Pull the Plug?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, April 21, 2008 | , , | 6 comments »

Mrs. Feeder and I were having lunch today, talking about the sorry state of the Nats. She's upset with the coverage and general attitude around the Natosphere being so negative.

She sees it as "typical east coast fans" bitching and crying where their team isn't performing. She calls them the "WE SUCK" fans. As in--these fans are perfectly willing to be entertained while the team is performing at or around expectations, but as soon as a slump (in the case of the Redskins, ONE GAME) comes around, all they do is cry "WE SUCK!!!"

It's always interesting to me gauging the temperature of the local team's fan base. I know I'm as guilty as anyone. I was SOOOOO afraid that Saturday the Verizon Center would be full of Flyers fans since the Caps were coming home down 3 games to 1. I have to admit I was very pleased to see the ratio to Caps-to-Flyer fans the same as it was for Game 1, about 99-1. But Cheryl was right. The gloom and doom hit me as soon as Game 4 was over. Just call me Eeyore.

When it comes to baseball, I am capable of looking past 20 games. Sure, the Nats are TERRIBLE right now. As in "worst team in the major leagues" terrible. Nats fans were promised not only a shiny new stadium, but an improved team and attitude as well. Any Nats fan with a semblance of baseball IQ knows that part of Jim Bowden's M.O. is to over hype any player he acquires and if that player is successful Bowden proclaims his genius and if the player fails, Bowden blames the player. He's done it already this year, and it's been going on since JimBow's days in Cincy.

This is the classic line from the linked article:

“You’re not watching our pitching staff? The decisions are really easy. It’s simple: Get me better pitching,” the GM said. “I’ve got lots of moves I can make.”

Bowden can only blame himself for the train wreck that is the first three weeks of the season. Who was responsible for giving Dmitri Young a two-year $10M contract? Who gave the insufferable Paul LoDuca $5M? Who failed to throw chump change at THIS GUY, when he wasn't signed until the middle of spring training? Get you better pitching, JimBow? I got your better pitching right here.

As for the so far historically bad offense? Through 20 games the team is hitting .219/.300/.334. It is statistically impossible to do any worse. These numbers are was bad as Guzman's 2005, for which he was almost run out of town on a rail. Guess what? He's been--FAR AND AWAY--this team's best player so far this season. Nick Johnson is close. His OBP is terrific and slugging ok. And Milledge has performed ok, despite his antics on the base paths and misadventures in center field.

But the rest of the regulars--Zimmerman, Kearns, Belliard, Lopez, LoDuca--all are hitting BELOW .260. Chris over at Capitol Punishment did some nice work today on Zimmerman's numbers, confirming what we've been speculating in the stands now for a couple weeks: Zim needs to put his head down and start pulling the ball.

As for the bench, Pena is 3-for-26, essentially going through spring training right now instead of at Columbus on a rehab assignment where he belonged. Harris is 2-for-24. Mackowiak is 0-12. Estrada is 3-for-20. All off-season acquisitions by the GM.

What's the old expression about not firing the whole team? No one should advocate for Manny Acta's dismissal. To do so would be simply foolish. But there are candidates for the sacrificial lamb. Take Lenny Harris. Please. Harris' pinch-hitting invective has reduced Zimmerman and Kearns into slap-hitting wannabes. But they aren't spraying the ball around, they are weakly grounding or popping out to second. These guys are pull hitters, and need to do so to drive the ball. Zim is seeing fewer pitches and making outs on pitchers pitches. That's not what you want a #3 hitter to do. He's shown the capacity to do so much more.

I'd prefer President Kasten take the bull by the horns and usher JimBow out the door. He simply failed in putting together this year's roster. Giving Young, no matter how feel-good last year's comeback was, a two-year, $10M contract was inexcusable. Half that, and it would be ok. Bowden might have been under orders to not expand the payroll, and if that's the case there are deeper problems. But a GM on a budget should be able to spend $10M more wisely. Cripes, a non-roster invitee was the opening day starter. And he's not even the problem!

Should Justin Maxwell be recalled and let Pena get some time to get his timing down? Should LoDuca be jettisoned allowing Jesus Flores to learn at the big league level? What about this guy? Think he could come in and help for the season? He's not busy right now.

Look, I'm all for The Plan (tm). But there's a small matter of fielding a semi-competitive team today as well. We've already seen, by the lackluster attendance rates, that the stadium isn't going to be enough to lure fannies into the seats this season. Kasten likes to say "We'll get the attendance we deserve." Indeed.

Something has to be done. It's not "early" anymore. We're one-eighth of the way into the season and the Nats sit at 5-14, staring at Tim Hudson, John Smoltz and Johan Santana the next three nights and the Cubs this weekend.


  1. Griff // April 21, 2008 at 5:40 PM  

    In an irony of ironies, could the Nats this year be the truly terrible team they were projected to be last year? no one was expecting much of last year's youngsters. This year, expectations were much higher. And now with the new ballpark open they seem to have regressed.

    Also, bowden is to blame for throwing $10 million at dmitri young but really, who could have predicted the Meathook would eat $6 million of it in the offseason and show up so out of shape?

    This all could get very ugly.

  2. Griff // April 21, 2008 at 5:42 PM  

    It isn't "east coast" fan bitching. It's "Washington" fan bitching. This is a lousy sports town (aside from the Skins) with front running fans. Just like the politics that is this city's base, everyone loves a winner and everyone quickly separates themselves from a loser.

  3. Kristen // April 21, 2008 at 5:46 PM  

    I still love my team but since I'm the kind of fan that's going to keep handing over all my hard earned cash to Stan no matter what, I think it's okay to complain about the on the field product.

    You couldn't have said it better and it's something I've been thinking about a lot. Any support I had for Bowden's experiments has expired. Manny's only dealing with what he was given.

  4. Dave Nichols // April 21, 2008 at 6:19 PM  

    c'mon Griff. you of all people know how fast Philly Phans can turn? ever heard of Charles Barkley?

    granted, the Washington Front Runners would be a great name for a Hill league softball team.

  5. hb // April 21, 2008 at 9:28 PM  

    I agree with Griff that DC loves a winner (look at all those new-found Caps fans), but I don't think our bitching is unique or even "East Coast." Denver Bronco fans, to name one group, are expect excellence and bitch pretty hard about the ten years of wastefulness.

  6. wittcap79 // April 22, 2008 at 8:02 AM  

    To think that "DC's 'Front Running' Fans" are any different than just about any other city for whatever sport is just naive. That being said, the Nats are REALLY PAINFUL to watch most nights.