The Nationals Golden Opportunity
With their current four-game series against the last place Reds, then another one against their nemesis the Atlanta Braves right afterwards, the Nats will probably not have a better chance to move up the standings
By Evan Redmon, August 2nd, 2018
The Nationals Golden Opportunity To Make A Move Is Staring Them In The Face
Recently, Washington Nationals Manager Dave Martinez was nothing short of brutalized in a column by the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga.
The basic premise was this: Martinez has no leadership qualities and is sailing a rudderless ship. Some players are challenging his ostensible leadership, and when they do, those players tend to get booted off the team in a hurry.
Here’s an excerpt, in which Svrluga pulls no punches.
The reality, though, is this: These Nationals are fragile, and the man in the lead chair at the moment is made of porcelain. Martinez has not alienated the clubhouse — this is not a Matt Williams-in-2015 moment, not at all — and he has significant pockets of support, both in the dugout and the front office.
But for all the games Martinez played — 1,918 in the majors, over 16 seasons — and the decade he spent as a big league coach, he has never occupied his current seat, and it shows. With their season set to either take off or implode, the Nationals are in a position in which they must protect their rookie skipper rather than be led by him.
For a rookie manager trying to show that he’s more than just Joe Maddon’s lackey, this was not the press he needed. Certainly, not with a talent-loaded team seemingly throwing away the season with one uninspired effort after the other.
Don’t Embarrass the Organization
Recently, relief pitchers Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelly were shown the door for supposedly challenging Martinez in an unacceptable way. Kintzler, who claimed he was “shell shocked” upon learning he’d been traded to the Cubs, was seen as a player who perhaps spilled clubhouse secrets to the press.
“I thought they were joking”, Kintzler said, upon learning of the trade. And it does seem odd; if a player has loose lips, why not handle it the old fashioned way by sitting him down and telling him to shut his pie hole?
Shawn Kelly’s departure, however, was a little more understandable. In a 25-4 laugher against the New York Mets, Kelly was just trying to get a (at the time) 25-1 game over with so the team could hit the town and celebrate their all-time team scoring record.
Instead, he gave up a 3-run homer in the top of the 9th, slammed his glove down on the ground, and glared angrily into the dugout. He was reassigned to the minors the next morning, deservedly so.
However, it looks for all the world that some players don’t respect Martinez, and they’re not afraid to show it, because his management skills haven’t warranted it.
But like a team down three runs in the 9th inning, things can change for the better, in a hurry.
The Nationals golden opportunity lies with Martinez’s ability to get a hold of the clubhouse
The Reds and Braves Series Could Change the NL East Landscape
Tonight, the Nationals took the first step in making all that ugliness go away.
In the first game of a four game set against the Cincinnati Reds – who are in last place in the NL Central at 48-61 – the Nationals won in convincing fashion, 10-4. Max Scherzer was brilliant as usual, striking out 10 and giving up 2 earned runs in 6 innings, to earn his fifth consecutive victory.
This is how things are going to have to go, more or less, from now on. The Nats must simply stop losing to inferior talent.
After that, the team has to at least break even, if not win the majority of their series, against the better teams – particularly in their own division.
And look who comes to town after the Reds.
The Atlanta Braves currently only a half-game back of the division-leading Phillies, and also happen to be the team directly in front of the Nats in the division. The Nationals begin another 4-game set with them starting on August 7th before heading to Chicago to face the Cubbies.
Five-game deficits can disappear in a hurry in major league baseball. But the Nats are running out of time. It’s the Nationals golden opportunity right now to make a move.