Archive for the ‘Mike Rizzo’ Category
Saturday, June 8th, 2013
It’s the World Series or bust, Davey Johnson told Nats’ fans during Spring Training, and our expectations soared. As well they might: the team had league’s best starting pitching, a potent and potentially powerful line-up of young bats (including Rookie of the Year Bryce Harper), and a young and solid bullpen — with a new closer.
Now (with one-third of the season in the books), the Nats are mired in third place in the National League East, the starting pitching is not what it should be (Stephen Strasburg is on the DL, Ross Detwiler is rehabbing, Dan Haren has been ineffective), Bryce Harper is visiting a specialist to look at his knee and the team’s bullpen is shakey, at best.
Clearly, a kind of turning point has been reached. This morning, the Washington Post weighed in with a front page team assessment, complemented by a Sports section Tracee Hamilton offering that concludes that the team “can’t hit, pitch or field with anything approaching consistency.”
All true. But Nats’ fans can at least be thankful that all of this seems to have seeped into the consciousness of Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson, who’ve spent the last week (and more) retooling a punchless offense — and providing a new look to an embarrassingly so-so bullpen.
Hence: Danny Espinosa was sent to the disabled list (and, truth be said, to Triple-A), Anthony Rendon was brought in to play second base, and Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke were sent packing. That’s four big moves (and counting), including a roster-shifting one: it’s not often that a team changes their second baseman in mid-stride.
And then there’s the bullpen. Once upon a time, Davey Johnson said that while he was comfortable with a single lefty out of the pen, he might want to have more. He now has three (and potentially four), and none of them are named Zach Duke, who started the season with confidence that he could get the job done. He couldn’t.
Wednesday, June 5th, 2013
With one-third of the season now in the books, the Nationals on Tuesday made the decisions that many of their fans wanted, and many had predicted, sending relievers Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke to the minors — and Danny Espinosa to the disabled list.
To fill their spots on the national league roster, the team recalled Anthony Rendon from Triple-A and brought reliever Ian Krol up from Double-A Harrisburg. The Nationals also activated Jayson Werth, whose bat they desperately need.
Espinosa is expected to rehab (both his shoulder and his wrist), before returning to the club. “He is a tough guy. He reminds me of myself,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He is playing with a bad shoulder, he is playing with a broken wrist. He needs the rest.”
But General Manager Mike Rizzo made it clear that it’s unlikely Nats fans will see Espinosa anytime soon. “We finally put Danny on the disabled list to clean up all the wrist questions that we had, and for him to rehab and then go down to the Minor Leagues, with a healthy wrist, go down there and work on the mental side of hitting,” he said.
Injury or not, the message is that Espinosa has played himself out of a job, and this morning’s Bleacher Report said that it’s time for Washington to “see what Rendon can do” at second base — adding that the Nats don’t have “a second baseeman on the stat list this season (Espinosa and Steve Lombardozzi) hitting above .231.”
An uncertain coda might well have followed these moves, as Washington continues its struggles. But just hours after announcing the team shake-up, the Nats responded by notching their first walk-off win of the year, a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over division rivals New York.
While the Washington victory didn’t result in a win for starter Jordan Zimmermann, it lifted the Nationals one game over .500 and made a hero of Steve Lombardozzi. Lombardozzi’s sacrifice fly in the 9th inning scored Adam LaRoche, after the Nationals loaded the bases on Mets’ reliever Bobby Parnell.
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
And so it’s official: after nearly fifty games the Nationals are playing .500 ball, have proven incapable of winning the big games, are mired in a team-wide batting slump, seem disoriented and demoralized, are losing games they should win — and are nowhere near the elite team they were projected to be at the season’s start.
Or, as Adam Kilgore put it at Nationals Journal this morning: “The Nationals 4-2, 10-inning loss included many hallmarks of their 3-6 road swing. A dearth of offense. Spotty relief pitching. Finding a way to lose.” Finding a way to lose?
The most recent example came on Tuesday night in San Francisco, when the Nationals dropped a 4-2 decision on a walk-off two run Pablo Sandoval blast on a pitch by Triple-A call-up Yunesky Maya. The loss dropped the Nationals to 3-6 on their ten game West Coast road trip and squandered a near-brilliant outing from righty workhorse Stephen Strasburg.
In Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo we trust (and absolutely), but this time there’s blame enough to go around. With the Nationals leading 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, and closer Rafael Soriano on the mound, Gregor Blanco hit a liner to right field that should have been caught by Bryce Harper for the final out. It wasn’t — and Andres Torres scored the tying run.
But Harper was playing in and towards the line, when he should have been playing back and in the gap, to guard against precisely the kind of over-the-head liner that Blanco smacked. That’s the way the Giants play it. That Harper shied away from the ball (the result of hitting the wall in Los Angeles, it was suggested) is nonsense: he was out of position.
This is hardly a radical point-of-view: it was hinted at by F.P. Santangelo — MASN’s color commenter who was covering the game — both at the time of the hit, and in his post-game comments. Harper, meanwhile, reacted like any good team player, even if he’s wrong. “I put that whole loss on me,” he said. “Really sucks.”
Then there’s Yunesky Maya. “Wise old” Davey Johnson is rightly praised for managing his bullpen just so (and, it is said, even brilliantly), and determining the exact pitcher-to-hitter match-ups. Maya is a righty and would be facing righties, so perhaps that is why Johnson decided to bring him in to pitch to the Giants in the 10th. But . . . Yunesky Maya?
