture the next day. I expect Davey to be fired today.Mark's title says it all about this team…..Harsh reality sets in……like many here……they spent the year living in a fantisy world. If Davey is still in the dugout Friday then you know reality has not set in with Rizzo. When it does we can move forward. Werth for player manager for the rest of the year. Harper for Captain….no he has not earned it yet with time or play but he needs to be rewarded for being the one who faced reality first and tried to do something about it.

  12. Almazar80 - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM

    They have been a bad team for all of the year (with the exception of the start, against teams they should beat). This is the reason Rizzo got a big fat contract. Building a WS caliber dream team. It's a dream, but the harsh reality says he did an awful job last year and this year. Even Harper, when compared to Mike Trout at the same age, well, isn't really comparable. Machado and Trout are better players than Bryce at this point. Yeah, tell me how Harper is only twenty. The other guys are not exactly geezers and they're already better (and not just by a little) than the vaunted Nats star.So memo to Rizzo. Stop doing what Vinny Cerrato did (bring in stars that did nothing for the team). Stop being McPhee (build a dream team in the off season and watch if fail in the post season). Build an actual team that can win something. If you can.

  13. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Harper is at least in the same sentence as the very best players in baseball young or not. You can see the effect the losing nationals way has had on him. That is the biggest worry Rizzo has. Harper is the Nationals. We will be as good he is if his approach to the game and intensity is matched by the leaders of the team. Rizzo…..check….Davey and Zimm BIG Problem!

  14. Almazar80 - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Is that approach from the left or right side?

  15. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    1A you start with dead end vets and move through coaches and then the Manager. You keep the core players this winter but you DO NOT over value your draft picks and pet projects in the winter. Rizzo has not proven he has any skill at all with this type of problem facing the organization. He is going to have to step up today and start earning the big promotion. He can not let a 70 year old manager who lost them game 5 last year and phoned in a whole season ruin young players who are the future of the team. Davey is done and the best thing Rizzo can do and the right thing for Davey to do is make the change now.

  16. m - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    If Werth is right and this is a relatively young team why do pepole keep on saying that there are no open spots on the Nats starting nine. If we are young then why doesn't Rizzo give some of the youth a chance. Let's play Brown, Moore and others. I don't care if they are batting 250 in AAA . They can't be any worse than watching ALR, Span and Bernadina rolling over to the right side time after time. What I find troublesome is the implosion of the teams youth core in the persons of Espinosa and Storen. This combined with the injury to Detwiler leaves us much weaker that even we "haters" had thought. I think an apology should be issued to the 'haters", "LoD" or "non fans". It turns out they were just being honest and realistic.

  17. natsfan1a - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    The point was, the new hitting coach doesn't seem to have made a difference.

  18. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    80….Harper can and will hit anything from any side. You can not honestly think that is a long term problem. He is 20 years old…playing hurt and playing on a team that has not life or leadership and is wasting talent at a historic rate. He and Werth and Rendon or the only players who are saying hey losers from 2007-2011….change your mind set or get out. Ian and Romos are responding…..everyone else is playing scared to try.

  19. CBinDC - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Fire Davey Johnson

  20. Knoxville Nat - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    JayB said:"When Harper does not run hard that is the day Rizzo must act decisively to change the culture the next day. I expect Davey to be fired today."And then JayB said this: "Werth for player manager for the rest of the year."Well to the first comment…don't hold your breath because I don't think it's going to happen. As to your second comment…..I sure hope not. That would be one huge mistake.

  21. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    1a we all know the problem is just bigger than a hitting coach….it is the loser Nats culture…..Davey is too old and feeble to make the decisions that need to be made. He is not willing to put winning over relationships with players.

  22. JayB - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    No decision would we worse than what is going on now. Putting Werth in charge to finish the season rewards the right people and lets the whole organization know this year's attitude is unacceptable.

  23. SCNatsFan - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    The only reason to HRod Davey (because if he resigns it will be for health reasons) is if you want to see how guys respond to Knorr, otherwise there is no sense in ruining a relationship just to rearrange chairs on a sinking ship.

