This morning, Manager Jim Riggleman asked Jayson Werth to come to Nationals Park early meet him in his office, to discuss the veiled comments Werth had made Wednesday, after the Nationals concluded a tumultuous road trip. Riggleman was not looking forward to the discussion. By the end, he left the room satisfied with two things.
No. 1: Riggleman did not think Werth was referring to him when he said “I think it’s pretty obvious what’s going on around here” and “things to need change.”
“The short answer is no,” Riggleman said. “The long answer is, you know … ‘changes.’ We’ve got to start winning ballgames. The losing that has taken place here for a couple years, that’s got to change. We’ve got to change some things with how we play. That’s as long as I’ll get on that, I guess. But to answer your question, no.”
No. 2: The conversation had gone well. Riggleman recalled earlier this year when he informed veteran Ivan Rodriguez his playing time would be scaled back. Riggleman dreaded that talk, but called it “one of the best conversations I’ve ever had with a player.” He had a similar feel following his chat with Werth.
“This one was very much the same,” Riggleman said. “You hate to rank conversations that you’re not looking forward to having. But this one was a very good conversation.
“I’m not going to tell you what we said, but yeah, he’s definitely on board. It was just a really good conversation. He had some ideas. I had some ideas. I think it was a very good conversation.”
Werth was not present in the Nationals clubhouse while reporters were allowed in, but he sent word through a team spokesman he will speak with the media following tonight’s game against the Padres.
Riggleman did allow that Werth expressed his frustration with the Nationals’ current situation. Werth referenced the necessity of developing young players, something he was unaccustomed to in Philadelphia while the Phillies won four straight National League East titles.
Werth could also have been venting about the lack of help surrounding him, also a new experience, albeit one he could have expected when he signed a seven-year $126 million contract to help the Nationals build a winner out of a team that has lost 298 games the past three seasons. Despite hitting third most of the season, Werth has hit with no runners on base 106 of his 177 at-bats. He has reached base 66 times not counting home runs, but scored on 19 of those occasions.
“He used the word ‘frustrated,’ ” Riggleman said. “But he’s been around a lot of winning, and we’re not winning right now. I think there are other players who are frustrated. Jayson is becoming one of the voices of the ball club with his experience in the game. He expressed that frustration.”
Coming off a 1-7 road trip that dropped their record to 21-28, the Nationals have hit their lowest point of the season. Signs of tension have surfaced in the Nationals clubhouse, but Riggleman suggested it’s something every team contends with.
“It’s been that type of week, no question,” Riggleman said. “But it’s just what you go through as a ball club. It’s a 162-game schedule, and every ball club hits some times like this. The key is to get out of it as quickly as possible. That’s what we’re going to make every effort to do. Every club, we’re not immune to that. We’re going to have some tough times. We’ve got to get out of some tough times and win some ballgames.”