Developing Players, Playing to Win, or Coddling Players?

Sunday’s game was an interesting September game for a couple of reasons. The Nationals, particularly Davey Johnson, have said that they plan to play a lot of the younger guys and September callups as the season winds down so that they can have a better idea of who might help them in the bigs next season. Fair enough. People acknowledge that this might have an effect on wins and losses. But others argue that you need to keep one eye on each objective, so you can finish strong and show potential free agents that this team is indeed on the rise so that they might sign here (and not have to be wildly overpaid to do so).

Back to Sunday. When Wang gave up the 2 run homer to make it 4-3, a lot of folks groaned that Davey left him in one pitch too long. But hey, he wanted to see Wang pitch under pressure, and see how his shoulder would hold up going deep into a game. Fair enough. When he took Wang out, he was forced to make a double switch because the pitcher’s spot in the order was due up the next inning. so Jonny Gomes came out and Ankiel trotted out to right field. I wouldn’t have thought much of it until Bernadina subsequently replaced Morse as a defensive substitute.

If you’re protecting a one run lead and have no problem taking out your best power hitter for a defensive replacement late in the game, the manager is asserting himself and putting a defensively superior outfielder out there to try and help secure the win. So then why did Ankiel and Werth not switch positions? For the majority of the game, sure, play Werth in center because you want to find out if he can play there in a potential outfield of Morse, Werth and Harper. But late in the game, if you’re taking your big bat out of the lineup and putting egos aside, why can’t you do that to Werth?  The Nats aren’t the Yankees; they don’t have players that are “protected” from that kind of stuff. Everyone knows that Ankiel is a superior CF to Werth, and I don’t even recall Ankiel playing in right field previously this season. Werth played right field for most of the season.  If you are intent on winning the game, you make that switch. No brainer. The cherry on top is the number of incredible plays that Ankiel has made out there in just the past 2 weeks. But nope. Werth is now protected because of his $126 million dollar contract, and not even Davey Johnson had the guts to make that move. If he’s around and making clouded decisions like that next year, it will be a real disappointment.

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