The day began with a team-building exercise which saw Washington’s Nationals change into t-shirts that had their names replaced with the team’s name above their jersey numbers on the back.
A few hours later, the Nats’ top starters were captured on camera having a heated argument after Stephen Strasburg left the second-half opener against the Atlanta Braves in the top of the fifth, having given up eight hits and six earned runs in his return from the Disabled List.
Nationals’ right-hander Max Scherzer and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist slapped Strasburg in support as he exited the game, but a moment later Strasburg and Scherzer were having words which led to the two of them heading down the tunnel to the clubhouse where they apparently continued to talk about whatever had transpired between them.
No one offered any real details of what led to the exchange.
First-year skipper Davey Martinez met with both starters in his office after what ended up an 8-5 loss to the NL East’s second-place Braves.
“We had a really good conversation, I’ll just say that, and it was addressed,” Martinez told reporters. “And, look, they’re very competitive, everybody is, so I’m glad that we talked, it’s over, let’s move forward, these guys are professionals, they’re good. So, I’m glad we had the conversation.”
“This stuff happens,” Martinez said, before offering an example that the Nationals would probably have preferred he didn’t use. “I’ve been on teams where guys wanted to choke each other, you know, so it’s a long season.
“They get it, they understand, we talk about it, I don’t want to lose sleep about it, and it was a really good conversation, so I’ll just leave it at that, and things were good.”
They didn’t look good. It didn’t look good. These things happen, but, a reporter asked, is it just par for the course, something that happens between teammates? Is that how Martinez would explain it to someone who watched that go down?
“I wouldn’t say it’s par for the course, because it doesn’t happen every day, but I do say, like I said, it does happen, and we move on,” the manager said.
“We learn from it. We move on. And these guys are competitors, but they’re teammates as well, and they understand.
“So they’re good, and I expect them to be good from here on out.”
Is the frustration just boiling over on a team that’s underachieving and fell to a game under .500 with the loss to the Braves?
“When you get a group of guys like we have that are very competitive, they want to win, and you can see that,” Martinez said.
“They all want to win, but we didn’t give up. You can see that every day, we don’t give up.
“But at the end of the day they want a ‘W’, so does everybody else, so I just keep telling them, keep fighting cause it’s going to turn around. We scored five runs today, couldn’t hold them to less than that, but tomorrow is another day, and we win tomorrow, we try to win the series.”
All Strasburg would say is that it was a conversation between family, and the reporters who were asking for details were not part of the family.
Before the game last night, Martinez explained the thinking behind the t-shirts that were passed out to each of the players.
“For me it was just let’s go out and play baseball. Team, fundamentally-sound baseball, that was the message,” he said. “And it’s about the ‘we’, not about the ‘us’, and just go out there and play, and that’s what the ‘Nationals’ on the back of the jerseys means, it’s about us, and if we’re going to do this we’re going to do it together.”
To have Scherzer and Strasburg fighting with one another just a few hours later?
“You know, for me, the way I look at it,” Martinez said after the game, “it’s they want to take ownership and I gather that that’s what it was about, like really. They sat there and there’s two guys, like I said, that are very competitive, and they got heated up and that was it, and here we are, tomorrow they’ll be hugging probably, and laughing and joking and we move on.”