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State of the Nats: The final week

Sep 23, 2013, 2:13 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

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Six games left – Only six games remain for the Nationals in their 2013 regular season as they head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals, and then Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. After dropping a game against the Marlins on Sunday, it isn’t looking good for the Nats playoff chances. But that’s not to say it isn’t possible they sneak in. Technically they are still in it, five games back from the final NL Wild Card spot with six to play. Their elimination number remains at two which means they need some serious help from either the Pirates or the Reds. One win for either team combined with a Nats loss would do the trick and end their season, those aren’t good odds. Honestly though, with all that has happened this season for the Nats: the injuries, the losing streaks, the inability to score against anybody; they are entering their final week of the year still alive in the playoff race. That may not level up with their preseason expectations, but two months ago few would have predicted they would be this close.

Revenge against Cardinals? – Even if the Nationals are unlikely to make the playoffs, they still have something significant to play for this week, at least if you ask Davey Johnson. The Nats remember their heartbreaking loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last October’s National League Division Series – and getting swept by them at Nats Park earlier this year – and would love to make the NL Central race for the Cards a little more interesting. As noted on Saturday in this space, the Cardinals have led their division for most of this season. Johnson believes it would be the “absolute worst thing” for St. Louis to have a mini-collapse and find themselves in the winner-takes-all wild card game. The Cardinals are two games ahead of both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the division, but the Nats can have something to say about that. They will also travel to St. Louis with three pitchers who have been on their games lately: Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

Davey’s final games – Davey Johnson’s last home game as a MLB manager is in the books and this week he will coach the final week of his career. The Nats are 84-72, have six games left and Davey has said publicly his goal is 90 wins. Whatever their final win total is, they want to finish the season and Johnson’s career off strong. Davey’s hopes of riding off into the sunset with another World Series ring are remote at this point, but certainly has a chance to retire on a high note and with a respectable final season of 89 or 90 wins.

NL East Standings


NL Wild Card Standings


Offensive game of the week: Ryan Zimmerman 9/22 vs. Marlins – 2 for 4, HR, 2 RBI, R

Pitching game of the week: Jordan Zimmermann 9/20 vs. Marlins – 9 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, BB, 9 SO, 107 pitches, 79 strikes

Quote of the week:

Ian Desmond on the Nats posting a winning season:

I think moving in the right direction is something that we’ve all kind of looked past. I think at the end of the year last year when I went home and reflected on the season I think it didn’t really even matter how many games we won. We came in whatever place it was, fifth or sixth and if you don’t win the World Series, you’re really not doing what you signed up to do.

Tweet of the week:

Saturday’s ridiculously long rain delay brought out the best from the Nats’ Twitter accounts, including this one from Bryce Harper:

Road ahead

MON – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Roark)
TUE – 8:15 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Gonzalez)
WED – 1:45 p.m. at St. Louis Cardinals (Zimmermann)
FRI – 9:40 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Strasburg)
SAT – 8:10 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Haren)
SUN – 4:10 p.m. at Arizona Diamondbacks (Roark)

  1. JamesFan - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Question for the offseason: How do the Nats get production from the heart of the order? Not one player with 100 RBI and none even close until the September surge.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 23, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      You find (either by developing them, signing them as free agents, or trading for them) players with a proven track record. But — and here’s the rub — that’s essentially what Mike Rizzo did last off-season. And that’s why the Nats were picked by many to be NL East champs and compete (if not win) in the playoffs. But the problem is that even the best players don’t always produce as expected (or when expected, i.e., all season long). If it’s one player not producing, it’s not that big a deal. But when several go cold (or are injured) at the same time, you end up with the 2013 Nationals. So you give them another chance next season, making a few minor repairs along the way (maybe at 1B?). Will that work? Is it enough? Stand by for a 162-game experiment next season.

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:00 PM

        Well said. I don’t expect major changes in personnel in the core of the order off season, so improvements will have to come from the same guys staying healthy and producing more.

        I expect Werth’s production will fade at least somewhat, as he’s having close to a career year, and given his age he could miss more time due to injury. Harper, I hope, will stay healthy and improve with age, and ALR, I hope, will rebound at least somewhat from a weak 2013. If ALR isn’t performing well by mid-season, I expect to see a different starting 1B.

    • bowdenball - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      Well there’s currently only 4 players in the NL with 100+ RBIs, so the lack of one in the Nats’ lineup is hardly a death sentence. The Pirates, Dodgers and Cardinals don’t have one, although they might by the end of the week.

