September 16, 2019

The Nationals a Team That Is Less Than the Sum of the Parts

August 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Drew Storen’s demotion to Syracuse has caused more soul searching among Washington Nationals aficionados than it deserved. Storen’s ERA was 5.23 at the end of April and while he labored to get his groove back, lowering the ERA to 3.86 at the end of June, he melted down in July and when he was sent down it stood at 5.95.

Drew Storen could have made the Nationals rue the day they signed Soriano as his replacement. He could have beaten Soriano out of the job. He could have pitched so well out of the pen that as soon as Soriano stumbled, Storen would be there to take over. Instead, he took the road more traveled by—the one that lets a lack of confidence from management eat at the soul and ultimately leads to Syracuse.

It would have taken guts and maturity for Storen to have bounced back from 2012 and taken his game to a higher level. Storen is only 25 and that is a lot to ask. But he was taken with the 10th overall pick in 2009. Mike Trout was taken six picks later in that draft, so hoping that Storen would be able to make the major league roster and stick was not a huge expectation.

There are those who would lay the failure of Washington’s very talented team on Davey Johnson. He has expressed nothing but confidence in his charges all season long and his enduring belief was and is the right thing to do. Waiting for them to sort things out and begin to play like they can, that was a mature approach from a seasoned manager. But his players proved largely undeserving of his constancy. Going nowhere in the playoffs last October did not make the Nationals players rededicate themselves and work even harder in the off-season to prove they belonged. No, players like Storen returned with a wounded sense of entitlement instead.

Tyler Clippard is Storen’s best friend on the team and he voiced his frustration with the Soriano signing, saying it was a negative “message to send,” one that is at the core of his friend’s poor performance. Clippard has earned the right to second guess management. He has done his job day in and day out. He is one of the few Nationals players who went back to work and made himself better for 2013. But it doesn’t add any wisdom to his very flawed analysis of what is wrong with Drew Storen.

It is just the most recent and most open second guessing and finger-pointing that has and will continue to plague the team. There were early voices laying the blame on management for not bringing back Michael Morse and his groooovy “Take on Me” walk up music. In one of the many curious decisions, the stadium crew kept the music for seventh inning moments. There has even been a Riggleman redux that has tried to track the origins of a lack of management support to his demise.

Boys and girls, try doing a “Riggleman,” refusing to go to work until you get a raise and see what happens. Take notes on how many pay checks you get after you quit going to work.

Sports are about those that rise to the occasion, not those that pout about what might have been. Team chemistry is important. It makes the whole more than the sum of the parts, but it is always a fragile and transitory mixture. It builds off a champion or a great leader like Davey Johnson. The Nationals have no champion and Davey has lost his mojo.

There is something more than Michael Morse or management support missing from the 2013 Washington Nationals. What is absent is the personal responsibility that drives players to work harder and learn from failure.

Davey Johnson did not make a mistake in saying the Nationals were a “World Series or Bust” team. But saying it could not make it happen. Drew Storen wasn’t the only player who failed in the fifth game against the Cardinals. The Nats failed as a team, not as individuals. It was easy to think that the signing of Raphael Soriano was the cure. One change made it all better. Only it didn’t. And that has nothing to do with Soriano, but with the rest of the team that rested on their laurels and waited for the NL East Championship to fall in their laps once again.

The Nationals will only come together as a team again when there is no one looking to blame others, when they as a team take ownership of their own destiny once again. It takes “heart” as Bryce Harper said on Wednesday when assessing what the team needs. Brash words for a 20 year old, but he is right. There is a missing ingredient in the Nationals clubhouse, be it “heart” or “soul,” the Washington Nationals have been less than the sum of the parts all season long. To turn that around they need to look inward. Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson don’t have the answers, the players do.

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