After hiding injury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is back on the disabled list

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Jarrod Saltalamacchia missed the final month of last season following surgery for Thoracic Outlet Sydrome, which causes neck and shoulder problems due to a rib pushing against a nerve. Now he’s headed to the disabled list again, but this time around upper back soreness is to blame.
Saltalamacchia injured his back Monday, presumably before delivering a walk-off single in the ninth inning, and initially tried to keep the pain to himself. He finally told the team last night, but not before taking a called third strike as a pinch-hitter.
Ron Washington isn’t happy:

He needs to mature. He has put us in a bad situation. What if he had walked last night and we tied the game? Was he going to tell me then that he couldn’t catch? I don’t care how badly he wants to play, you can’t just think about yourself. He was supposed to be healthy when we left spring training. That’s what he told us. I’m not disappointed in him for being hurt; that happens. I’m disappointed in how he has handled it.

Washington definitely has a point, although given how the past year or so has gone for Saltamacchia it’s tough to blame him too much for trying to play through another injury. He underwent an MRI exam this morning and a visit to a back specialist is also on the docket, but in the meantime Taylor Teagarden will get the bulk of the starts behind the plate for the Rangers and light-hitting veteran Matt Treanor will back him up after beginning the season at Triple-A.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.