Good evening from Nationals Park, where the Nats and Phillies are about to get Game 2 of this three-game series underway. No real pregame news to report, aside from Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel talking his way around the issue of whether Brad Lidge will be his closer tonight if he’s got a late lead. (My take after listening to Charlie: It won’t be Lidge, at least not tonight.)
Nats interim manager Jim Riggleman, though, did have some interesting things to say on a couple of subjects during his afternoon media session. He was asked, among other things, about: 1) players showing signs of fatigue at this point of the season, 2) why he prefers not to play young guys down the stretch of a losing season and 3) why it’s more important to get Elijah Dukes at-bats down the stretch than Mike Morse.
Here are his extended quotes on each subject…
On whether he looks for signs of players getting fatigued at this point of a long season:
“I never like to use that word, fatigue or tired or whatever. I think it gets way overused in baseball. I’ll get in a lot of arguments over that. But we’re not running up and down a court. We’re not playing football with equipment on in 100 degree temperature. It’s a baseball game. It’s not a physically taxing sport. Now, there’s a drain on you as a player, with travel, with just the pressure of performing every day. It’s not just once a week. It’s not three times a week. There’s a ballgame every day, and you’re out there. So I think a break needs to be taken now and then. You need to get a player a day off now and then. For myself, I tell players if you’re tired, you’ve got to take better care of yourself. I don’t believe that a 32-ounce bat should get heavy in August. I don’t think you should ever concede that. You just go hard and as some mental struggles take place …
“I use the opportunities to get some bench players at-bats. Not because I think you are physically fatigued. This is just my opinion. I could be wrong. My feeling is you ought to be ashamed of yourself if you get physically tired playing baseball. Because it shouldn’t be that physically taxing. And I could point to Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken. I think they’d be on my side on that argument. I’m not asking everybody to be like that. I think guys need off-days so the other players can stay sharp. But I won’t concede to the fatigue factor.”
On why he doesn’t believe in playing recent call-ups down the stretch, even when his team is well out of the race:
“I think because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s competition. When we play baseball, we’re supposed to try to win. Last year in Seattle, we were trying to win. We weren’t trying to just play it out and draft Steve Strasburg next year. We were trying to win the games. I think that if I’m a paying fan, I want to see the team trying to win. I want the manager trying to win. Intensity. I want players playing hard. I want guys running balls out. I want effort and preparation. So all those things in a perfect world will carry over to the future.
“If you get to August and you say, ‘We’re out of it. Let’s don’t put our best people out there,’ then I think you’re creating an atmosphere where you’re accepting it. You’re accepting where you’re at. And we can’t accept what’s happened here this year. We’ve got to find out who the keepers are and build for the future and take an attitude of, ‘You know what, we’re losing but these teams are having a heck of a time beating us, and they realize we’re creeping up on them.’ The level of intensity we play with has got to be taken into the future.
“If I send a message to the ballclub that we’re going to put our Triple-A callups out there on a daily basis to see what they can do … first of all, like I said, it’s not a good time to evaluate talent. Who do you do it against? Do you do it against the Phillies? I think we would be insulting the Marlins and the Braves, who are chasing the Phillies. Do you do it just against the Braves, but not against the Phillies? The competition throughout the league indicates that for the fairness of who is the best team in the division, you’ve got to put your best people out there to play against those guys. If you get a couple of games where you play against a non-contender, you might experiment a little bit more and get some guys some games. But I think until the division is won and the wild-card is won, we have an obligation to the other contenders to put our best players out there against that top team.”
On Mike Morse getting squeezed out of playing time despite his productive bat:
“As impressed as I am, you would think, ‘Well, get him in there more.’ Well, I’m not going to sit Adam Dunn. I’m not going to sit Zimmerman, Willingham, the core of our lineup. And Elijah, I don’t want Elijah Dukes coming to the ballpark every day wondering, ‘Am I playing or not?’ I want him to settle in and feel like he’s a core part of this lineup, so we can make an evaluation on him from the time he returned to the end of the year and give him every opportunity to solidify his position. If I take at-bats away from him, he’s had enough taken away already. He’s only going to end up with 350 maybe. … The situation is what it is. There’s just not at-bats there for [Morse] as a regular.”