A losing culture is not acceptable

Adam Eaton is stirring it up; Photo by Marlene Koenig for TalkNats

The Nationals once had a player who would talk about that he would run through a “fricking brick wall”  for his manager but in reality he would not even run out most infield groundballs. Many players will give you a cliché or a cute soundbite to tell you how hard they are working. Talk is cheap and you never want a losing culture to be acceptable.

“We’re all ready to run through a wall as soon as that game [starts],” Adam Eaton said. “It’s not like we’re half asleep. We’re professionals.”

Run through a wall? That is easy to say but it is not reality. This team does not have many highlight reel defensive plays and other than Matt Adams diving for a ball when he injured his shoulder, when can you name a spectacular 4-star or 5-star defensive play this season?

“We keep beating ourselves right now,” manager Davey Martinez said. “We’ve got to come out and just play baseball. We battled back again. But we’ve got to start playing clean baseball, stop giving the other teams 30 outs and playing good baseball.”

The misplays and errors have become the daily norm recently. Maybe there is a complacent attitude.

“I wouldn’t even worry about wins,” Eaton said. “I just think better baseball overall needs to happen. Even if the wins aren’t coming, at least you’re playing better baseball.”

Not worry about the wins? [Insert Herm Edwards’ voice] Not worry about the wins? You play to win the game! This is not youth rec ball where everyone gets a participation trophy. The process and results matter for the Nationals, and in the end the wins are the ultimate goal.

This 2019 Nationals team lacks balance. At first the issue was the bullpen. Then it was defense. Then it was the offense. Recently, it has been a combination of all three of those facets of the game faltering.

“It’s definitely hard,” Martinez said. “My big thing is: We need to cut down on strikeouts. . . . Let’s just start putting the ball in play. Maybe cut down on swings with two strikes. Something. Move the baseball.”

The team just ended a 16-inning scoreless drought but could only score 3 runs on Wednesday, and the Nats have now lost 11-of-their-last-13 games and are now 8 games below .500 heading into this key 4-game series with the hot Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Nationals have not been this far below .500 since 2011. They have now scored 3-runs or less in 20 of the team’s 36 games (55.4%) and 11-of-the-last-13 games. Is general manager Mike Rizzo aware of those stats?

“Nobody is more upset and disappointed than I am. With that said, we have played bad baseball — just in general,” Rizzo said on 106.7 The Fan radio on Wednesday morning. “The one bright spot is our big three starters have given us a chance to win each and every time out. They pitch well and they deserve better fates. But beyond that, the bullpen has been poor.”

“The offense after the injuries has been practically non-existent and most importantly to me which impacts the starting pitching, the bullpen pitching is our defense. Our defense has been as bad as I’ve seen it since I’ve come to Washington.”

Yes, the offense has been nearly non-existent. The defense has been bad. The bullpen has been poor. Mike Rizzo spoke the truth, but as the G.M., do something about it! These are not recent problems — these are season-long problems. You promised to play the best-9, and you have not been doing that too often. Now the excuse is injuries, but you are responsible for the depth of the team.

“In times like this, No. 1, you have to believe in the guy next to you. No. 2, you have to believe in yourself and show up ready to play, ready to go out there and beat the crap out of somebody,” Stephen Strasburg said Tuesday night. “It’s not waiting for things to happen.”

Make that into a Successories poster. That might be the best quote since Jayson Werth talked about “we gotta show up tomorrow ready to eat somebody’s face” and maybe Eaton should hang Strasburg’s quote on his locker next to Werth’s with Herm Edwards’ audio on a loop because we play to win the game.

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