The Lemon Law

The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act was enacted in 1975 to give consumers additional rights against warranty claims. Decades later, consumers were enacting their rights in states with strict “Lemon laws” to return defective vehicles that could not be repaired. We just wrote about Quality is Job 1 in a story about limiting mistakes and errors at Ford Motor Company — and how that related to baseball. The Washington Nationals, as we wrote, are not good enough to overcome most gaffes. They win when they don’t make mistakes.

The Nationals were a pitch away from a win with two outs in the ninth inning on Saturday, and yesterday, maybe a foul ball catch away from winning the series against the Phillies over the weekend. Instead, the Nats were swept in Philadelphia. The Nats were actually winning yesterday in the 5th inning by a score of 3-2. They lost 11-5. The lead was lost after two consecutive walks were issued then a single, and with two outs, Kody Clemens, hit a foul ball that could not be caught by Jesse Winker and the floodgates opened.

That Clemens kid, Roger’s son, was a thorn in the Nats’ side on Saturday and Sunday. Certainly if he flies out in the 9th inning on Saturday against closer Kyle Finnegan, the Nats win. If he fouls out to Winker in that 5th inning on Sunday, maybe the Nats win that game. The blunders were walking two consecutive batters. Some thought the foul ball should have been caught. This team wins when they don’t make any critical mistakes. A pick-off of Nick Senzel in the 2nd inning on Sunday was a carbon copy of the previous Sunday when he did the same thing. You aren’t stealing second base, so why are you taking a 14-foot lead?

If this team was losing due to poor starting pitching, you could understand it, and blame the team’s management and ownership for that — but the starting pitchers have been a strength in the current configuration after Josiah Gray went on the 15-day IL in early April. Washington’s pitching staff ranked second in MLB (1st in the NL) with a 2.39 ERA in the 11 games from May 3 to the start of Saturday’s game. Dating back to April 7 and through Friday, Washington’s 3.23 ERA for their entire pitching staff ranked 6th in MLB. So again, it’s not the pitching that has been the problem. When the Nationals PR group put out those stats prior to the start of Saturday’s game, of course Finnegan would blow a save and the staff would throw up a lemon on Sunday.

Going back to the start of the road trip in Boston, the Nats were 19-18 and looking to make a run. A Patrick Corbin win over Boston’s ace, Tanner Houck, in a 5-1 final looked like the start of something special. The next day in a 2-2 game in the 8th inning, Victor Robles reached first base after a lead-off hit-by-pitch, and he was picked off of first base after a 15-foot lead. What was he doing? What was he thinking? What was he watching? Where was he going? Washington had a win probability of 56.8 percent before the pick-off. It shrunk to 45.4 percent in an instant. Starter Jake Irvin went 7.0 innings and only gave up four hits and no walks while getting six strikeouts. He worked around two fielding errors, and manager Dave Martinez gave the ball to Robert Garcia for the 8th inning instead of Hunter Harvey in a tie game. Garcia quickly gave up two runs and the Nats lost 4-2. But if Robles does not get picked-off with no outs, who knows what happens.

Was that pick-off the one play that cratered the season? We all know what happened the next day. Robles is back in the starting lineup, and he drops a flyball and then has that horrific baserunning mistake on a CJ Abrams single — Robles ran with his head down and a stop sign up by his coach, while Riley Adams was literally standing on third base. What was he doing? What was he thinking? What was he watching? Where was he going? The Nats lost that game 3-2. Instead of bases loaded and one out, Robles was tagged out, and there were two outs, and no runs scored.

If you were a Nats’ fan who paid for tickets, could you claim the Lemon Law to get a refund? What a flawed weekend of ridiculous baseball. The doubleheader on Tuesday was a split against the lowly White Sox, and that would be the Nats only win of the week. The offense went flat, and the mistakes were compounding. Three Nats’ defensive errors were charged in the win plus a passed ball. Only one earned run — and all of that was in the only win. Kind of lucky to win that one. It was the harbinger of things to come. The next five games were a flawed mess.

But go back to that Saturday night in Boston and that pick-off with no outs in the 8th inning. It just seemed to take Martinez’s team back to where they were in prior years. Follow that up with Senzel’s two pick-offs. Balls not caught. A total of 10 defensive errors assessed by the official scorers from those games in Boston and forward. That is mind-boggling but then you add flyballs and foul balls not caught. Baserunning mistakes, and pitiful hitting, and BAM, you got 1-7 since that Saturday pick-off. Say buh bye to that 19-18 record. That’s 20-25 today.

We went from, “Hey, this team is really good” to “This team is horrible” in a week. Maybe the air got sucked out when Hunter Harvey gave up that 2-run homer to the Orioles in the 11th inning and lost it in the 12th. If only you could hit the rewind button. We didn’t want to hear about Harvey’s personal relationship with the player who hit the dinger off of him in a story told by MASN’s Dan Kolko. Maybe that home run was the start of it where the team doubted themselves. But they played so well in their next game in Boston on that Friday night.

But where have the Scrappy Nats gone, and can we get them back? Martinez has to dig deep and find what he had before Robles returned from his IL stint that dated from April 4 to May 7. The team has only won 2-of-8 games that Robles has played since he returned from the IL. Adding Joey Gallo back to the lineup on Friday didn’t change much. There appears to be no help coming any time soon from top prospect James Wood to provide a spark.

Today seemed like the perfect time to get Wood to D.C. to start this series against the Twins. Yesterday in Harrisburg, that other top prospect, Dylan Crews, hit two doubles and drove in four runs. His OPS is at .804 and he has an incredible 26 RBIs in just 99 at-bats. Could you dream for a second about an outfield of Crews, Jacob Young, and Wood? An infield of Abrams, Trey Lipscomb, Luis Garcia Jr. and a first baseman who could hit? Ah, dreaming…….And general manager Mike Rizzo is working his plan. We must be patient — a virtue from a lesson learned from 2006 to 2011 that brighter days were ahead. Yes it is not easy living through losing.

In fact, per the experts, this 2024 Nationals’ team wasn’t even supposed to win more games than last year’s total of 71. Fangraphs had 65-to-67 wins at different points in the offseason, and Baseball Prospectus had 57-60 wins during their offseason updates. What changed was a better pitching staff, and simultaneously the expectations increased. What we want is a better effort. More hustle. Effort and hustle is not asking for much. Nobody is asking to win the NL East now.

Instead, this past week brought another round of “Sell The Team” as Monumental Sports & Entertainment’s Ted Leonsis officially said that he wants to buy the Nationals at some point in the future. Maybe someone could convince me why that makes sense? I remember those same calls to sell the team in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Amazing what losing does to the brain. You want instant gratification. You yearn for 2012 and want the end result of 2019.

How did that work with the Mets when Steve Cohen bought them? If you don’t know the answer, read up on the largest payroll ever spent — and the fact they had a losing season with that payroll. Spending does not necessarily equal winning. The grass is not always greener on the other side. Patience, grasshopper. Easy to say, and I am fidgety typing this. I want to win now too! Then calmness sets in when I re-watch highlights from 2012 and 2019. Stay the course. Believe in the process. But yes, you can still be upset with that sour taste in your mouth.

This 2024 Nats team managed by Martinez has now lost 7-of-11 one-run games. That is awful. The value of one run. The value of one mistake. When life gives you lemons, squeeze them into lemonade.

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