  24. Roberto Fenili - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    To. D01Teach1Well stated. Amen.

  25. The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    You know, I wish I worked someplace where I could screw up night after night and the customers would demand that my boss – who didn't do anything but write my name down on the org chart – was the one who should be fired.

  26. Theophilus T. S. - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    Which nine-digit contract, Werth's or Zimmerman's, is an albatross? Not even asking which is the bigger albatross, as Werth is earning every sheckel.

  27. natsfan1a - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Well, this is fun and all but I have to catch up with paid and volunteer work after having been away for a long weekend. Plus getting ready to host house guests next week. Plus sending condolences and a memorial contribution due to a death in the extended family. Plus the usual housework and such. So, the Nats are just going to have to fix this one without my input. Sorry about that, Mike. 😉

  28. Section 135 - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM


  29. Knoxville Nat - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    " Putting Werth in charge to finish the season rewards the right people…"NONSENSE!!! What it does is put the inmates in charge of the asylum.I don't deny that Werth is one of the few bright spots on the team this year but he isn't the answer to turning the team or the "attitude/culture" around.If Rizzo goes outside the organization for the next manager, I expect him to try and make a run at Don Mattingly, who he attempted to get prior to Riggleman. If I recall correctly the Dodgers would not give permission to Rizzo to interview him (or did Mattingly flat out say he wasn't interested at the time?), however I believe his contract with LA is over at the end of this season and Donnie Baseball might not be so quick to re-up with them again after the way he was hung out to twist and turn in the wind earlier this season and last year as well.

  30. Dan Strong - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Zero percent chance Rizzo fires Davey. Davey needs to take action himself and resign, but I highly doubt that will happen either. Look, we are what we are. Let's just hope that next year pans out better.

  31. CBinDC - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Fire Davey Johnson

  32. Muddy - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    One discouraging element for me is Rizzo's recent new contract and promotion. It's a vote of confidence in a difficult year, I guess. Maybe that's admirable. But Rizzo frequently says promotion in baseball is based on results, that results are the measure of success — except for him and his team? This year the Rizzo-built team is an ugly failure. He had to have Span for whom he traded Alex Meyer and sacrificed much loved Mike Morse. He hired Haren for $13 million. He didn't need lefties in the pen. Espinoza was the his secondbaseman. Lombardozzi's told by Davey he isn't a utility man except that's what he is. The Rizzo promotion shows a "tolerance for losing and for mediocrity." This team is unable to "[bunt], or [hit] a sacrifice fly, or [keep] a runner close to 1st base, or [hustle] to get an extra base." It doesn't hold runners on lst. Its baserunners get thrown out doing careless stuff. "The little things add up, but more importantly, they show character." And it is getting worse as the season goes on. I'd have preferred that the Lerners make Rizzo show them a better team in 2014 before extending his contract.

  33. Tcostant - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    It just make no sense that Clipper was not used in the 8th of a tie game, when he didn't pitch the night before and off day the following day. I think Davey is doing all this because they fired his hitting coach.It has been noted, he has never left a team on good terms. I'll be shocked if he is advisor or in the front office next year.

  34. RaleighNat - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    As for Rizzo, on paper he put together a good team. The preseason media accolades indicate nearly everyone agreed. Then it imploded. Sometimes your best laid plans don't turn out the way you hope. His real test is going to be his response to this season. Harper is the centerpiece. Werth's contract makes him immovable. Ramos is your catcher. Rendon and Desi are probably keepers. He has 3 solid starters. Other than that, he needs to go back to the drawing board and no one should be off the table.

  35. NatsLady - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    I hope the team just plays good baseball the rest of the year. "Meaningful"? Maybe not. But the Fillies and the Giants are even more demoralized than the Nats. Two sweeps and back to .500.;

  36. Candide - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Yeah, fire Davey because with Davey gone the Nats will go on an insane tear and against all odds win the wild card and go on to sweep the Tigers in the World Series.You read it here first. And probably last.

