As a sportswriter, there’s really only one thing I ask of the people I cover: Be accountable, both in good and bad times. It’s easy to stand in front of microphones after you go 4-for-5 with two homers (as Ryan Zimmerman did tonight). It’s not as easy to face the heat when you fail to catch a routine fly ball (as Josh Willingham did tonight).
Willingham, though, didn’t just answer questions about his error, a key moment in the Nationals’ 11-7 loss to the Giants. He was standing there in the clubhouse waiting for reporters, dinner plate in hand, knowing he needed to stand up and accept responsibility for the play. It wasn’t easy to have to explain why he misplayed the most routine of fly balls — “I missed it,” he said matter-of-factly, not making any excuses — but he knew it was part of his job to do that, and I (and other reporters) respect him for that.
Which brings us to Daniel Cabrera, who was just as responsible (if not more) as Willingham for this loss. It was Cabrera who gave up three runs on six hits through the first three innings. And it was Cabrera who followed up the Willingham error by intentionally walking Travis Ishikawa, then walking Randy Johnson — RANDY JOHNSON! — on four pitches — ON FOUR PITCHES! — then walking Emmanuel Burriss with the bases loaded, then walking Edgar Renteria with the bases loaded.
Yes, four straight walks, two with the bases loaded. Inexcusable. And certainly the kind of performance that demands an explanation.
Cabrera, though, did not take responsibility for this one. He came walking out of the Nats’ clubhouse minutes after the game ended, before we reporters were allowed in. So we chased him down the concourse, asked him if he was going to talk. His response: “I don’t want to [expletive] talk to nobody.” He turned around and kept walking out of the ballpark.
Cabrera still has a job with the Nats. Manny Acta said there will be no changes to his starting rotation, at least not right now. But Cabrera’s refusal to stand up following his performance tonight will not sit well with the organization. It won’t sit well with Acta, who has constantly defended the right-hander. And it won’t sit well with Mike Rizzo, who happened to be walking past the scene as Cabrera was blowing us off.
I will never begrudge a player who doesn’t want to answer a question. But I do think I (and other reporters, and the fans who ultimately we are writing for) deserve the opportunity to ask every question of those players. Daniel Cabrera didn’t even give us the chance to do that tonight.