Monday, April 20, 2009

Can't blame anyone for not caring enough to spell the team's name right

If it seems like I haven't blogged in a few days, there is a very good reason. The despair of actually being a fan of the dysfunctional Natinals (yeah, i meant to spell it like that) has left me with no desire to discuss the team.

This club, following its first and only win of the season, blew two ninth inning leads in a row and now sports a majors' worst record of 1-10. Following their most recent bullpen disaster, the Nats also decided to blow up their bullpen and see if more pitchers who should not yet be in a Major League uniform can do the job that their opening day roster could not.

Poor play is not the team's only problem, however. In fact, their performance might be the easiest of the many worries to swallow. A team of such inexperience and dubious talent cannot act its age. Players, including Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes, have been late to work, evoking punishment from the organization. Milledge was demoted to AAA Syracuse because of the combination of his tardiness and poor on-field performance. Dukes received a warning that if he is late again, he will join Milledge in the minors.

It also appears that the Nationals management is losing control of the team. The front office wanted to sit Milledge after he was late to a team meeting before the first game, but Manny Acta decided that a fine was sufficient. Now, when Dukes was five minutes late after an appearance at a Little League function, he was warned that if it happens again, he will be sent down. Either there is more to Dukes' conduct this season than has been announced, or the team overreacted. They did not act strictly with Milledge and overcompensated with Dukes. You cannot send mixed messages to a player with Dukes' past. Yes, he should be kept on a short leash, but punish him for punishable offenses not trivial tardiness which was caused by laudable actions that should be a means of revamping his image not tarnishing it further.

Additionally, the team's performance must be blamed on the front office. After their rough start against the Marlins, the club with MLB's best record, the Nats either blew leads or lost close games in many of their following contests. It is obvious that they do not yet know how to win. With such an inexperienced team, a veteran who can teach this is imperative. Adam Dunn doesn't cut it. He has never won anything. Yeah, he's a start, but the team shouldn't be surprised that they are losing with a team whose pitching staff is probably more suited to AA than the bigs.

Just look at the Rays. Last year, they had Troy Percival, who had won a world series with the Angels, and this year they added outfielder Pat Burrell who helped the Phillies beat them in the World Series last year. A blend of talented youth and veterans who have won before is requisite for success. The Nationals don't have the calming veteran presence, and it remains to be seen if the promise of their young players will materialize into actual talent and victories.

As of right now, the Nats simply appear dysfunctional-from the equipment managers to the owner. To solve the problems, the team has gotten even younger, bringing up top pitching prospect Jordan Zimmerman, as planned, and Justin Maxwell among others from the minors. For, now Nats fans have to continue taking their medicine and hoping that a Rays-like revitalization will follow sometime in the team's future.

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