Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Cabrera’

Season Ends With Win In 15

Monday, October 5th, 2009

The Washington Nationals finished the 2009 season on a high note, winning their seventh in a row, 2-1, in fifteen innings in Atlanta. The game winning RBI was plated on a line drive by Alberto Gonzalez , whose single in the 15th inning drove in Elijah Dukes with what turned out to be the winning run. The win could not save the Nats from the worst record in franchise history — as well as the worst record in baseball for the 2009 season: 59-103. Gonzalez was 2-6 in his last outing, raising his BA for the season to .265. Logan Kensing, who pitched two innings of three hit ball in relief, got the win. Starter J.D. Martin pitched six solid innings of six hit baseball, giving up a single earned run. But the pitching of the bullpen was the key story in the team’s last game of 2009 — Tyler Clippard, Ron Villone, Jason Bergmann, Saul Rivera and Kensing pitched nine innings in relief, giving up no runs.

While the Nats left Atlanta with their seventh consecutive win, the front office isn’t underestimating the work that needs to be done in the off season — the naming of a manager, the acquistion of two veteran pitchers, a reconstruction of the league’s worst bullpen and moves that will solidify the defense, especially up the middle. If there was a highpoint in the season (at least according to the Nats’ front office) it was the acquisition of centerfielder Nyjer Morgan and lefty reliever Sean Burnett from Pittsburgh. “I’m not saying we are where we want to be, certainly not,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said after the Atlanta win. “We know the targets we have to hit.” But many of the positive moves were actually negatives — additions by subtraction: the cutting of failed starter Daniel Cabrera, the exile of outfielder Lastings Milledge and the abandonment of the Joel Hanrahan experiment . . .

But the real high point of the season occurred before it even began — with the firing of Jim Bowden. The move was long overdue. The appointment of Mike Rizzo to take his place, first as “acting G.M” and then permanently, reshuffled the weak front office. Rizzo recast the Nats’ development program in the Dominican Republic, engineered the Milledge-Morgan swap, signed pitching phenom and first overall pick Stephen Strasburg, and rejiggered an embarrassing bullpen. His May signing of Mike MacDougal to a minor league deal — often overlooked — provided Washington with a closer. Rizzo’s mid-summer moves stabilized the franchise and gave the Nats immediate credibility. In a otherwise lost season, Rizzo’s promotion provided the one key bright spot  . . .

It’s not clear whether interim manager Jim Riggleman will return, though there’s no doubt that his handling of the club after the firing of Manny Acta focused the defense and provided needed wins. The club was sluggish under Acta and played with more intensity under Riggleman. “I think Riggleman really did a good job handling the ballclub after the All-Star break,” Rizzo said after the end of the season. “I think he put us on pace to really focus and bear down on the fundamentals of the game — to play cleaner and more efficient ballgames. He had the players playing at a high level. I think he has done the best job he could with the ability level that he has.” It’s clear that many Nats’ players would like to see Riggleman return . . .

100 Losses

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Just before losing a back-and-forth tussle with the Dodgers at Nationals Park on Thursday (final score: 7-6), the Nats front office apparently decided it was time to start preparing for next year. The things-are-looking-up offensive had the distinct odor of being planned to coincide with the Nats’ 100th in-season loss, a kind of Mendoza line for franchise futility. The “let’s talk up the good news” program included an on-line fan exchange featuring Mike Rizzo, a fan appreciation reception just before the Nats game with the Dodgers, a website feature on Ryan Zimmerman’s amazing season, and select “don’t worry, we’re on the right road” post game quotes from Jim Riggleman and company. “I’m just so proud of these guys,” Riggleman said after the Dodgers loss. “With exception of a ballgame or two — from the All-Star break on — we have been outstanding in terms of effort and attitude. Our fans responded to the energy on the field . . .  The Dodgers are going to popping champagne any day and we [are going to be right there soon].”

Well, maybe. Nats fans continue to show up at the ballpark, but Mike and Company shouldn’t be fooled: the team is on a short leash. Good teams are strong up the middle, but successful franchises are characterized by strong front offices. This 100 loss season can be put down to bad pitching and poor play, but Nats fans know that the most chilling aspect of ’09 didn’t take place on the field. Last January (four months to go before opening day) the Nats’ brain trust had already decided that Joel Hanrahan would be the closer, that its young pitchers were ready to carry the team to respectability, that there was no need to sign a strong glove to anchor a shaky infield, that Dmitri Young would return to provide clubhouse leadership — that Lastings Milledge was on his way to stardom. When Jim Bowden resigned as the team G.M., he predicted “a championship season.”

It’s possible to be wrong about a player, to spend too much money signing a prospect, to make a bad trade, to over value a free agent — that happens to the best teams and it’s forgivable. But to pin your hopes on the bats of Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge, Dmitri Young and the arms of Scott Olsen and Daniel Cabrera is beyond strange. It’s nearly perverse. The Washington Nationals ’09 campaign is a “lost season” not simply because the team lost 100 games (though, there’s that) but because the team spent the first three months of the season building what it should have been building for the last five years: a group of development experts and talent assessors who are capable of being honest about what’s on the field. So let’s not mistake what happened yesterday: the front office of the Washington Nationals decided to divert our attention from what has been happening on the field – and for good reason.