- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2018

BALTIMORE — You know it’s a bad day for Washington baseball when the manager of MLB’s worst team spends part of his press conference criticizing a Nationals player instead of his own.  

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter, meeting with reporters before Tuesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, asked, unprompted if they had noticed players not running plays out to first.

“Have you guys been watching the epidemic of no-run-down-the-line stuff?” he wondered.

Then he mentioned the Nationals’ Trea Turner, who attempted to lay down a bunt in Monday’s contest in Milwaukee, only to dribble the ball straight to Brewers pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, who made a move for Turner before turning to home plate umpire Nic Lentz, confused.

Instead of running to first, Turner stepped out of the box on the third base side, dropped his helmet and his bat, and began undoing his batting gloves. Chacin never tagged Turner. Lentz called Washington’s shortstop out for leaving the base path. That seemed to rub Showalter the wrong way.

“Did you see Trea Turner on the bunt the other day?” Showalter said. “There’s like four or five [examples].”

Showalter sat in silence then, appearing to mull it over prior to continuing once more on the subject. Before Showalter took his place as manager in the dugout, he played seven seasons in the minor leagues. Running plays out was standard for him, he said.

“When I hit a ground ball or pop a ball up I should’ve hit, I wanted to punish my body going down the line,” Showalter said. “I was so mad at myself. Everyone wants to say it’s the age we live in. It was happening back [then], we had people.”

Turner was awarded the Nationals’ 2018 Heart and Hustle Award Tuesday, a day after his baserunning gaffe. When asked about it that night, Turner said, “I probably should have run to first.” Manager Dave Martinez benched Turner on Tuesday, setting a precedent for the action.

Showalter said players used to mostly handle these things, but managers have had a bigger hand in discipline of late. There have been questions as to who leads the Nationals since Jayson Werth departed.

Max Scherzer is one obvious answer, and Martinez said Sunday that Howie Kendrick was another. But Kendrick has been injured for most of the season.

Turner isn’t the only National to not run out a play this year. Bryce Harper, who also was left out of the lineup Tuesday, didn’t run out a double play ball about two weeks ago. Asked about it later, Harper pointed out he hit the ball 108 mph. Running it out wouldn’t change the outcome of that play.

“What is hustle? How do you define it? It’s not assuming something, right?” Showalter said. “Effort should never go in a slump.”

On Monday, Juan Soto hit a weak groundball to Brewers reliever Josh Hader in the sixth, two innings after Turner’s miscue. Soto, the 19-year-old outfielder, ran the play out. And Hader, rushing to field, spin and throw, couldn’t barehand the ball. Soto reached safely.

“I think [Miami Marlins manager Don] Mattingly had the best point he made to a player,” Showalter said. “He said, ‘You’re embarrassing us. You’re projecting something that affects all of us, that makes us all, our team, look that way.’”

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