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Bryce Harper

Nats Have Lost Focus, If They Ever Had It

The biggest problem with last night’s bullshit “brawl” was the Nats clearly have lost focus. Maybe lost focus is putting it mildly, because based on a 54-59 season that has the team 14.5 games back in early August, it’s arguable the team lacked focus from the beginning.

But back to last night.

Harper hit a bomb off Braves starter Julio Teheran, and Harper took a few seconds to enjoy it. Everyone who’s watched baseball for a little while knows what happens next: Harper’s getting hit. This is the rule of the land, like getting boo’d wearing an Eagles jersey in the FedEx parking lots.

Don’t lie to yourself and say Harper didn’t show up Teheran, he did, we all saw it.

The worst part of what happened next, Harper didn’t actually want to fight. Sure he wanted to shout and shove and do all the normal bullshit you see from a “fight” on an episode of Real World/Road Rules Challenge, where nobody wants to throw a punch lest they mess up perfect jaw structure.

I’m not advocating to fight, but the choices are either take your base — perhaps with a menacing stare — or charge the mound. Ask Robin Ventura. You can’t half-ass the situation, which is exactly what Bryce and the Nats did.

The far bigger issue, lost somewhere between Bryce Harper’s mustache and Davey Johnson’s feigned interest, is that the Nats continually get caught up in petty bullshit. You want to be mad about getting hit by a pitch?? Win the game. Want to be mad about firing the hitting coach?? Hit better. Upset about questions on errors and misplayed balls?? Field better.

You know who hasn’t been caught up in the petty bullshit?? The Braves, winners of 12 straight and the team way out in front of the NL East.

The Nats have been stiff all year, likely a result of reading spring press clippings that had them in the World Series and without a player in the clubhouse to loosen things up. That guy was Michael Morse, and injured or not, he was the guy this team needed, not only for his bat but to make things fun. At any point has this year’s Nats squad resembled the Beast Mode-goofball team from 2012? Evidence points to no.

Likely none of it matters now. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Nats have a 2.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. They’re cooked.

Next year a new skipper will be in Natstown, but certainly this season didn’t crater because of Davey. A talented team will play baseball on South Capital Street next season, but without focus, it’s unlikely 2014 will look much different than 2013.



  1. Puttz

    August 7, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    So I guess the Nats should have hit Upton after he showed up Clippard the night before? Personally I think Harp is the only one showing some fire. Ill give Werth credit too because how well he’s played over the past month. I know that Harp said he didn’t charge because he didn’t want to get tossed, but this team might have needed that to light a fire under them.

    Going to the game tonight. Can’t wait too see if there are any fireworks

  2. Roy Derpley

    August 7, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    The players have lacked focus all season. I put that on Davey (whom I love, but let’s be serious). This isn’t some veteran, threepeat team that can just turn it on like that. Little mistakes and mental hiccups have been killing the team all season. Add in some mental midgetry and softness when things don’t start to go their way, and you might as well close up shop. It’s not time for a firesale, but a new manager with some more focus, a slightly firmer hand than Davey and someone who’s not blowing smoke up everyone’s asses from the outset (“World Series or Bust Guise!!!!1!”) would be a good change. I don’t care how talented this team is, it feels like they’ve quit on the season. No team this talented should be getting shelled by double digits this regularly. The saddest part is that it has taken some more superhuman starting pitching (how much longer is that going to keep up like this?), a bearded guy hobbling and a 20-year-old playing on one knee to keep us from being a 90 loss club. We are firmly in the suck right now.

  3. AE

    August 7, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I think this season is squarely on Davey. Its his job to fix the mistakes all these guys have been making. How many times has he said something like “I have no idea…” when asked a question?

    Seems he felt he could coast into the playoffs and when they started poorly in the camp, he wasn’t ready to actually manager a team.

    Its still a good core. The right hire of manager and all new coaches COULD go a long way next year.

    As far as last night. You don’t want Harper suspended. But the manager didn’t have his back at all. Probably still pissed at Harper for calling out everybody recently. Davey doesn’t want to work but refuses to step down. The Nats don’t want to be the team to fire Davey Johnson before he retires again.

  4. ThisGuy

    August 7, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    This reeks of post-hoc narrative. What the fuck is “focus”? It’s a lazy term used to describe underperformers, or shitty teams altogether. Also, isn’t it a backwards argument to say that they need a loose jokester goofball around so they can better focus?

    They just can’t hit. Far be it from us to say that’s because they are not focused.

  5. homeslice mcturkeyjerky

    August 7, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    I agree with AE, it’s Davey. I have no proof of this of course, but I think Rizzo was extended for predicting this season correctly behind closed doors to the good Ted and convincing him to do a one year contract with Davey. He probably said Davey was lucky last year, and that the team plays below potential and can’t do the small things correctly, or at all. And then this season happened. They should keep Steve McCatty, but that is it. Maybe we miss Bo Porter?

    Consider that Suzuki came in midway through last year, and was able to make the throw to 2nd base a lot more than he does now or even at the end of last season. The only fielding that is any good is turned in by players who are golden glove candidates (Span, LaRoche, Desmond). All the other fielding is completely random. That is coaching and game management.

    I bet Bo Porter wants a one way ticket out of Houston right about now.

  6. Johnny Blades

    August 7, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    First, good on ya for not joining the chorus of morons getting worked up about the HBP. I like Harper, and don’t think what he did was terrible, especially not in a quote-unquote rivalry game, but the retaliation plunking is part of the game and to be expected. Period. They didn’t throw at his earhole, so who cares?

    B, those who lament Morse leaving like he was the keystone to the whole season are make me sad. He’s not even as good a ballplayer as Adam Dunn, and Dunn is always ripe for criticism. Morse sucks, even if he is giant enough to hit a bomb now and then. He was not some magical glue guy, and his humor/walk up music was beyond lame. Teams lose guys more valuable than that every year and go on to have as good or better seasons anyway.

    Thirdly, it sucks that the hitting coach was fired. That team needs more legit bats in the lineup, not scapegoats. But my question is- why does no one ever talk about firing any pitching coaches? Haven’t the Nats had each of their three best pitching prospects ever lose a year to Tommy John before they ever got anywhere? Don’t a half dozen of their pitchers pout and fall to pieces anytime they don’t get a ball four call, or someone commits an error?

  7. Roy Derpley

    August 7, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Maybe “focus” isn’t the precise thing that’s lacking, but this team could afford to increase in mental toughness. I have no clue how you do it, or how you build it up, but we need it in spades. From being unable to mount a rally of any consequence to caving in any time we’re down big to simply getting drilled regularly to Dan Haren being Dan Haren, this team is full of mental softness. Pitching suffers from this, too, with aces throwing hissy fits, relievers throwing people under the bus and Gio Gonzalez still giving me playoff meltdown nightmares. Aside from actual areas of need for this team, all I want this off season are a goon for base-clearing brawl purposes (Miss you Mike Morse!) and a journeyman defensive-minded infielder with some mental toughness. WHERE IS THE GRIT?

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