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Nats Fans HAD High Hopes for 2009 Season

nationalsThe Washington National fans entered this season with high hopes.

Not with the typical hopes of baseball fans, that their team may be winning the pennant or even the World Series. No, Nationals fans were finally hopeful that their team had turned the corner and would be in the beginning of an upswing that would have them competitors for several years.

There was confidence in the system, confidence in the organization, and confidence in the leadership.

Fast-forward to the 2009 All-Star break and the Nationals have the worst record in baseball and have fired General Manager Jim Bowden, pitching coach Randy St. Claire, and just today Manager Manny Acta.

So what happened?

Poor planning:

While the Nationals made a specific effort to spend money this off-season, and publicized their intent to do so, they ran into some problems. Most notably, the Nationals found that no one really wanted their money.

Free agent after free agent came and went, all turning down the Nationals money to go somewhere with a better chance to compete. Mark Teixiera took less money with the Yankees, Crazy Milton Bradley took a deal in Chicago, and Orlando Hudson didn’t hesitate to take a deal with the Dodgers.

Adam Dunn 5
Image by afagen via Flickr

By the end of free agency the only bat left to sign was slugger Adam Dunn. While the Nats got him at a good deal, two years for $20 million, he wasn’t quite the complete hitter the Nationals needed in their line up.

General Manager Jim Bowden continued to put logjams at premium positions while ignoring positions where they were weak. Going into opening day the Nationals had Lastings Milledge, Willie Harris, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham, Wily Mo Pena and Adam Dunn all competing for three outfield spots, yet they had Anderson Hernandez penciled in as the starting second basemen.

While Bowden used his efforts to fill positions he already had filled, the pitching staff went completely ignored. As a result the Nationals have been, for much of the year, fielding a rotation that has one sophomore and four rookies. The bullpen has been filled with has-beens or undeveloped prospects, and the only signing the Nats made, Odalis Perez, never showed up to camp.

Poor execution:

Ryan Zimmerman stunned that he was called out ...

Image via Wikipedia

The Nationals started the season on a hitting tear. Through May, Nick Johnson was batting .332, Jesus Flores .310 and Ryan Zimmerman .317. Adam Dunn had 16 homers and 43 RBI, and even Austin Kearns was getting on base at about .370.

Despite this tear however, the Nats were losing at a record pace.

No starting pitcher, not even John Lannan was getting the job done. Nats closer Joel Hanrahan couldn’t notch a save to save his life, and lost his closer spot….three times. If the National’s bats put the team in a situation to win, either Hanrahan, Rivera, or Colume would find a way for the team to lose it.

One can imagine how things went from bad to worse when the Nationals bats came down to earth in June. Close losses turned into blowouts, and the win loss percentage fell below .300.

Poor future?

Jordan Zimmermann
Image by afagen via Flickr

The Nationals marked the end of the first half by firing their manager of two and a half years, Manny Acta.

Hopefully for the Nationals they can turn this around.

Their starting pitchers have begun to turn things around.  In the month of July Craig Stammen has posted an ERA of 1.69, John Lannan has posted an ERA of 3.86, Jordan Zimmermann an ERA of 3.86.

The young pitching is hopefully a good sign of things to come. New interim manager Jim Riggleman will have this staff under his reign and will have a line up that is regaining health.

Regardless of the strategy, the Nationals have one goal for the remainder of the season: don’t finish with the worst record in MLB history.

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