The Washington Nationals, who were actually surprising baseball observers there for a while, are now 9-15 since Davey Johnson replaced Jim Riggleman as manager.
Despite injuries and their high-priced free agents flat-out sucking, the Nats had somehow managed to play respectable ball under Riggleman. They were getting consistently good pitching from their starters, and however he was doing it, Riggleman had the team scrapping for runs and enough victories to hover at or just above .500.
Now the team has dropped five of its last six, and has fallen to four games under .500 and down into the National League East basement. The pitching has flagged just a bit, which helps explain a little of the recent downward trend, but the biggest problem remains: Crap hitting, especially from Jayson Werth, pulling in millions and millions of dollars per year and the Nats having nothing to show for it.
(Hey, Jayson: Don't talk to the press and venture your opinions, will ya? Just try to hit the damn ball. Really, dude, you suck. And if you were producing at the levels management expected when they gave you that fat free-agent contract, the Nats probably wouldn't be struggling so much.)
Enter into this scenario general manager Mike Rizzo, whose latest move looks just dumb and desperate--the kind of thing a chronically shitty ballclub does to "shake things up" or, more than likely, to make it look like its GM is earning his paycheck.
In a completely inexplicable trade, Rizzo acquired Cincinnati Reds journeyman outfielder Jonny Gomes, who brings to the Nats a .211 batting average with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. (LOL, Washington just acquired another Jayson Werth, whose pathetic numbers are .215, 11 and 35.)
According to Reds GM Walt Jocketty, the Nats were persistent about Gomes. Really?? Like, what, the team didn't already have its fair share of underachieving right-handed hitters who are 30 and older?
"He's a power guy," Rizzo reportedly said. "He can get on base. He'll take his walks. He can drive in runs. Most importantly, he can change the game with one swing of the bat." Actually, in 2010, the closest to a full season Gomes ever had (571 PAs), he walked only 39 times. He also struck out 123 times. Now, to be fair, Gomes hit 18 homers last season, with 86 RBIs. Those numbers might indicate he can help the Nats, but unfortunately, 2010 has the look of a career year for him. His lifetime BA is .244.
Just to make the trade look lamer, Rizzo gave up two minor leaguers for Gomes, each of whom is playing good baseball. Chris Manno, 22, is 1-3 with a 1.04 ERA and 12 saves at Class A Hagerstown. Bill Rhinehart, 26, was batting .283 with 21 homers and 59 RBIs at Double-A Harrisburg. What, they don't get a chance to help the team? The Nats would be better served getting a look at youngsters than trading for the likes of Gomes.
The Nats are fading now--fast and maybe for good. Which is too bad, because they were playing gritty baseball, trying to hold on until Werth and Ryan Zimmerman and some of the younger players started to finally hit.
History says the team is toast now. Their decline looks predictable from here on out. Oddly, the most logical guy Gomes would replace in the lineup would be Werth. But come to think of it, that could be a step in the right direction.