      But you can’t accumulate RBIs just by hitting better. The Nats have several hitters who have more power and higher averages than potential 100-RBI guys like Phillips and Alvarez. You get RBIs if you stay healthy and in the lineup and the guys in front of you get on base. It’s a situational statistic as much as it’s a production statistic.

      If Harper, Werth and Zimmerman had all been healthy all year, and the Nats hadn’t gotten terrible production out of the 2 spot and the 9 spot- both the pitchers and the pinch-hitters, all of them would have 90+ RBIs and one or more might have 100. The problem isn’t whether the Nats have guys that can drive in runs, it’s how often they batted with guys on base to drive in.

      • adcwonk - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM

        Or, to put it in other words: if you have a balanced line-up, you don’t need individuals to get 100 RBI’s.

        Fact is, Nats are 6th in runs scored. That’s pretty good production (with room for improvement, of course). And Nats are 3rd (!) in HR’s, and yet they have nobody with more than 26 HR’s. (OTOH, they have five guys with 20 or more — I’d bet very few NL teams have that). (And Ramos with 15 HR’s in just a 1/2 season).

      • bowdenball - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:43 PM

        Yup, that too. Well put, adcwonk. There is only one statistic that matters for offense, and that is team runs scored. Everything else is a means to that end. The Nats did OK on it this year, and they are in a position to do better next year if the bench gives them anything at all.

  2. tcostant - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Love Harper’s tweet – must be good to be 20 years old…

  3. tcostant - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I keep reading stuff like “Davey Johnson’s last home game as a MLB manager” and “last time in Nationals Park as a manager”. I simply don’t believe it. If you go back to Davey’s offseason quote and thoughtout the year, he wanted to be back here as manager and it was Rizzo’s idea to make this his last year. He might be managing vs. the Nationals, as soon as next year. Don’t count it out!

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 23, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      If he’s in the visitor’s dugout, I hope it’s for night games, and that he exhibits the same late-game attention to BP management that we saw this year.

      • adcwonk - Sep 23, 2013 at 3:54 PM

        Nats record for day games in 2013: 25-25
        Nats record for night games in 2013: 59-47

        Hey, but don’t let facts get in the way!

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:25 PM


        Interesting #s, tho my suspicion is much of the difference is just noise. You’re not really arguing that he’s a better manager at night, and that’s what accounts for the extra wins, are you?

        If your point is that I was taking a cheap shot at his age, fair enough – I was. The point about BP management was more serious. I’ve often been unhappy with his approach this season, day or night, and it’s one of the things I won’t miss about him.

      • adcwonk - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        You’re not really arguing that he’s a better manager at night, and that’s what accounts for the extra wins, are you?

        No — but there are so many extra wins, how can anyone argue that he’s a worse manager at night?

        If your point is that I was taking a cheap shot at his age, fair enough – I was.

        Yup, and yup. I thought it was a cheap shot and that was indeed my point. Thanks for owning up to it.

        The point about BP management was more serious. I’ve often been unhappy with his approach this season, day or night, and it’s one of the things I won’t miss about him.

        I tend to think that many fans’ view of BP management is hopelessly colored by results, and/or looking at the short term. A manager has to manage the BP for the entire season, and you can’t burn out the arms of the best guys just to get a win today (see, e.g., Riggleman).

        A lot more goes into BP management than meets the eye. Or, rather, there’s a lot more knowledge going on down on the field than we know. For example: I thought it was ridiculous that Strasburg wasn’t pitching the first game yesterday — doesn’t your best pitcher always pitch the first game? (for all kinds of good reasons). And then, later, I learned that Stras was rusty, and had control problems, and that Davey knew that. And I didn’t.

        Managing bullpens has always been touted as one of his strengths, and I heard Tyler Clippard make that point specifically in an interview: that “ever since Davey’s got here, the BP’s been managed great”.

        Hey, fans will disagree over everything. That’s fine. I’ve been following Davey ever since he took over the Mets (when I was a hard-core Mets fan) in the 1980’s. I think he’s awesome. He changed the atmosphere in the Nats clubhouse overnight from “hoping we’ll win” to “expect to win.” He guided Stras and Harper through bumpy starts. He helped Werth recover his good swing, he backed Desmond when others wanted to ditch him — and, as for the BP — mostly all I’ve got to go on is hearing the pitchers themselves talk about how well Davey managed the BP for the year.

      • Hiram Hover - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:48 PM


        Good comments. I don’t have that history with Davey myself but understand your fondness. I know that a lot of the players are fond of Davey too, and feel he’s helped out and support them. That’s great.

