We try to make use of as many of the quotes we collect during the course of the season as we can, since you know, content, but also because they help us all get to know the players better and provide some context for the stories that develop.
But not everything we collect over the course of the 162-game schedule makes it into a story, hard as that is to believe with our attempts to get everything we can out there in multiple stories every day.
There are plenty of quotes and notes that end up in a draft of a story lined up there just gathering digital dust, so with the season behind us and the postseason just heating up, while we try to catch up on sleep this week, we spent a few minutes combing through a couple of the unused quotes from the season, some of which, in hindsight, seem to tell stories about what happened that led to the disappointment that was 2018 in D.C.
Read into the inclusion of certain quotes whatever you like, we’ll never spill the beans on our hidden agenda in using some over others...
For example, early this season, in his first year as a manager, Davey Martinez talked about the Washington Nationals’ difficulty in one-run games, which ended up being an issue for pretty much the entire season, with the Nats 18-24 in one-run games overall...
Martinez in late April on one-run games: “We’ve been close. I would like to win some of these games, but let’s stay right there, like I said, we want to win those games and we will win those games, like I said, it’s just getting that one key hit in a big moment that will turn this thing around.”
Nationals’ infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, who suffered a season-ending achilles injury in mid-May, talked around the same time as Martinez about what was going wrong for the Nats in close games...
Howie Kendrick on losing close games in late April: “You know what, sometimes it happens. I think we’ve been playing really good baseball, but I think when it comes down to it, we just haven’t gotten it done. You’re going to lose close games throughout the year, but it’s how you lose them, and it’s not like they’ve been terrible losses, I mean, we’ve been playing some pretty good teams, and then it’s been kind of a slugfest a little bit, but I feel like our pitchers have been doing a good job of giving us an opportunity to win, and I feel like maybe we can get it done a little more with runners in scoring position as a whole, and like I said, we’ve just got to keep going out, battling, and putting together good at bats, and hopefully this thing will turn around.”
Tanner Roark talked about the lack on lack of run support he received in a 2-0 loss to New York’s Yankees on June 12th, at the start of seven-start winless streak over which he had a 7.68 ERA in 36 1⁄3 IP...
Roark on lack of run-support: “It happens. I stay optimistic. I’m not going to let it get to me. I’m just going to pitch my game, and go out there every time I go out there and give it all I can until I’m out of the game. I just stay optimistic. Once you let the bad thoughts creep in your head, then it just goes downhill from there, so continue to work hard and trust it, have faith.”
MASN’s Mark Zuckerman noted in a Twitter tease for a story yesterday on what went wrong for the Nationals this season, that Martinez’s squad was, “picked off 22 times (most in MLB), were 25th in extra bases taken, had a negative defensive rating when using the infield shift. Is it any wonder they were so bad in 1-run games?
Martinez addressed the baserunning gaffes becoming an issue in a mid-June conversation with reporters:
Martinez on baserunning issues being an issue: “We talked about it already. We need to clean that up, we really do. If we’re going to do the things we want to do, we can’t give teams 2-3-4 outs like that, we really can’t. So, it was addressed, and I want them to be aggressive, but we’ve got to be aggressive smart.”
Remember Juan Soto’s towering opposite field home run in Yankee Stadium, that one that just kept going, and going, and going, and going, until it finally fell over the fence? We do. Actually, we might have used this quote at the time, but we saw it again while compiling all of this, so here it is again...
Juan Soto on towering HR in Yankee Stadium: “I was surprised yeah, because I hit pretty good, but too high, so I was believing, running the bases saying, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going,’ when it was gone it felt pretty good.”
That same day, Nationals’ reliever Justin Miller talked about his early impressions of the Nationals’ 19-year-old rookie outfielder:
Justin Miller on Juan Soto on June 13th: “He’s the truth. He’s a young kid just going out there and having fun and playing the game right, and you can see he’s gifted, so it’s nice.”
