To the surprise of almost no one, the Nationals have selected Jim Riggleman over Bobby Valentine as their manager. I really had no preference for either one, so the choice doesn’t disappoint me. Valentine certainly would have been interesting and entertaining…but I can’t help wondering why other teams didn’t seem to show much interest in him. Ultimately, I think the Nationals made the right choice.
Now it’s time to get to work on filling the many holes in this team. The manager will be irrelevant if the Nats don’t bring in some good starting pitching, a reliable and competent second baseman, and a decent catcher.
…not going to be Don Mattingly, who declined to interview with the Nationals, according to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti last week. I can’t really say that I blame him…but I’m also not particularly disappointed that he won’t be managing the Nationals. As I mentioned before, he’d be a first time MLB manager — our previous manager was also a first-timer, and he didn’t work out so well.
There have been a number of changes in the Nationals’ front office since the season ended, and it finally looks like a decision is about to be made regarding the Nationals manager. Per Nationals.com, Interim manager Jim Riggleman and Bobby Valentine are the top candidates to be named as the manager of the Nationals. An announcement from the Nats is expected on Friday (11/13).
Not that I’m superstitious or anything, but considering the team’s fortunes over the last two seasons, would it really be a good idea to make the announcement about the new manager on Friday the 13th?!
It’s been a while…over two months, in fact…but I’m back. Real life intruded upon my online time — work issues and personal issues kept my online time limited to just my message board for the most part, but I’m hoping that everything is resolved now, and I’ll be able to make regular contributions to this blog once again.
Let’s see…what has happened since my last blog entry? Well, starting with the Yankees:
With a sweep of the Twins in early July, the Yankees tied the Red Sox for the lead in the AL East for one game, surrendering the lead the very next day with the first of three losses to the Angels. Less than two weeks later, a win over the Orioles pushed the Yankees into another tie for first in the AL East with the Red Sox. The Yankees have been in first place ever since, and despite losing their first eight games against Boston this season, they now hold a 9-game lead over the Red Sox. Since my last blog post, the Yankees have had winning streaks of 7 games three times and an 8 game winning streak, with no losing streaks longer than 3 games.
As for the Nationals:
Suckrahan Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge were traded to the Pirates for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, giving the Nationals the centerfielder they’ve needed all season. Manager Manny Acta got the boot just before the All-Star game and was replaced by bench coach Jim Riggleman. Shortly thereafter, the Nationals front office sent a “We admit that we suck, but we’re trying not to suck quite so much” email to all season ticket holders and all fans who purchased Nationals tickets or merchandise online. The Nationals were 6-10 in July after Riggleman took over for Acta, and were 14-15 in August, including an 8-game winning streak in early August. The Nats traded Nick Johnson — the last remaining connection to the Montreal Expos — to the Marlins for minor league pitcher Aaron Thompson. Starting pitchers Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, and Collin Balester were lost for the season to injuries (shoulder surgery for Olsen, Tommy John surgery for Zimmernann, arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur int he elbow for Stammen, and an intercostal strain of his left
side for Balester). In need of an innings eater, and/or overtaken by nostalgia, the Nats signed pitcher (and former National) Livan Hernandez after he was released by the Mets. Oh, and the Nationals signed their number 1 draft choice — perhaps you’ve heard of him? — some guy named Stephen Strasburg.
Yep, that about covers it.
The Nationals lost to the Rays on Saturday, 8-3, after giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the 6th inning. With the Nats leading 2-1, Jason Bergmann replaced Jordan Zimmermann. Zimm2 had pitched fairly well after being scratched from his previous start due to minor elbow soreness. But he was on a strict pitch count and had thrown 92 pitches through his 5 innings of work, so in came Bergmann for the 6th inning. 18 pitches and 5 runs (including 2 home runs) later, Bergmann was removed from the game without recording an out and was replaced by Jesus Colome, who then gave up 2 more runs.