        As to what I don’t like about his BP management–you’re right, he can’t use the best guys all the time. My complaint is that he often seems to have a mechanical “1 inning, 1 guy” approach, and he’s unwilling to use a relief pitcher situationally, just for a batter or 2 (unless and until an absolute disaster breaks out, by which time it’s too late).

  4. Steady Eddie - Sep 23, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I believe Davey is under contract to the Nats for at least next year as a “senior adviser”. While it’s likely that this contract like most would have a voluntary out on his part, it would’ve pretty remarkable for it not to have a non-compete clause. That us, a clause saying that if you (Davey) exercise your option (assuming he has one)not to renew this contract, you agree not to work for a competitor’s organization during the period the contract would have run. No MLB teams, no affiliated MiLB teams.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM

      Yep, Mike Rizzo mentioned that yesterday during the tribute. Actually, what he said was “He’ll be back next year in a senior advisor role. Emphasis on senior.”

    • tcostant - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:19 PM

      No way the team stands in Davey’s way if he can make $2M or more as a manager, becuase he has some consultant job that pays him a few $100K. No way.

      • adcwonk - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:26 PM

        Unless Davey doesn’t want to start over with a 6th team. Recall — he started in baseball in the DC area, his kids were born here, and he’s ending this season in DC.

      • tcostant - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        Phil Wood said Davey said ti that he wants to manager again. I heard an interview with the last two weeks on 980AM where he told Thom Loverro that he wanted to manage again. He told the Washington Post a couple times this year that this being his last year, was really not his idea.

      • adcwonk - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:45 PM

        Yikes! I get the sense he wants to manage the Nats next year — but if he actually wants to manage somewhere else ?!?

        If he does, I sure hope it’s in the AL!

      • tcostant - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:55 PM

        I agree he prefer to manage the Nats, but he seems to willing to go almost anywhere to manage.

      • Steady Eddie - Sep 23, 2013 at 5:55 PM

        The point isn’t the money. It’s that, you bet they would use that clause to prevent him from managing another MLB (or at least NL) team against the Nats. With what he knows about this organization? As my father used to say, does Macy’s tell Gimbel’s? (DC Wonk would appreciate that one.)

      • tcostant - Sep 24, 2013 at 10:43 AM

        No way – maybe if tried to be a consultant for another team they could stop in. But you can’t tell a guy that you don’t want him to manage your team and then prevent him from doing elsewhere.

  5. broadlandsfan - Sep 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Looking for some help if possible from a fellow Nats fan. Family and I were at the 1st game yesterday afternoon and my daughter was on TV. Is there anyway to get a DVR taping or anything of the sort from someone? Would be happy to pay for disk or whatever’s needed to obtain a copy. Great memory and was hoping to capture. Thanks much…

    • Sec317 - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:23 PM

      Congrats on the budding star! :) I record all of the games and would be happy to send a DVD to you. Shoot a note to me and we’ll get it worked out…mikewhitt at aol

  6. David Proctor - Sep 23, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    What we’ll miss about Davey is not his in-game management, but his long-term approach. What I mean by that is how he develops players. Desi, Harp, even Werth credits him for turning his career around after that awful 2011. Even guys like Zach Walters in the minors who improved a ton offensively thanks to Davey. It’s imperative, I think, to keep him around in some shape or form. If that’s a senior consultant, fine, but make sure he does not get away. He needs to be in Spring Training next year, like he is every year.

  7. letswin3 - Sep 23, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    On Davey. I guess he was a player development guy alright, but he also has a stubborn streak with guys like Danny Espinosa that is costly.. Lots of managers could have developed Strass, Harper and Desi. The big issue with Davey (at least for me) was indeed the management of the bullpen….Clip may have liked how Davey was sparing bullpen arms as much as possible because of a “full compliment” of relievers that wasn’t even close to a full compliment for months….Zach Duke and Henry Rodriguez simply weren’t reliable, and Davey was a genius in trying his damnest to avoid those two. For that I will give Davey his due. But his shortcomming has been his failure to yank both starters and relievers one hitter too late…and in more than a few cases, several hitters too late. For example, the other day Ohlendorf was sent back out in the 6th when he has shown repeatedly that he tires dramatically after 5……..hard headed Davey decides to stretch him out in an important game down the stretch. And don’t get me started on how he failed to manage Drews playoff nightmare against the Cardinals last year. Davey is both a good bullpen manager and a poor one……how many games were compromised by his decisions to get one or two more outs from his pitchers? It’s nice that he’s a “players manager”, but I’m partial to those that can maximize wins, and I’m not satisfied that Davey has done that with the Nats.





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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