Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Missing Spark

From The Inaugural 2005 Season of Our Washington Nationals through 2007, you could never doubt how hard Washington's Team played the game. No--Our Team was far from the best. But, hustle, desire and just plain gamesmanship was always evident. Even when Our Washington Nationals lost--I could rarely complain about their effort. They Had Spark!!

The Love Of The Game was always evident.

Camaraderie--lacking more and more from Version 4.0 of Our Washington Nationals. Don't get me wrong. I will always love Our Team, but when Nick Johnson, Chad Cordero, Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns all are down at the same time--direction has been lost.

Over the past few games at The Metrodome in Minneapolis--Our Washington Nationals played some bad baseball. They were barely competitive. Understandably, they are shorthanded and are saddled with competing with many players still learning The Major League Game.

Everyone knows--Injuries are a part of the sport. They are unavoidable.

I am fine with that.

I can live with the youth.

I can live with the losses.

I can live with the errors.

And I can live with poor pitching and non--timely hitting.

What I can't live with is the feeling that SOME DO NOT CARE.

Watching this afternoon's game on TV against The Minnesota Twins--while at work editing our news story for this day--two moments shown on the tube really bothered me.

Already down by five runs--a certain player for Our Washington Nationals flies out. Not two minutes later, the picture shown on MASN depicts the same player relaxing and winking about something with another player--most likely not related to the game. Later, with the score 8-2 Twins, a dugout shot shows a couple of players chatting and laughing.

Those moments did not settle well with me.

Now--I don't know the entire circumstances of the situations. But with Our Team nearing another three game losing streak--I sure would not have minded seeing a little more concern from Our Ball Club's Players. Could they have shown more interest in the game? Those two images just sit in my mind. So much so, after chatting with a few of my friends about the incidents--each and everyone expressed the same apprehensions.

Our Collective Conclusions.

Someone Needs To Set A Fire Under Our Team.

No matter what the score. No matter what the situation. No matter how desperate things may be.

We only want to see Players for Our Washington Nationals That Care.

We want to see an Honest Effort From Them.

We want to see their Competitive Nature--Each and Every Game.

We want to see their Love Of The Game Depicted on The Field.

And we want to see Gamesmanship--Spirit.

That Spark Missing so far in 2008.

What we don't want to see is anyone giving up.

That's all we ask.

And that's not much from loyal fans to ask of Our Washington Nationals.

No--not much at all.

Today's InGame Photo--(AP) Hannah Foslien


paul said...

They do look like they are playing out the string. It's hard to imagine a team looking worse. (I know, Seattle. But that's like a guy with a 40-inch waist looking around for a fatter person so he feels better.) Does Manny have any control? It's hard to tell.

Anonymous said...

Well said, SBF. I can cheer for just about anything, if I know that everyone is hustling and trying. Sure, winning is better. But heart is the thing that makes a team lovable.

Sam R said...


There is nothing funny when you are paid to win and you are losing. Even in our beer league no one is cracking jokes when losing. But I guess they they just take that paycheck for granted. We'll see if they feel that way when they get a one way ticket to Potomac or back home.

Kenny Gartner said...

I think it's time to pull up some folks from the minors. If the guys in the majors aren't doing their jobs, why not pull some guys up?
What about hitting coach Lenny Harris? Should he stay or should he go? I'm always quick to point the blame to management in these cases, but maybe I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your posts, SBF, and I almost always agree with your observations. I don't think, however, that you should refer to "certain players." Who are you talking about? All of your readers did not see that game and, consequently, don't have a clue what you're talking about? Who was it?

Anonymous said...

I think that the "secure" status of certain players on the roster who never produce eventually causes other players on the roster to take a pass as well.

If you can hit .190, make an error every time you play in the field, yet still have a roster spot and regular playing time (and unfortunately the Nats have 2 position players who fit this description), then why does anyone else have to worry about their performance?

If management doesn't take the season seriously, why do the players have to?

And why should the fans?

Anonymous said...

Where have you gone, Jamey Carroll? (Just for the record, he is hitting .278 as the every day second baseman for Cleveland and STILL running out routine ground balls.)
Going back to last year, "certain players" on this team have been consistently going through the motions and you're just getting around to writing about it? Let's face it, some players who go back to the Cincinnati days with Bowden must feel that a lack of effort is acceptable.
And what may happen soon? Cristian Guzman - one of the few players on this team who appears to give a hoot and is actually earning his paycheck - may be traded to a contender before the trade deadline. (An aside -- On Tuesday night, due to injuries and a trade-happy GM, the only Nationals player on the field who played with Livan in DC was Guzman.)
Wake up, Stan! You have a fan base in DC that is rapidly becoming disgruntled. Your new ballpark can only carry you so far. What brings the fans to the park? It's baseball. Actually, it's well played baseball. When a team doesn't display much effort, even the casual fan notices. All of the amusement park hoopla with a baseball theme isn't going to hide the fact that this is a bad team that appears to be going through the motions. The only thing they appear to be doing fast is going nowhere.