Bergmann was “rewarded” for his effort by being sent down to triple A Syracuse. His replacement is Kip Wells, who just came off the DL. I wish the Nats would bring up Tyler Clippard, who has pitched very well in AAA. Pitching well in AAA doesn’t guarantee success in the majors, of course, but he sure as hell couldn’t be any worse than the drek that’s already in the Nats’ bullpen.
Regarding last night’s 5-4 loss to the Rays, completing the sweep in St. Petersburg, the Nationals find all kinds of ways to lose, or at least to suck.
Way #1: Ben Zobrist hit a foul ball in the 8th inning. Willie Harris, playing 3rd base because Ryan Zimmerman was the DH, attempted to make the catch while running towards his bullpen. Unfortunately, the bullpens are in foul territory (I’ve never understood why a Major League ballpark would have its bullpens on the field…but I digress…), and the Nats’ bullpen catcher could not get out of the way fast enough. Harris tripped over him and failed to make the catch. Zobrist ended up striking out, so that mishap ultimately didn’t matter, other than to be one more display of suckitude from the Nationals.
Way #2: Pinch hitter Willie Aybar got a double when a ground ball that appeared to be headed for Harris’ glove at 3rd instead bounced off the base and went into left field. Carlos Pena then scored the go-ahead run.
This kind of crap only happens to the Nationals, who have lot 15-18 of their last 18 games. This was the 7th series in which the Nats have been swept this season.
The big news in Natstown (jeez, I hate that nickname….) is really just a strong rumor so far, which is that manager Manny Acta will be fired very soon. Per a report on foxsprts.com:
Manny Acta’s time as manager of the Washington Nationals is just about over, according to major-league sources.
Acta will be by replaced bench coach Jim Riggleman, as originally reported on FOX Saturday Baseball. The only question is when. It could be a matter of days….
Riggleman has managed for the Padres, Cubs and Mariners….
Riggleman’s record as a manager is 522-652.
Interesting comments from Nationals Team President Stan Kasten in the Washington Post’s Nationals Journal:
Hours before Saturday’s game against Tampa, a Fox Sports report, citing major league sources, suggested that Acta will be fired by week’s end and replaced with bench coach Jim Riggleman. Team president Stan Kasten neither confirmed nor denied the report, saying, “I would never talk about personnel, because I don’t. I’ve been asked a variation of that question (about Acta’s job security) — from some media outlet — almost every day since the first week of the season. And if I had a policy to talk about personnel, I’d have to do that story every single day.
“Having said that, I can’t tell you how perplexed I am by this season and this team and the things that are going on. And our record is, you know, very troubling for me every single day ….. So yeah, I’m troubled by everything. We continue to look for solutions. Have I thought about every possible recourse? I have. As has [acting general manager] Mike [Rizzo], as have our owners. We’re certainly not satisfied with our record; far from it. We’re distraught over it and we’re going to consider everything we need to do to make it better.”
One would assume that Mr. Kasten would defend his manager and vehemently deny the Acta-to-be-fired rumors if those rumors were not true. So…the Acta watch continues.
I stated here that that I thought it was time for Acta to go. For the most part, I still believe this, because I believe that a change is desperately needed. However, someone posted a comment on the above item in Nationals Journal, pointing out that the Nats record isn’t entirely Acta’s fault — “Casey Stengel couldn’t manage this team to a .500 record.” He has a point. This team just flat out stinks. Firing the pitching coach has made little difference. Firing Acta may just be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Whatever happens, I wish it would happen soon. Leaving Acta to twist in the wind is unfair to him (as well as the team), and it also feeds the notion of complete ineptitude on the part of the Nationals front office.
According to SI.com, the Nationals are supposedly considering Bobby Valentine as a replacement for Acta. Bobby Valentine?! Oh my. Too bad such a change couldn’t be made in time for the Nationals/Yankees series. Bobby Valentine vs. Joe Girardi would be highly entertaining!