The Washington Nationals are currently 14-22 and are in the midst of a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Washington still has not found its footing and are currently seven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for first place in the division. To make matters worse, the team is just coming off a sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. Washington has lost four straight as well as eight of their last ten. They have also lost their last six series. A variety of problems are the cause of the team’s awful start and current free-fall.
Injuries have played a big part in the Nats’ current losing streak. Key players such as Ryan Zimmerman, Juan Soto, Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Trea Turner and Tony Sipp are all currently on the IL. Anthony Rendon was just activated after missing nearly two weeks. Unfortunately, his return hasn’t sparked the offense. Instead, since returning from the IL, Rendon is 0-7 with five strikeouts. He was ejected in his first game back after arguing a call with the home plate umpire. Rendon will need to return to his earlier form before the injury, when he was hitting .371. He is the key to getting the offense back on track while the rest of the starters heal.
Injuries are not the only problem the players are facing. The bullpen has been blowing leads left and right all season. Before injuries overtook the offense, the team had put the bullpen in great positions to win games. Instead, the bullpen blew up time and time again. Here are a few ERAs of some Nationals relievers. Wander Suero, 6.60. Matt Grace, 6.88. Joe Ross, 10.80. Trevor Rosenthal, 36.00. Now in Joe Ross’s case, his ERA is bloated because of one bad outing. A few of the relievers have been bright spots such as Sean Doolittle (1.15 ERA), Kyle Barraclough (1.32 ERA) and Justin Miller (3.95 ERA). But more than likely the relievers have failed to hold the lead. Now that injuries have kicked in, Washington doesn’t have the offensive power to overcome the bullpen’s struggles. This is a huge reason for the team’s current record.
Second-year manager Dave Martinez has made some questionable decisions over his tenure, to say the least. He was brought in last year to replace Dusty Baker and get the team past the first round of the playoffs. Instead under his tutelage, Washington missed the playoffs completely and currently have the second-worst record in the National League.
The front office decided to fire Dusty Baker despite General Manager Mike Rizzo’s protest. They then replaced him with current manager Dave Martinez. This was Martinez’s first time managing a team after he was the bench coach under Joe Maddon for 10 seasons. Martinez did not provide the spark the front office was expecting. Instead, he has become overwhelmed and has made certain situations worse. He has overtaxed his starters and bullpen with reliever Justin Miller being a great example.
In the first two weeks, Miller started as the best reliever on the team not named Sean Doolittle. Martinez then used Miller in three games over a four-day span. The problem is that Miller has had multiple injuries in the past and is still trying to adapt to being back in the majors. Miller was over-worked and after not giving up a run in four appearances, he gave up four runs over the course of two and two-thirds innings. Miller than landed back on the 10 day IL. Martinez over-used Miller and lost one of his more reliable pitchers.
Now Martinez has been blamed for every problem lately, even if it isn’t his fault. Martinez will need to stop overtaxing his pitchers for the team to have a chance to get back on track. It is still early and this team is full of talent. But if Martinez and the Nat’s continue to lose, he might become the next coach fired.
The Front Office (Lerner Family)
Martinez does not deserve all the blame. It is hard to manage a team with half of your starting lineup on the IL. Some teams have been able to overcome injuries, but they also didn’t have a bullpen that can fall apart on any given night. The front office is also to blame here. They have continuously low balled their manager and managerial candidates. For example, the Lerner family did not want to offer Bud Black more than a one year deal after Matt Williams was fired in 2015. They then hired Dusty Baker but only paid him half of what he earned in Cincinnati. After Dusty was fired the Lerner’s stayed clear of big named candidate Joe Giraldi and chose the cheaper option, Dave Martinez.
The Lerner’s have also remained adamant about staying under the luxury tax, and in doing so the team has not had the money to appropriately fix the bullpen. Top tier closer Craig Kimbrel is still a free agent. The front office was unwilling to pay him what he was asking for. In doing so the bullpen remains a problem that is not going to fix itself.
Dave Martinez is on the hot seat and will most likely be let go if he can’t turn things around. The problem is as long as the Lerner’s keep low balling managers, they will be in the same predicament.
Featured Image From Bleacher Report.
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