Spencer Kieboom got a shot early this season when Matt Wieters was injured, and he kind of just stuck around for his first extended run in the majors. So how did the catcher keep it all under control when he was catching Cy Young-type pitchers like Max Scherzer?
Spencer Kieboom 6/13 on catching Cy Young-caliber pitchers: “They put their pants on one leg at a time. They’re normal dudes, they’ve worked very hard. It’s fun, to be honest with you. It’s fun. You have fun doing it. You have fun talking to them. I love sitting down and talking to those guys in the dugout when I’m not playing, picking their brains, giving my opinion at the same time they’re giving their opinions and just kind of back and forth, I mean, it’s good baseball conversation and it’s good knowledge down the road.”
We checked back in with Tanner Roark in mid-June, when things were really not going well for the right-hander...
Tanner Roark on June 22nd on things not going his way: “Most of the time it’s something very small that you can turn into something way bigger and then it grows from there, and then you just keep thinking about it and how to change it and it just keeps growing and growing when it’s just something small.”
Bringing in a new manager and a new staff for a team that won the division and went to the postseason in back-to-back campaigns under Dusty Baker, was a risk. We asked now-former Nationals’ reliever Shawn Kelley about his interactions with new Nats’ pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Henry Blanco in mid-July:
Shawn Kelley on working with bullpen/pitching coaches this season/new staff: “I think when you have a veteran staff like us a lot of the kind of stuff comes from each other, we spend a lot of time together, we talk to each other, we have a lot of veteran guys that have been through ups, through downs, been All-Stars, had rough years, had injury years, had healthy years, so I think we’re a really close group and we all kind of bounce stuff off each other. [Derek Lilliquist] is there when when we need him but he’s not going to come and overly impose himself, and then Henry [Blanco] has been great this year too because he played so long and he understands the game and pitching and being a catcher all those years and a very good one, just there’s a lot of people here who have a lot of good information but we’re a veteran group down there so we all know what works for us and we try to support each other and just have each other’s back and I think that’s what the best bullpens do.”
The non-waiver and waiver deadlines were rough times in the nation’s capital this season, with the Nationals parting ways with a number of veterans who were headed for the free agent market, so GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office tried to get something for them rather than nothing in some cases, like the trade of Daniel Murphy. How did Murphy being dealt sit with his teammates?
Matt Wieters on Daniel Murphy getting traded: “It’s tough, not only because Murphy is one of my closest friends and he’s somebody I enjoy talking with on a [daily basis], but he’s also one of the best hitters I’ve ever played with, so it’s a hole in the lineup, but at the same aspect we’ve just got to realize that we still have good players in this room, we can go out there and if there’s anything this season has taught us up to this point, it’s that this game’s not played on paper, you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got compete every night and you’ve got to win the game that you’re playing that night.”
Bryce Harper was fond of saying, in the last few weeks of the regular season, that no one knows what is going to happen if/when he hits free agency. He was late this season what memories stick out from his seven seasons in a Nationals uniform...
Bryce Harper on favorite moments with Nationals (not saying he’s not coming back): “This year, seeing Max strike out 300 was really, really cool. Being on the field for that was pretty awesome. He’s had some great games for us. Two no-nos I think it is for us. 20-strikeouts against ... Detroit, right, if I had to guess? Yeah, so that’s probably one of the cooler things I’ve ever seen. I mean that guy grinds every single day, he works hard, and one of the best pitchers in baseball, I mean it’s a lot of fun to watch. So probably the 300 game, being part of a no-no, being part of the 300, pretty awesome.”
Davey Martinez was always proud of his boys, but he was really proud of the way they were playing late when it was clear they weren’t going to return to the postseason...
Davey Martinez on finishing strong in spite of struggles: “We had some trying times, but we made it through. The last two months have been incredible. They played really hard all year. I’ve said it before: They could have gave up a while ago, and they didn’t. And I’m really proud of them.”