Lopez, Acta Discuss Year Gone South

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Following a 45-minute, closed-door meeting with Manager Manny Acta yesterday afternoon, slumping Washington Nationals infielder Felipe Lopez spoke with a small group of reporters for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks, defending his reputation and revealing how frustrated he is with his season.

"If I didn't care, I wouldn't be this frustrated," Lopez said. "I would be happy, like some guys. . . . They like mediocrity. I'm not like that. [Expletive] mediocrity. That's why I'm [expletive] about it. That's why I show it sometimes on the field, because I hate it. That's not me."

Acta, who held Lopez out of the starting lineup last night against the Atlanta Braves, tried to paint the meeting as positive. It was at least the third time Lopez and Acta have tried to sort out problems involving effort and performance.

Clearly, both player and management have become exasperated by the results. Lopez has four errors in his last six games, grounded out in a late inning appearance last night against Atlanta and is four for his past 30, dropping his average to .240, his on-base percentage to .304. In 71 games with the Nationals last year, he hit .281 with a .362 OBP.

"I talked to him and said, 'Hey, to me, things in my eyes didn't start not going your way until three weeks ago,' " Acta said. "I was satisfied with the way he's played, especially the second half after the all-star break. It's just that the last three weeks, he hasn't been there, and it's taken a toll on him mentally."

In a six-minute conversation at his locker, Lopez clearly was upset with the idea that he doesn't care.

"I don't care whatever the [expletive] nobody say," he said. "But that's not the way I am. It's [expletive] frustrating, and it's got the best of me sometimes, because I care so much about the way I perform. But I just got to [expletive] battle like I've been battling this whole season."

Lopez, who will earn $3.9 million this season, is eligible for arbitration again this offseason and would be a free agent after 2008. Acta said he still believes in Lopez's talent.

"I'm a talent evaluator," Acta said. "I see this guy every day. I believe he can be as good as he wants to be. Unfortunately, he's underachieved a little bit this year."

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