When the Washington Nationals replaced Manny Acta with the current Skipper Jim Riggleman in July of 2009, several members of the front office commented that though Acta hadn't "lost" the team, they believed that maybe a different voice presenting the same material might make a difference for a team that was well on its way to a second-straight 100+loss season. So it was somewhat shocking to hear Mr. Riggleman say, after emerging from a long closed-door team meeting following the Nats' 83rd loss of 2010, that he'd addressed the team himself, but, "....sometimes when the same person keeps giving the message it starts to fall on deaf ears, so I had all the coaches address the team and it kind of confirms what I felt I was watching there for a couple of innings. When every coach gets to speak up and confirm it, then it's not coming from the same person all the time..."
"I just thought our energy level, our body language early in the game was not up to the standards it's going to take for us to be a ballclub that goes to the next level," Mr. Riggleman explained, "I just didn't feel like we were getting after it early and I know when Jordan [Zimmermann] is struggling a little bit to throw some strikes, and the innings get longer, that can happen, but it shouldn't happen, and we just gotta make them aware that this is what I see, this is what the coaches see, this is what [General Manager] Mike [Rizzo] sees, this is what the fans see, so if anybody in the room thought that was acceptable they need to be made aware that we certainly don't think it's acceptable."
"I think the losing wears on you," Mr. Riggleman continued, "but it's a 162-game schedule, it's a nine-inning ballgame, that's what you sign up for, that's what you give and until we get 25 guys up until September 1st and then whatever we have, 32 after that, until we get everybody on the same page that it takes a great effort every day to get out of where we are, it's not going to happen, it just can't happen. You cannot go to the level that teams such as the Padres, Giants, Yankees, Tampa Bay, those teams who are going to be right there at the end. You cannot be in the same class with them until you have everybody on board pulling the same way and putting personal statistics behind them and milestones behind them and all that nonsense, until everybody's pulling the same direction and getting after it every day, it's not going to show up in the win column and if you're an elite team in baseball, you can have a day where the energy level's not where it is, and it kinda goes under the radar, but it doesn't go under the radar when you have lost a hundred for a couple years in a row, and we're going to figure out who the keepers are and figure out who is going to be a part of this club in the future that is going to help us get out of these duldrums."
There are 19 games remaining on the schedule in the 2010 season, three each with the Mets and Astros and six each with the Phillies and Braves, who are currently tied for the lead in the NL East. The Nationals have to win just three games to avoid three-straight 100-loss seasons, but no one who is on the team or watching the team can think that avoiding 100 losses is an achievement. The Nats already announced that Jim Riggleman will be back next year, the final 19 games, some of which should provide a playoff atmosphere solely because of their opponents, are going to determine who's back on the Nats' roster in 2011. The one thing that's clear, is that the manager, coaches, GM and fans can all see that changes need to be made.