Jeremy said...

I had no problem loving the Nats the past three seasons despite their long losing stretches because they played hard, hustled, and seemed to care. This group doesn't do that so much. I think somebody needs to light up Milledge, Dukes, and the others, and make them understand that if they don't start caring, they're going to put the love of baseball by an entire city into jeopardy.

Anonymous said...

Behavior in the dugout and locker room doesn't count.
It's behavior/performance on the field between the lines that counts.
Who was the coach that said your record defines who you are? Or how about attitude determines your altitude more than your ability.

PS have you been watching the Orioles lately. They never give up and they are playing in a division which includes four teams playing better baseball than them. The AL East may have all five teams with over .500 records at the end of the season.

Anonymous said...

It is up to the manager to motivate the players and it is quite obvious that the very passive and depressed looking Manny Acta isn't up to the job. This type of managing cost Mets manager, Willie Randolph his job. The Nats need a manager with a bit of fire in his belly.

Anonymous said...

The Lerner's cheapness and the incompetence of Jim Bowden have now come home to roost. Stan the Plan may have a tough time with his season ticket sales next season, now that the fans have had their fill of Ben's chili and are turning their attention to the pathetic product on the field.

SenatorNat said...

Tough to add anything meaningful to your post and these spot on comments. We are being sold a bill of goods - the Lerners did not have to work for the gift of this team and fabulous ballpark and metro expansion, etc., and, like the Lottery Winner, they are taking it for granted. Worse - they are milking it dry for their own purposes.

Stan has the impossible task of selling an empty vessel. Fire Bowden; replace Lenny Harris; release FLOP; put the damn iconic baseball up in centerfield; put a budget together of $85 million (for real) for 2009 payroll; sign Zimmerman now to a decent longterm contract; resign Guzman to a decent contract; put Milledge on a short leash; trade Rauch now for a real major league hitter who has never even been to Cincinnati; reduce all luxuary seats to rationale prices or give the seats away every game to some lucky 200-300 other seat holders: SHOW SOME GOOD FAITH!

Trust in the power of true fans to expose a con-job. All Good.

Unknown said...

Funny you posted this after yesterday's game, since I heard a similar observation by someone who doesn't follow the team day in and day out.

I listened to a bit of the game in the car on my XM, which meant I was listening to the Twins' broadcast. Jack Morris, the almost-HOF former pitcher, is the Twins' color analyst.

After the score reached 8-2, Morris, with a tone of voice that indicated that he really didn't want to say this since it is one of the worst things you can say about a team but that he HAD to say in his role as a broadcaster making an honest observation, said (and I paraphrase the best I can):

"I hate to say this, but this Nationals team is playing like they've already packed their bags for the season."

An Briosca Mor said...

the Lerners did not have to work for the gift of this team and fabulous ballpark and metro expansion, etc., and, like the Lottery Winner, they are taking it for granted.

Other than paying $450 million for their lottery ticket, they didn't have to work. Rather expensive lottery ticket, if you ask me, considering what they won for it. So, are you wishing maybe that Fred Malek had won that lottery instead? Maybe you should think twice about that. (Although maybe he would have sprung for your $8M baseball in center field. We'll never know...)

Anonymous said...

Acta use to bench players for no not giving 110%. It does not seem to be that way this year.

Anonymous said...

Fred Malek and Bill Collins may not have had enogh money and connections to "win" the franchise, but if they had not kept the dream alive for Washington DC baseball the Lerners would still be just land developers. The Lerner name never came up until the end of the bidding process. That said I still believe the Lerners want to do the right things to bring a winner to DC. Two years of owning a baseball team is a relatively short time. They are still getting their feet wet. Most of the time they have been distracted getting the new stadium up and ready to play in. You have to admit they have done a pretty good job on the stadium. I've been in every part of the new stadium and lot of other stadiums and I'm impressed.

Adamnational said...

Interesting that they're playing both former Senators teams back to back...

Anonymous said...

Don't hate me for saying this, but this team needs an energetic leader like Derek Jeter. He is the guy always there to rally his team in good and bad. Most of the time Derek is hanging on the front rail of the dugout cheering his guys on.

Manny needs to light a spark under these guys and if you are on the DL and want to be in the dugout, put a bigger smile on your face and at least act like you are supporting the team.

Anonymous said...

phil dunn said...
The Lerner's cheapness and the incompetence of Jim Bowden have now come home to roost. Stan the Plan may have a tough time with his season ticket sales next season, now that the fans have had their fill of Ben's chili and are turning their attention to the pathetic product on the field.

Phil - When you overpay for the franchise to the tune of $450 million + out of pocket stadium expenditures, you can't go out and spend the dollars you may want on free agents.

So where have the Lerner's been cheap? Not signing a $15 million free agent?

Those BS comments are old and to easy to throw out.

If the Lerner's left their loot in the bank, they'd be earning a lot more on dividends and interest then their ownership in this team.

Phil, how far did you open your wallet to support this team or are you doing it from the cheap seats?