You have all, no doubt, read the Nationals' open letter to their fans from yesterday. If you haven't, feel free to venture here, and I'll wait until you get back.

Good, so we're on the same page now.

The theme of the letter, and yesterday's press conference naming Jim Riggleman as "interim" field manager (but not introducing him, since he was nowhere to be found at Nationals Park yesterday), was "underachievement".

Here's "acting" General Manager Mike Rizzo's answer to the first question posed during the presser:

"We feel that the team has underachieved. We feel we have a better ballclub than shown on the field. Twenty-six and sixty-one is unacceptable to not only the Lerner family, but also Stan Kasten and myself and the ballclub.

So we feel with a different voice and a possible different feel in the clubhouse that we can have a more successful second half of the season. We think we have pieces in place here to have some type of success.

We also acknowledge our flaws as a ballclub. And we are working hard before the trade deadline to address those flaws and to make prudent baseball deals to improve the ballclub for the long term also.”

And here's the opening statement from the letter:

"No one is more dissatisfied in the first half of the 2009 Washington Nationals season than we are. Like you, we had hoped that some of our younger players would have matured faster, and that the addition of some of our new veterans would have significantly improved our record from a season ago.

Our hope was that a solid club leadership would emerge on and off the field, and that some intangible combinations would begin to click, resulting in many winning streaks."

So the message is pretty consistent here: The 26-61 record compiled by the team in the first half of the season was Manny Acta's fault. At least that's what they are implying. "Underachieved", "different voice", and "leadership" all falls on the manager.

Rizzo even had the temerity, in answering what the difference between Acta and Riggleman is, to suggest that "a different way of presenting possibly the same material could have an effect."

I get it. When you decide to fire the field manager, you want to distance yourself from him as quickly as possible. But the organization must think that Nats fans don't pay attention. Or aren't sophisticated enough baseball fans. Or, just really stupid.

Because anyone with an ounce of baseball acumen could see at the end of spring training that the team constructed by Jim Bowden during the winter, then hurriedly edited by Mike Rizzo during spring training after Bowden resigned (remember: Bowden RESIGNED, was not fired), was a recipe for disaster. Maybe not near-historical disaster like we're seeing, but disaster nonetheless.

Let me get out front in saying I wholly supported signing Adam Dunn. With a quality center fielder and at least average right fielder, Dunn's defensive liabilities would be a lot easier to take. But the team opened up the season trying to cram Lasting Milledge into center field. Most casual fans blame Acta for this, but it was an organizational decision.

Milledge admitted to a group of fans last summer, during a public relations appearance Q&A at ESPNZone, that he had trouble picking the ball up off the bat, and had a difficult time locating the ball until it rises above the upper deck behind home plate and gets into the sky. This was in May 2008.

So, with the trade that brought Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen, that gave the team five outfielders (Dunn, Willingham, Milledge, Dukes and Kearns), all suited for corner positions and none for center field. Tell me where else Acta was supposed to play Milledge?

In the infield, the team was "set" with Nick Johnson returning from injury and Ryan Zimmerman at the corners, "all-star" Cristian Guzman at short and 26-year olds Andy Hernandez and Alberto Gonzalez to play second and utility, with everybody's favorite Willie Harris and Ronnie Belliard as spare back-ups.

So tell us, Washignton Nationals Baseball Club (the signers of the letter to Nats fans), which "younger players" would you like to have seen mature faster, presumably under the tutelage of Acta? Milledge and Dukes? You shipped Milledge out after seven games (SEVEN GAMES) and marginalized Dukes by forcing HIM into center after you unceremoniously dumped Milledge.

How about Hernandez and Gonzalez? Both 26 at the start of the season, does that even qualify as "young" in baseball parlance? Sure, both lack major league experience, but that doesn't mean they are "young".

But they feel that they have a "better ball club than shown on the field." Really? What's your evidence?

This club is last in fielding in the majors, and it's not just one position. Take your pick: Johnson, Zimmerman, Guzman, Dunn...they all lead their positions for total recorded errors, and that doesn't take into consideration the mental errors, and pure lack of fundamentals -- cutting ball off before they get to the corner, hitting the cut-off man, covering second on a come-backer, etc.

This team is last in team ERA, and it's not all Daniel Cabrera's fault. After acknowledging that failed off-season signing (thanks JimBow!), the team went all "young" on us with the starters. Olsen and Stammen are 25. Lannan is 24. Detwiler and Zimmerman are 23 and Martis is 22. Good work.

You know who else is that young?

Tim Lincecum (25, 10-2). Zach Greinke (25, 10-5). Matt Cain (24, 10-2). Kevin Slowey (25, 10-3).

Felix Hernandez (23, 9-3), Chad Billingsley (24, 9-4), Jon Lester (25, 8-6), Rick Porcello (20, 8-6).

Josh Johnson (25, 8-2), Yovani Gallardo (23, 8-7), Johnny Cueto (23, 8-6), Ricky Romero (24, 7-3).

Shall I continue?

And what intangibles, exactly, are you referring to that you hope might have clicked, apparently not clicking due to Acta, or so your letter would imply? Where were the team's beat reporters to ask the tough follow up questions to the open-ended and inane patter presented?

Oh, that's right. The team deliberately scheduled the press conference for a time that they knew all the beat reporters would still either be in Houston (from the previous series), in St. Louis covering the all-star game, or in transit.

Not that it mattered, because the ones that should be answering the tough questions, the Lerner family, were nowhere to be seen yesterday. Not a single representative from the family was at the press conference. They didn't even have enough respect for the fans of the team to sign the letter, signing it "Washington Nationals Baseball Club".

There are some pretty hurt feelings here among die-hard Nationals fans, and the simple letter that the club sent out, hoping to appease those fans, only served to fan the flames of discontent. You think the full-season ticket numbers took a tumble this year? Wait, they never announced the numbers!

The "Washington Nationals Baseball Club" has a long way to go to repairing those hurt feelings. They could start with some honest transparency. Mark Lerner simply standing up and saying "I listened to Jim Bowden for too long, and we as an organization still have a long way to go to clean up his mess," would be a great place to start.

Forgive me if I don't stand in line waiting for it, though.

Rather, the team with the "acting" GM, "interim" field manager, immature Face of the Franchise, and apparently, still full of questionable personalities will continue deflecting blame, avoiding the tough questions, and pocketing your money.

Because if you think this team is signing Stephen Strasburg, think again.

5 comments

  1. dcbatgirl // July 14, 2009 at 5:16 PM  

    Thanks Dave.

  2. denisek // July 15, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

    Spot On!

  3. flippin // July 15, 2009 at 11:33 AM  

    I have had full season tix since the beginning. Nats have gotten worse every year. Because I can't get my money back, I want cheap beer and a free upgrade to better seats. Don't tell me it can't be done.

  4. DMan // July 16, 2009 at 10:12 AM  

    I want to just be able to buy the same seat as a 1/2 season ticket holder that I had at RFK. My direct equivvalent section is reserved for full season ticket holders only. Thats how the Nats showed their appreciation to me for "pledging my allegance". BTW, there is NFW those sections are sold out. Crap organixation. A fish rots from the head down.

  5. natsfan1a // July 16, 2009 at 1:27 PM  

    Great piece.