Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman addressed his team today before the squad's first full-team workouts. From accounts, it was the typical meet and greet, "let's go out there and have a good year" pep talk, with some introductions and logistics thrown in.
But the skipper had some words to his team about raising and exceeding expectations as well.
From MASN.com's Ben Goessling this morning:
"A lot of people in the room got a chance to say a few words," Riggleman said. "My message to the ballclub was basically, 'It's a tremendous amount of talent in the room here. And with that talent, expectations get raised and so forth. So let's meet and exceed those expectations and play baseball.' We've got a lot of good baseball players, we've got a lot of good athletes in the room. It's a great group that Mike (Rizzo) and the Lerner family has put together. The job we have to do now is make this group a team. I feel real good about this large group becoming a good team."
Asked what he was most excited about, Riggleman said, "I think, just in general, the athleticism. I think it's a good base of talent there that is athletic and can run the bases, create a little pressure on the defense now and then. That talent and athleticism should show up defensively and cover some more ground in some areas, give our pitchers a better chance. That athleticism, where it translates to offensively, we'll have to wait and see. But I feel like there's a good possibility we're going to be a better offensive club as well."
Not to put too fine a point to this, but the ideas of "raising expectations" and "exceeding expectations" are fairly separate concepts, and already Riggleman is employing an "us against them" strategy with his players -- and the media.
By emphasising that he wants to "exceed expectations", he's acknowledging the idea that most "experts" see the Nats as a flawed team with meager aspirations of competing. I suppose it's only natural that he'd use this as a motivating tool with his players -- it's the most common rallying cry in sports today: "Nobody respects us."
Well, as my retired Marine Corps drill sergeant father told me all the time growing up, respect is earned, not given. If these Nats want to be respected, want to raise expectations and be looked at as contenders, they'll have to earn it on the field, not just talk about it in a spring training introduction.