Before the Washington Nationals’ eighth loss in the last ten and their 22nd loss in 36 overall this season, Nationals’ GM GM Mike Rizzo was asked, during his weekly visit with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies, if there was any pressure from ownership, or if he had to try to convince the higher-ups to hold out hope as the roster they’ve assembled has struggled to get things going.
There have been in injuries, of course, and underperforming players, bullpen struggles, bad defense, and more over the first month-plus, but Rizzo said they are all on the same page as they work to figure things out.
“We’re complete partners in this,” Rizzo told the Junkies.
“There’s not a decision that’s made in the offseason that we’re all not involved in, so we’re all invested in this, so yeah, they’re upset just like you are and I am and everyone else is and the players are. They’ve been in this for a while now, this is the 13th year of owing the team, they’ve been through bad teams before, they’ve been through great teams before. The bar is really high for baseball in Washington, D.C., which is a good thing because it wasn’t like that years ago.”
Rizzo has talked often in the past about his belief in the back of players’ baseball cards, but how long can he and the Nats’ brass wait for players to actually start to produce before the team decides that it’s just not someone’s year?
“Well there’s no date,” he said, “... there is no cutoff. You have to utilize your experience and feel for it and often your moves are dictated by opportunities, and it’s May 6th, everybody is in the race, there’s nobody making major trades, and everyone has seen what they’ve got and when you make the decision to move on or make changes you have to have an opportunity and partner to do that. So we’re always on the lookout to improve our team.
“We always say that, and we’re certainly no strangers to changing course in the middle or even early in the season.”
With the Nationals 1-5 on the current road trip when they arrived in LA to play four against a Dodgers team that had won three straight, 10 of the last 13, and ten straight and 15 of 19 on the season at home in Dodger Stadium, were Martinez and Co. feeling any added sense of urgency going into the long weekend series?
“Urgency is something that — when you play the game every day you play to win,” manager Davey Martinez said after the Nats were swept in three straight in Milwaukee.
“There’s always a sense of urgency, you want to win every game, you know, so urgency is not really — if you look at the wins and losses, yeah, everybody says, ‘Aww, you know,’ but we’ve just to come out, like I said, we come out tomorrow and win tomorrow, we’re 1-0 and we’ll build off of that, we’ll feed off of that, but we’ve got to put this behind us, I know it’s hard, but let’s start playing baseball like we can. Anthony [Rendon] back, the guys that are playing, Howie [Kendrick is] doing well, the two catchers are doing well, and our starting pitching keeps us in the ballgame, so let’s just go out tomorrow and play baseball.”
Before the series opener, the second-year skipper reiterated his belief that the Nationals will turn things around before it’s all said and done.
“I truly believe the guys have played hard,” he told reporters in Los Angeles.
“We’ve battled, and we’re still battling a lot of different injuries, but those guys are going out there — whether we’re behind or not you always see them — they try to come back, they don’t quit, they keep playing hard, so that’s all I can ask from them. This will turn around, I really believe that, so just keep going out there, keep battling hard. We’ve got good starting pitching, our bullpen is starting to shape up a little bit, so just got to go out there and battle.”
“No one is happy in this clubhouse with where we’re at,” Martinez added. “I can tell you that right now.
“But with that being said, you don’t want to add that added pressure. You just want to go out there and play the game the way we’re capable of playing. I’ve said this before, I don’t really worry about other teams, I worry about the Washington Nationals.
“I believe this is a great organization, and by the end of the year we’ll be where we need to be. With that being said, I told the guys, ‘Hey, we’ve got to take care of one game at a time, take care of today. We win today and we’re 1-0 and we’ll go from there.”
Patrick Corbin tossed seven scoreless in the series opener. Howie Kendrick homered early, hitting a three-run blast in the first, and drove in a fourth run later in the game, as the Nats went on to a 6-0 win that snapped a four-game losing streak.
“That was good baseball,” Martinez told reporters after the win. “We turned some double plays, which was really nice, we did all the little things. We ran the bases well, so let’s enjoy the victory today, like I said, starting today we’re 1-0 and come back tomorrow and do it again.”