Great game tonight to close out the White Sox series. A few observations from the game: Beyond getting on base three times, which was great, Denard Span seemed to be in the perfect position every time a ball was hit his way. And the wind was tricky tonight. That same wind also kept 2 White Sox balls in the ballpark, which was nice. But it got even with us, by keeping 2 potential homers in the park from, of all people, Steve Lombardozzi.
Interesting interleague observation: did Robin Ventura forget that he could pull a double switch mid-inning? It’s understandable since these games are pretty rare for him, but it forced him to have to bat a pitcher at leadoff after he came in to get just one out the prior half inning.
Another random observation: it didn’t matter in the end, but because of a lazy tag by Chicago , it looked like Werth was actually safe at third on Harper’s final hit. Now it’s on to what should be a great series with the Braves.
The news this week that Espinosa will be playing through a torn rotator cuff this season and that Jayson Werth’s wrist is still not back at full strength certainly caused more than a little concern. Let’s not forget that Zim is coming off offseason shoulder surgery, and that Stras is not all that far removed from his Tommy John procedure. On the bright side, I can speak from experience that it is possible to play through a torn labrum, assuming you are not a pitcher. I had a torn labrum and rotator cuff for many years and only finally got it repaired 14 months ago (although often referred to interchangeably, they are not exactly the same injury). The rehab was brutal, and makes me even more impressed that LaRoche went through it and then came back last season and put up the numbers that he did. Hopefully Danny can keep his shoulder strong and play through the injury. If not though, Davey must not hesitate to play Lombo. He should at least see some increased time there to give Espinosa a rest more often.
As for Werth, I actually liked him as a leadoff hitter. Wrist injury or not, I think his days of hitting 25+ homers per year are over. I’m fine with him in the 6th spot if Span lives up to expectations. But for all the heat I’ve given Werth, he is a smart player. He took a lot of pitches (and walks) in that role, when I’m sure he would have rather been swinging the bat. Working a pitch count, and letting other players see what pitches a guy throws in a particular count, is a valuable skill that does not show up in a stat sheet. Not to mention his stalling tactics when there are 2 outs and the pitcher just batted. Team player. They should not hesitate to put him back at leadoff if Span need a day off or spends any time on the DL.
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.
I haven’t posted in a while, so I’ll try and keep my comments on several topics brief:
Jim Riggleman, wow. I wonder how long it took him to realize whoa, I just made a huge mistake. No one in baseball has judged his decision as a wise move. Also, he must be doing well with his retirement accounts if he can walk away from $350,000 for the second half of the season. He may have been a “low-paid” manager, but that’s not chump change.
Morse and Espinosa: Keep it up! You guys make the games much more exciting.
Jayson Werth: Guys, it’s time to quit it with the puff-piece comments about what a hard worker this guy is and how he’s due to break out soon. It’s time to sit him down for a while and let a hotter hitter play until Werth can get his head straight. And for all the talk about his defense, I’ve seen a handful of instances recently where he has shied away from potential catches near the wall and the stands. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but come on. I predicted in the offseason that he’d average .272/22/75 over 3 season before the Nationals looked to move him (which would be very tough), and even those numbers now look to have been too rosy.
Starting pitching: You guys have outdone yourselves. Amazing job this year.
I took a full 24 hours to decompress after the Werth signing, so this post is a lot more toned down then the one I initially drafted. I always thought the Nats ownership was cheap, but I didn’t know that they also really lacked intelligence. We wouldn’t give Adam Dunn a 4th year on a deal at $14 million per season but we’ll give Jayson Werth 7 years and $18 million per season? JAYSON WERTH HAS NEVER EVEN HAD 100 RBI IN A SEASON. You could have had Carl Crawford for that kind of money, or probably even less. Sorry for the all caps, but it was cathartic for me. I feel better. Now if Crawford gets more money than that, he can send a nice thank you note and fruit basket to Werth for setting the market at an absurd level. Thankfully since everyone other than the Nationals organization is expressing their shock at this deal, I don’t have to rattle on too long about it. Plus, as I already predicted in a post on October 15, this signing will not end well. I’m sure Jayson Werth is a heck of a guy, but when we are 3 years into this 7 year deal, you will be seeing this deal listed next to other $100 million DC blunders such as Haynesworth and Arenas.