  37. Candide - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    [Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.― A. Bartlett GiamattiI think we can all relate…

  38. NatsLady - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    All last year I tried to understand Davey Johnson's moves. I figured he had more baseball knowledge in his little finger than I had as a lifelong fan. His players seemed to adore him, said the would "go to the wall for him." Sometimes I thought I figured out his reasoning, other times, not.This year, I've been puzzled on so many in-game moves, line-ups, bullpen alignment, etc. etc. Haven't been able to figure his reasoning, even when he "explains" it. His prized talents (Espinosa, Storen) are gone, and he didn't coach them into productivity. I understand he's not out there hitting or fielding. But this is just not a well-coached team.

  39. NatsLady - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Yeah, Candide, agree. With all his faults, what is the point of firing Davey? Not gonna turn the season around, isn't even "symbolic." Just get a better guy next year.

  40. SCNatsFan - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Reality is starting to set in on the Nats. In related news, reality starts to set in Romney that he won't be President.

  41. NatsLady - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Another thing to remember is that we are not the only fanbase going through disappointment. So are Toronto, LAA, and the Giants. Baseball is not that easy. I think Jayson Werth would be a terrific player=manger, but not now, when he is focusing on his game. In a couple of years, when he is a bench player.

  42. The Real Feel Wood. Accept no substitutes. - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    I think it was the cigarettes, not the baseball, that broke A. Bartlett Giamatti's heart.

  43. CBinDC - Aug 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    The Nats are right back to NOT playing meaningful games in AUGUST So when will they stop the delusion that they are a good baseball team. They are not good they not even watchable right now. At least in 08 09 10 you could count on some drama but this group has take n boring to whole new level I did not think possible. The NOT doing anything about Harper getting hit was an example of how little they care about anything right now. For the bulk of this I hold Davey Johnson fully responsible he should just go and leave us to pick up after the disaster of 2013

  44. Tcostant - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Muddy on Rizzo contract, I think that is a sign that they are going outside the organization for the next manager and they want that manager to know that the guy who hired him will be there a while.Saw something disturbing last night at the game. Was in the Lexis seats right behind home, and a Braves fan a few secitions away (maybe the home feild reserve seats) had a home made shirt that say "The Braves Love to Watch Harper Cry", I saw it, noted to my wife and we both laughed a little. Well a few innings later, a Nats' official came and made him cover it up (he had a Braves jersey with him). I just think that is wrong – shame on the Nationals for doing that, and I'm a huge Nats fan.

  45. Steady Eddie - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    NL — One of the biggest problems with Davey this year, that we've identified repeatedly, is that he's gotten inflexibly formulaic, especially with in-game handling of pitchers and pinch hitters."Wanted to leave him in to give him the chance for a win" with starters who've clearly run out of gas, or on the other side "he'd thrown enough pitches" for a dominant starter (most appallingly pulling Gio against the Cubs back in May), or "I wanted to give him the chance to work his way out of the inning" for a reliever with a terrible matchup, or "I'll always use Tracy as my PH against a RHP in the 8th or 9th", etc. ad nauseum.Or not bringing in Clip last night, for that matter, to hold the tie against 3 RH hitters with lousy records vs Clip.We've all seen how he's repeatedly gotten outmanaged game after game, mostly because he's gone by predictable formulas that beg the opposing managers to take the preventive steps to counter, which they generally do.Overarching all is his formulaic coaching style of "giving them the confidence" to "let the talent express itself." Then when it doesn't work this year, he's left with nothing. He may have had more fire in the past, but with what he's gone through in his personal life in the past decade or so (and I raise that with the greatest of empathy), there seems to be little passion and energy there any more. Never takes off at an ump even for the most egregious of blown calls and when it might fire up at least some on the team.Might have been much better off if he could have gotten them to the WS last year (regardless of outcome there) and enabled him to leave on a high and gotten Bo Porter for manager….Oh well, woulda coulda shoulda.

