Following last night's lackluster 7-3 loss to the San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman had some pointed comments, but they were couched in a veil of apology.
"It was not a good game. The effort and intensity's there, but it was just not a good game. We had a couple things happen on the bases. We walked people. It just was not a pretty game. I don't know how else to say it."
Riggleman couching his comments by saying the "effort and intensity's there" essentially means two things: "They haven't quit on me" and "They aren't good enough."
Right now, Riggleman has two guys in the bullpen he can trust, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard. He told MASNSports.com after the game that he can't pitch these two when the Nats are losing because "we need to save those guys for when we're are tied or winning." Forget using your best relievers in the most important situations, because there's a script to follow.
"These other guys gotta pick up the slack."
So what about the rest of the bullpen pitchers entering games and putting more men on base via bases on balls? "That's not gonna work," Riggleman said, calling Henry Rodriguez and Cole Kimball out by name, and alluding to Sean Burnett, who walked the only batter he faced, rookie Anthony Rizzo in his Major League debut.
"We can't keep watching that. You can't come out of the bullpen throwing balls. Nobody feels worse about it than those pitchers, myself, and Steve McCatty. We make those choices to put them in there. But if we're gonna get beat, we gotta get beat over the plate and we just gotta throw strikes there."
Again, Riggleman couched his pointed comments in apology.
We're at the point in the season where apologies and platitudes about effort are pointless. The Nationals are 27-36, third worst in the National League and sixth worst overall. The Nats have a bright future, stockpiling a lot of great talent in the minor leagues, and good days can be envisioned on the horizon. But we still have to watch the rest of this season. It's not even the all-star break and Riggleman is defending his team's effort.
Riggleman has his hands tied with respect to the talent he's been given to work with, but there should be less talk about effort and more accountability for poor performance.