Nats convene, share hopes for 2010
Riggleman, Rizzo, Kasten speak at first full-squad meeting
VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals had their first full-squad meeting at Space Coast Stadium on Friday, and there were several themes to this session:
Forget about 2009, a season in which they lost 103 games.
Pay more attention to detail on the field.
Expect to win this year.
Making excuses is over.
While none of the players talked in the meeting, manager Jim Riggleman, general manager Mike Rizzo and team president Stan Kasten expressed their feelings about the 2010 team.
Riggleman, who did most of the talking, thanked the players from last year's squad for helping him land the job after holding it on an interim basis, and he reiterated that the 2010 version must improve its defense. Washington made a Major League-leading 143 errors last year.
"If they didn't play hard, I wouldn't be here," Riggleman said. "They played hard, they played with intensity, they agonized over the losses, and I appreciate that's the way it was. Some of those people are still here, but with the additions that have been made as we move on to 2010, I think everybody in the room should feel good. We have a lot of additions without a lot of subtractions.
"The other thing is attention to detail. We can hit and pitch, but we are not going to be as good of a ballclub as we can be if we don't take care of the little things. That's the responsibility of the manager and the coaching staff to take care of those things. The players have to respect that we are all going to be stressing attention to detail, and we want to get that kind of response from them where they are on board with it."
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Rizzo talked to the players for about two minutes and said he expects the team to win this season. However, he declined to predict if the team would go to the playoff.
"Our expectations are to win," Rizzo said. "The players need to focus to win, prepare to win and expect to win. With aura of Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez] in camp and the attitude of Jason Marquis and Adam Kennedy, I think there has been a different attitude. Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan are on board.
"We are all tired of losing. We are all tired of talking about 100-loss seasons and No. 1 picks. We feel we have an opportunity to better ourselves. First, you have to believe we can win before you could start winning."
Kasten, who was the one to tell the players to stop making excuses, explained to them why the atmosphere is better than it was a year ago. Last year, the team was involved with issues in the Dominican Republic, which involved Carlos Alvarez, the prospect who falsified his name and age.
"We have a different atmosphere because of the strides that were made during the season and the excitement about the next wave [of prospects] around the corner," Kasten said. "I encouraged them to have fun and consider how fortunate we all are. With this excitement comes increased expectations from me, from ownership, from Mike and Jim. They are all capable of fulfilling those expectations."
Left-hander John Lannan has noticed a different attitude in the clubhouse. He said the Nationals should set their sights on going to the playoffs this season.
"The atmosphere is a winning atmosphere," Lannan said. "We can't sell ourselves short. Everyone starts with a 0-0 record. Anything can happen in this game. That's why I love it so much. Look at the Rays in 2008 -- they went from worst to first. It would be great if we could do that."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.