Saturday, September 03, 2005

Clubhouse Crackdown

Barry Svrluga reports that Frank Robinson is trying to bring some order to a clubhouse that he believes has become unruly. Robinson has banned music and is on the verge of questioning his players' commitment and work ethic.

As the Nationals have gone from a team that wins consistently to one that loses at least half of its games, the swagger and joy that characterized this team has been eroded replaced by a defensive and surly attitude. We've seen abundant evidence of this unfortunate reality. Jose Guillen and Brad Wilkerson have bickered, Livan Hernandez has threatened to abandon the team, and Svrluga's story suggests that factions have formed within the clubhouse.

We may be watching a perfect storm of dissension unfolding before our eyes. It wasn't long ago that the Nationals were accustomed to winning, and it isn't surprising that they're frustrated now that they're a losing team. Having a fiercely competitive, no-nonsense manager like Frank Robinson who was one of baseball's very best players, who expects to win, and who expects his players to approach the game the way he did exacerbates the situation. And management's inability to do the things it takes to win makes the situation worse. The organization essentially is telling the players that they won't get the support they need to win, and that frustrates the players because they are the public face of the team and they will take the brunt of the public's criticism. That's why Brian Schneider felt betrayed when told that management was delaying September call-ups for financial reasons.

If the Nationals continue to fall behind in the playoff race, we probably can expect more of this. Let's hope we never get to that point.

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