The Washington Nationals’ bullpen struggles are no longer just impacting the team on the field. Some position players have grown frustrated with the team’s terrible late-inning performance, and that anger is starting to seep into the clubhouse, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post.
Svrluga spoke to at least two unnamed Nationals players who didn’t seem happy about the team’s current situation.
“We feel like we have to win the game three times,” one Nationals position player said recently.
Another established position player noted that, on more than one occasion, the Nats have come off the field in the middle innings, already with five or six runs on the board, and Manager Dusty Baker has exhorted them with something along the lines of, “Let’s get some more.” The need is implied.
“That drives us crazy,” the player said. “Get some more? Come on. We’ve done our job.”
Manager Dusty Baker is well aware of the issues facing the club. Svrluga’s report comes a day after Baker told the media “we need some help” in the bullpen. The Nationals dropped Monday’s game against the Atlanta Braves 11-10 after the bullpen gave up five runs over the final two innings.
The Nationals have experienced similar losses a number of times throughout the season. The team’s relievers have combined for a 5.11 ERA, good for 28th in the majors. Their -0.5 fWAR ranks 29th among all bullpens.
The team has already cycled through a number of closers. Blake Treinen, Shawn Kelly, Koda Glover and Matt Albers have all spent time in the role this year. Enny Romero and Oliver Perez have also recorded one save a piece as the team has desperately tried to find a stable option.
Of that group, Glover has had the longest run. Though he was touted as a closer by Baker during spring, Glover didn’t start the year in that role. He was moved to that spot after a strong first two months. Glover did not allow a run during May as the rest of the bullpen crumbled around him.
But that couldn’t last. Glover gave up seven earned runs over two innings in June and went on the disabled list after injuring his back in the shower. He neglected to tell the Nationals about the injury until after blowing Saturday’s game. That sums up the team’s late-inning struggles pretty well.
One thing that may be fueling everyone’s frustration is that the team has known closer was a huge need for quite some time. The Nationals went into the offseason with a massive hole in their bullpen, but failed to make any significant upgrades.
That wasn’t for lack of trying. The team did attempt to re-sign Mark Melancon, and reportedly made a big offer for Kenley Jansen, but both players went elsewhere. The Nationals also explored more creative options. They reportedly had a deal in place with Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland, but ownership wouldn’t sign off on the deal, according to Svrluga. The same thing happened when the Nationals attempted to trade for Chicago White Sox closer David Robertson.
This has become a bit of a running theme with the Nationals lately. The team has held off on making moves due to ownership. It’s not just with players, either. Baker is in the final season of his contract, and it’s up to the Lerner family to make him an offer and keep him around. Baker took far less to manage the Nationals two years ago. He will likely lead the team to two playoff appearances before his contract expires at the end of this season.
Regardless of how the Lerners feel about Baker, allowing him to manage without a contract extension doesn’t exactly send a confident message to the players. That’s part of the reason so many clubs offer small extensions to managers in similar situations. They don’t want their team to be led by a guy perceived as a lame duck.
That’s likely part of the reason Baker has had to go public with his complaints about the bullpen. It’s also possibly the reason members of the team are telling the media they are starting to get frustrated. They want ownership to hear those pleas.
By most accounts, general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t to blame. He’s taken steps to try and improve the bullpen, only to be rebuffed by the Lerners. Whether he’s allowed to finally make the one move the team desperately needs depends on how closely ownership is to listening to these complaints.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –