I've commented once or twice that while the Nationals are losing a lot, they're doing so in a salubrious manner. Their scrappy, never-say-die performances teach the youth the importance of teamwork and good attitude. Their competence teaches the youth the importance of making sure not to humiliate yourself even if you have no hope of winning. And Ryan Church's performance teaches the youth that you can have a full, productive life even after Frank Robinson has called you names.
Now, however, I wouldn't recommend letting your kids watch these guys. Scrappiness doesn't do you a lot of good when you're losing by six runs twice in a row. Competence wasn't much in evidence when Matt Chico walked seven Marlins in 4.2 innings, or when Jerome Williams gave up nine runs in six. As for Ryan Church, well the honeymoon with his new manager lasted only 18 games. I'll get to that later.
The Nats have settled into last place with a clean, mechanical click; the right piece in the right hole. The sound resonated with finality. Maybe you heard it. We're home now, and we won't be leaving soon.
Ryan Church was yanked from Sunday's game with no explanation other than "he's not injured." Mark Zuckerman at the Times scooped everyone:
So Ryan was, in fact, benched by manager Manny Acta for not hustling down the line on his second-inning grounder today. Acta said he won't tolerate lack of effort, so he didn't hesitate to pull Church from the game and insert Chris Snelling in his place.There comes a time when even Church's staunchest defenders have to concede that maybe there is some substance to all the complaints about his attitude. I'm not talking about me here -- I got to that point ages ago; I just don't care. A home run counts whether or not the guy hitting is a gritty, dirt-rubbing-in-it gamer. Brian Schneider not liking your look in the clubhouse is not, to my mind, a disqualification from the profession of baseball.
The Nationals' experience with Frank Robinson has led me to classify managerial discipline in two categories: Ohka Discipline and Soriano Discipline. The former is vindictive, the unprofessional action of an angry man. The latter is constructive, setting the tone for a successful team. Which is this? It could be because I like both the guys involved, but I'd say that it looks good so far. Acta hastens to point out that he's "a Ryan Church fan." Church is appropriately contrite: "I know I messed up. I got the message loud and clear. We'll leave it at that." This one gets a conditional Soriano.