  46. livernonions - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Can anyone explain the continued fascination with Mattingly as our future coach? He's always struck me as not the brightest bulb on the tree and there are persistent rumors that Trey Hillman, his bench coach, is unquestionably the brains of that operation. I, for one, am not anxious for us to hire a name just for the sake of doing it. Nothing wrong with someone young and/or new to managing at this level if they've got the chops.

  47. James Joyce - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    Still in the building phase, says Werth? Wow, that is some excuse-making there. You know, now that I think about, as we're a gazillion games back and losing to beat the band after having been picked to go far, we're just not that good of a club, yet.

  48. Mississippi Snopes - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    Not to sound like a broken record, but it's not lack of clutch hitting with runners in scoring position that is the problem for the Nats. Yes, they were terrible with runners in scoring position against the Braves. But they were also terrible without runners in scoring position. By my quick count, they were 16/77 without runners in scoring position against the Braves for a .208 average. That's not going to win many games.And as I noted earlier, on the season the Nats' OPS (on-base plus slugging) with runners in scoring position is actually slightly better than their OPS without runners in scoring position.The problem with the Nats is that they don't hit, period, not that they don't hit in the clutch.

  49. NatsLady - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Agree Davey's in-game moves are formulaic and predictable (which makes it puzzling why he didn't have Clip pitch the 8th last night). I was also thinking of his "coaching" and "teaching" which were so lauded. Maybe he helped out Rendon, but whatever he tried for Danny didn't work and apparently he completely misread (and mis-used) Storen.

  50. Tcostant - Aug 8, 2013 at 2:24 PM

    Mattingly was set to be fired back in May, but after bring on target for a playoff spot – he isn't going anywhere. So it is a non-issue.I was there last night, and everytime Freeman was up with a runner in scoring position I feared he might get a hit. When our guys have runners in scoring position , I hope he will get a hit, but don't think we will…

  51. TexNat - Aug 8, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Davey won't be back next year, so it doesn't matter if they fire him now or not. And they won't. As a side note, they never should have hired him in the first place as this was a young team about to go on an extended run and there is no reason to hire a short term manager in those circumstances.The Nats have to improve the lineup before next year. That is all that matters. They cannot fall victim to this ridiculous notion that there is no room for improvement because they are locked into their starting nine. They can move people to make room. They have no choice but to do so if they have any intention of being legit contenders next year.

  52. D'Gourds - Aug 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    well said, well said.

  53. Nats Fan 204 - Aug 8, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    Now that the harsh reality is setting in, whose Natitude will be reflected on the playing field? From Nationals Arms Race BlogOne more thought on this series since i’ve got nowhere else to put it; I’m disappointed we didn’t see retaliation of some sort last night for the BS of the night before. I’m sorry; you HAVE to protect your best player out there, and i’m not surprised to hear reports and see evidence that Bryce Harper was on edge last night with his own manager. As J.P. Santangelo succinctly pointed out; not protecting one of your own players can and does blow up clubhouses. I think somebody on Atlanta needed to get hit last night (likely McCann). I’m more than a little worried right now about the state of the clubhouse, given this lack of reaction.From a comment in Nationals Arms Race made in reply.Harper has already been hit 3 times in 2 years based on his reputation. He’s clearly a target and if they don’t retaliate it will continue to happen and he could get injured. Hopefully Rizzo can hire a tougher manager who sticks up for his players and doesn’t let the ovepaid, underperforming vets(Zim and Laroche) run the clubhouse.My own thought is that Rizzo must sit Harper, Werth and Zimmerman down and get throgh to them that each of their playing styles and philosophies are needed if this group of players is going to succeed as a team. Harper's energy, Zimm's quiet relentlesslunch pail approach and Werth's combination of both physical and mental determination. That is Rizzo's most important job.

  54. Kiterp - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    NatsFan agee 100% almost …especially the sit down. But if Gio had been ejected and suspended, where is the pitching coming from…especially down the road if it accelerated Jordan’s eventual departure. Sometime reality prevents you from doing what’s best

  55. JamesFan - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    I don't see them firing Davey. I do see him retiring early if this continues. The agony of this must be terrible for him.I see a late August early retirement for the good of the team.





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