Nationals Misfortunes Weigh Heavily On Their Hall-Of-Fame Manager

By Carla Peay
Updated: May 6, 2006

Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson has had little to clap about this season.

Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson has had little to clap about this season.

WASHINGTON – Frank Robinson looked every bit of his seventy years as he walked into his nightly post game press conference on Thursday.

The Nationals, sporting a record of 9-19 entering the series with the Florida Marlins with ace Livan Hernandez on the mound, were subjected to a particularly ugly 11-3 beat down against a Marlins squad that started the series with a 6-18 record.

The usual crowd of beat writers was unusually subdued. It seemed that there wasn’t a whole lot to say. But then Robinson got going. And once he did, he didn’t let up.

“When we get down, there’s no response”, he began evenly. “They just don’t respond”, he added. He was asked if he had talked to the team. “I talk to them all the time. Every day”, he continued. Then, the floodgates opened.

“I’m embarrassed for this team. We are not giving the fans what they deserve. They come out here every night and support us. I’m surprised they’re not throwing things on the field”, he continued, his voice a mixture of anger and frustration.

The day began as one of celebration for this embattled franchise. Since relocating from Montreal, this team has dealt with more issues than a patient of Dr. Phil.

Consider these points:

The team has had no owner, having been collectively owned by a Major League Baseball for nearly three seasons.

Comcast Sports Network is refusing to carry MASN, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which carries the Washington Nationals games, depriving a majority of D.C. area viewers from being able to see the team on television.

A payroll of approximately $48 million last season and $60 million this season, a significantly lower payroll than most teams in the league, and a major stumbling block in the ability to sign free agents during the off-season.

Having to play in dilapidated RFK Stadium, a stadium clearly built for football, not baseball, a huge cavernous park where ‘home runs go to die’.

Significant problems in the off-season with season ticket renewals and current problems with the purchasing of game tickets.

A protracted battle between the Mayor and the City Council over the lease for a new stadium.

An ever uglier protracted battle among local politicians, including former mayor Marion Barry, as the Lerner Group began to surface at the likely new owners of the team with regard to the diversity of each ownership group.

— And of course the real fan killer, long lines and bad food.

B But this week should have, and could have signaled a fresh start for this team. With the stadium issue finally resolved, the biggest hurdle remaining was the naming of an owner, which Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig finally did on Wednesday, when he selected the Lerner Group.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday morning.

And on Thursday night, with Ted Lerner seated in the stands just above the Nationals dugout, the team turned in one of their worst performances of the season. Robinson wondered aloud if Mr. Lerner wanted his money back.

Robinson’s tirade continued.

“Our offense stinks. We’re making mistakes, both mental and physical. Our fielding is spotty. There should be pride there. We’re getting nothing out of the heart of the order. This ballclub is better than what they’re playing. Right now, we are nothing even resembling a good ballclub. I wouldn’t pay to see us play”, he added.


“There are other things I could say, but there’s a lady present”, he added.

As is often the case, I was the only female present. But Robinson did try to pick up the mood just a bit before he left the room.

“Tomorrow, we will play better. I will manage better. That is both a threat and a promise”, he added. As he got up from his chair and headed toward the door, I stopped him.

“Frank, say whatever you’re going to say. Doesn’t matter if I’m in here or not”, I said to him. He looked at me and shook his head slightly as he headed out the door.

The following night, the Nationals defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-0.