But they aren’t, largely because this was such a perfect symbolic day for a GM to stage a shakeup of a contender that lacked life. With team leader Werth back from 33 days on the disabled list, the Nats faced a superb opportunity, playing 36 of 39 games against teams that have had losing records over the ’12 and ’13 seasons combined. The Nats had ace Jordan Zimmermann to face a Mets team that was just swept by the stinky Marlins.
So for the Nats, Tuesday night felt like a kind of Opening Day II. When teams know that a season of high expectations is slipping away they can do one of three things: fire the manager, make a trade or ship out the miscreants and bring up hot kids in the minors. The Nats picked “C,” even though it always has an undercurrent of scapegoat desperation.
The Post Sports Live crew debates whether the Nationals should place Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list after he suffered a slight strain in his right side.
Insight on the Nationals and all the latest news from Post reporters Adam Kilgore and James Wagner.
Their own nerves have unstrung the Nationals all season. Some problems, like Zimmerman’s wild throws on routine plays, can’t be solved with a DFA or call-up. But three symbols of their futility have been Espinosa’s flailing strikeouts, Rodriguez tragicomic wildness and the utter ineffectiveness of Duke as the team’s only lefty reliever. All three were accompanied by their own doom-approaches soundtrack. Rizzo silenced it.
The Nats now face a genuine crisis of self-confidence and poise. By the all-star break in six weeks, the Nats will be six-to-10 games over .500 with their season firmly back on track if they play as they think they should. The six roster moves on Tuesday will be hailed as the perfect personnel tonic.
Or, if they continue to play as they have all season, the Nats will continue to be one of baseball’s biggest disappointments.
The first chapter of the Rizzo rewrite was a smash hit, but barely. The Nats trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth before staging their first come-from-behind win after the sixth inning all season. It took until Game 58.
Can obscure midseason roster moves really work, even those that seem a bit desperate? On the last day of July in ’07, two Phillies outfielders were hurt the same day. The Phils tried to swing a deal for a slugger before the trade deadline. It died. They sank to A-Ball for a journeyman outfielder that was 1-for-16 on a rehab assignment. It was Werth. He hit .414 for August, including a 9-for-9. stretch “It was the resurrection of my career,” he said last night.
The Phils rallied to win the NL East and a power was born with Werth as a key piece. “I’m the guy who knows roster moves like this can work,” laughed Werth. Was this day, this win a spark for the Nats? Fire to follow?
“We will see,” said Werth. “But it absolutely can.”
For more by Thomas Boswell, go to washingtonpost.com/boswell.