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Stephen Strasburg outpitched Atlanta’s Julio Teheran and the Nats’ lineup outhit the Braves (ten hits to seven), but Washington couldn’t find a way to win — and went down to defeat at Turner Field 3-2 on Monday night. The Atlanta victory snapped their four game losing streak, while Washington has yet to find a way to consistently defeat their divisional rival.
While Strasburg was once again not at his best, he kept Washington in the game, throwing six innings of six hit baseball while striking out eight. Strasburg is now 1-4 with a 3.13 ERA, and has not won since opening day. Worse yet, the Washington ace reported that he’s some forearm stiffness.
Davey Johnson noticed that “something was off” in the way that Strasburg was pitching, and in post-game remarks told the press that “I’m sure they’re going to put him on some medication.” No matter: Strasburg is obviously anxious to keep throwing. “I’m not missing my next start,” he said after the game. “I’ll tell you that right now.”
The difference in the game came in the bottom of the 7th inning. Tyler Clippard was brought on in relief of Strasburg and walked the first batter, Gerald Laird, who was then sacrificed to second. Jordan Shafer then punched a single to right field and stole second. Atlanta’s third run then crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Andrelton Simmons.
Washington’s hitters, meanwhile, had a good bead on Teheran, but couldn’t push across the runs to give the Nats a victory. The Nationals were 2-9 with runners in scoring position. Strasburg got a no-decision in the game, with Tyler Clippard taking the loss.
The Nationals continue their series in Atlanta tomorrow night, with Gio Gonzalez on the mound for the home towners. He will face off against savvy righty, Tim Hudson.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The Nationals know they have to find a way to beat the Braves, but we’re stumped as to how they’ll do it. Nats’ hitters beat up Teheran tonight, just as they did in his last outing, but it didn’t seem to matter. Atlanta has now won eight in a row against Washington, dating back to last year . . .
Back on April 12, the Nationals forced Teheranto the pine after six innings, plating four earned runs and six hits in two innings — but ended up losing the game in extra innings, 6-4. You have to wonder if maybe the Nationals are snake-bit against the Bravos, despite finishing last season four games ahead of them . . .
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Winning, of course, is the ultimate test of a franchise. “Can they get it done?” is the question all fans, scribes and baseball insiders ask when evaluating a team. Do they have what it takes to be the last team standing at the end of a 162-game campaign and a grueling post season schedule?
The answer to the question is easy to discern after the fact. But before the games are played one has to search for the intangibles in a franchise that go along with the talent, grit and luck that are essential for winning.
It’s too early to tell, of course, whether the Nats can be closers – - although I like their chances (and so, apparently, does Sports Illustrated). But how they are going about their task, not only on the field but in the front office, says a lot about how the franchise conducts itself in pursuit of its goal.
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The first blush of comments are in on the trade of Michael “A-ha” Morse to Seattle, and the reviews are mostly negative. That is to say: they’re mostly negative in Seattle. “Lookout Landing,” the high profile Mariners blog, calls the trade “just brutal,” while “Baseball Nation” gives the Nationals an “A,” leaving a gaping “no comment” for the forever struggling Navigators.
Washington Nationals fans undoubtedly have a different perspective. Gone is the big galoot with the eccentric warm-up swing, the “Take On Me” walk-up music — and all the good memories. Which includes a well-I’ll-be’damned 2011 season in which the former White Sox prospect lifted the D.C. Nine from cellar dwellers to “most talked about.”
Morse’s 2011 season is worth remembering — a .303 BA with 31 HRs. The season lifted Morse into the stratosphere, with descriptions of how a “late bloomer” can finally find his way into the game. That reputation was only sullied slightly by an injury marred 2012, in which (if truth be told), Morse never could find his stride.
“Quite simply, the Nationals dealt from a position of excess (Morse) to replenish their farm system (starting pitching),” the Washington Post’s Jame Wagner writes. That’s true, but the Morse swap also is a certain signal that Mike Rizzo’s four player shipment to the A’s during the last off-season (another “gone in 60s seconds” moment), might well have left the G.M. with an untidy feeling that perhaps the Nats had shipped out one prospect too many.
Thursday, October 11th, 2012
It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Over the last eighteen innings, the Nationals have been outscored 20-4 by the St. Louis Cardinals and their pitching has cratered. The latest evidence of the Nationals’ postseason futility came on Wednesday when, with red towels waving all over Nationals Park, the Cardinals overwhelmed the hometowners, 8-0.
The latest victim of the Cardinals’ onslaught was Edwin Jackson, though it’s impossible to pin the second Nats’ loss in this five game playoff series on a single pitcher. The Nationals now face an ignominious elimination at the hands of one of the best hitting teams in baseball, hoping to salvage a single elimination playoff game with a win on Thursday.
As always, and even in the face of this adversity, Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson remained optimistic. He was buoyed by the sold out crowd, fanatical fans that have become the hallmark of the upstart franchise. “We’re not out of this, by a long shot,” he said. “Shoot, I’ve had my back to worse walls than this.”
But optimistic or not, there’s little doubt that, at least so far, the Cardinals are feasting on Nationals’ pitching. The Redbirds slammed out fourteen hits against five Washington pitchers, all of whom were ineffective — with the exception of closer Drew Storen. It all began with starter Edwin Jackson who gave up four earned runs in five innings.
A raucous crowd, watching the first playoff game in Nationals’ history, could not keep the Cardinals off the board, even in the first inning — when an Allen Craig double scored Matt Holliday. Shortstop Peter Kozma followed in the second inning with a home run that scored David Freese and Daniel Descalso. Suddenly it was 4-0.