For Nationals, Spring Record Means Little, Attitude Says a Lot

Dave NicholsSenior Analyst IMarch 15, 2010

VIERA, FL - MARCH 09:  Manager Jim Riggleman #5, L, and coach Tim Foley of the Washington Nationals watch their team take on the Detroit Tigers at Space Coast Stadium on March 9, 2010 in Viera, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

So, 0-10 through 10 games. Stinks, right?

To hear the Nationals players talk about it, fans and writers should disregard the club's spring training record.  They have a list of reasons and excuses to forget about the record.

"We're just getting our work in."

"We aren't playing with our regular players."

"I just want to stay healthy for the season."

"I'm working on some new thing/adjustment."

For the most part, spring training records don't mean squat.  Several writers over the last couple of days have tried to analyze the impact of spring training records.

While there is some anecdotal evidence that winning or losing spring training records can forecast regular-season success, there's no hard evidence to prove that spring training records mean anything.
What does mean something, however, it how the team is going about earning its dubious spring training record.
Sunday's game was typical of the troubles the Nats are having so far.  After phenom Stephen Strasburg was finished pitching, anyway.
Nationals pitchers walked 11 batters.  Granted, it was windy, and controlling even the fastball was a bit dicey.  But 11 walks in a game?  And these weren't guys wearing uniform numbers in the 70s. 
Livan Hernandez, in his first spring training appearance, walked three.  OK, that's not fair, because Hernandez never really cares about walking guys. 
Tyler Clippard, however, walked five in his appearance, and has been terrible so far this spring.  He is going to be counted on in the Nats revamped bullpen this season.  What happens if he can't find the same success that he did last season?
Ron Villone walked two and made a throwing error while recording one out.  Fortunately, the Nats came to their senses and released Villone on Monday.
There was also a wild pitch and a passed ball to go along with the free passes.
Defensively, there were two more errors in the field, and a couple of defensive miscues that went for base hits.  Two days ago, Nyjer Morgan dropped a fly ball and twice balls fell between him and Elijah Dukes that should have been outs, or cut off before extra bases were collected.
But Adam Dunn says "Who cares?"  Maybe that's the part that bugs me the most about the Nats' results so far.
General manager Mike Rizzo said flatly that these games don't matter, that he wishes they didn't keep stats or records.  Dunn said yesterday he doesn't care about winning in spring training, and Jim Riggleman said that he didn't want to "use up" all the team's wins in March.
Ryan Zimmerman, the team leader, said these results are happening with "guys that aren't going to be here" when the season starts.
Should the leaders of this team have such a nonchalant attitude about winning in spring training?  Does anyone think they would be saying the same things if the team were 10-0 instead?
So if spring training results don't matter, as everyone wants to imply, what's to make of the good performances thus far?
Are we supposed to ignore Ian Desmond's, Drew Storen's, and Stephen Strasburg's successes?  Or do we write them off as "just spring training" too?
While we're on the subject, what to do about the shortstop position?  Ian Desmond has been playing out of his head.  Rizzo yesterday told reporters that Desmond will play shortstop full-time somewhere in 2010, whether it's in D.C. or Syracuse.  Good.
The competition has been pretty one-sided thus far, as Cristian Guzman has missed most of the exhibition games due to an inured right shoulder and the birth of his daughter.  But The Guz is a known commodity.  He brings empty batting average and below average defense to the table. 
If Guzman returns to the team and can slap a few base hits around the last two weeks of spring training without making himself look silly in the field, could the Nats find someone to take him off their hands? 
The Mets just lost Jose Reyes for an extended period of time. Might Omar Minaya find Guzman a more palatable answer than any in-house option he might have?
Something to think about, anyway, while we continue to watch the losses pile up in games that do not matter.
For more Washington Nationals coverage, please visit Nationals News Network.