Tag: Matt Williams

Matt Williams Fired by Nationals: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

One year after Matt Williams was named National League Manager of the Year, the Washington Nationals announced Monday they’ve fired Williams after a disappointing 2015 season that saw the team miss the postseason with an 83-79 record:

The Nationals began 2015 with World Series aspirations. Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports noted as recently as early June that oddsmakers had Washington as the odds-on favorite to win Major League Baseball’s biggest prize.

As the season moved along, the Nationals were plagued by so many injuries that it was difficult to overcome the New York Mets in the National League East. Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister all spent time on the disabled list.

It didn’t help Williams’ cause that his questionable tactics and strategy, especially late in games, seemed to do more harm than anything else to his team.

There are many examples of Williams’ poor strategy to choose from, but Ted Berg of For The Win singled out what may have been the final straw, involving Rendon, from an early September series against the Mets:

Rendon is the Nationals’ second best player, and though he has missed most of the season with injuries, he has been hot at the plate for over a month now. Heck, he entered that at-bat with two hits already in the game. And so Williams’ decision to let Rendon try to give himself up — even as he worked the count to his favor and kept squaring to bunt on 2-1 and 3-1 counts — looks awful. Egregiously bad.

Fan frustration began to set in, as Williams was routinely booed by Nationals fans during games. This became an untenable situation for the manager and the franchise, so a change seemed inevitable.

While the Manager of the Year award is often handed out based on team record, rather than an indicator of actual skill at the job, Williams isn’t the first person to be fired by a team within a year of being awarded the trophy. Joe Girardi was fired by the then-Florida Marlins in October 2006, one month before he was awarded NL Manager of the Year.

The Nationals hired Williams even though he lacked previous managerial experience. He did lead the team to the postseason in his first season, so there were certainly good things he did along the way.

While it ultimately fell apart for Williams in Washington, he now has a better understanding of what the job entails and can be better prepared for the next position that comes his way. The best chance to prove people wrong is with a fresh start.

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10 Ways to Fix Washington Nationals’ 2015 Dumpster Fire

Max Scherzer’s expression tells the story of the Washington Nationals‘ 2015 season.

Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse for the Nats—the biggest disappointment in baseball—they did. A lot worse.

Jonathan Papelbon made sure of that on Sunday, when the volatile closer incited a dugout brawl with Bryce Harper by trying to choke out the best player in the bigs.

Now, general manager Mike Rizzo can add discarding Papelbon to an already daunting offseason to-do list. There’s no way around it—Rizzo has a ton of work to do this winter as he looks to put out the dumpster fire and get the club back in playoff contention in 2016.

The exec needs to revamp the bullpen, re-work the infield and decide what to do with an assortment of high-profile free agents. He also needs to show manager Matt Williams the door.

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Breakout Mets Clinch Division, Put Bickering Nationals Out of Misery

It is done. At last.

The inevitable seemed to drag out longer than anyone truly wanted it to, delaying what everyone knew was coming, which was jubilation on one side and a hint of finality about to set in on the other.

The New York Mets clinched the National League East title Saturday, hammering the Cincinnati Reds early at Great American Ball Park to ensure about an hour into the game that the celebration would be commencing soon.

The 10-2 win, which came on the strength of starter Matt Harvey’s 6.2 innings and two earned runs on 97 pitches, gave the Mets their first division title since 2006, and it will be their first postseason appearance since then as well. They did it as the heavy underdog; the Washington Nationals expected to trounce them when Opening Day rolled around in April.

Meanwhile, those Nationals, easily the most disappointing team in Major League Baseball this year, have been going through the motions. They claimed they believed in the postseason dream up until the end, even though the odds had buried them weeks earlier and their sense of urgency was gone well before that. The Mets’ official Twitter account highlighted the team capturing the NL East:

The Nationals also won a game Saturday, but by the time Bryce Harper hit a walk-off double to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the 12th inning, the Mets were already well into their celebration.

In fact, in the same moments Harper’s hit won the game, Mets rookie right-hander Noah Syndergaard was tapping buttons on social media to share with the world the feelings he and his teammates were experiencing:

The Mets are going to be the top dog in the NL East for a while—at least that is easy to believe right now.

They have position players still coming into their own, such as Travis d’Arnaud, and the franchise should be willing to spend the money to add to that core, whether it is re-signing impending free agent Yoenis Cespedes or finding offense in another form. Even with “Captain America,” David Wright, on the downside of his career, the Mets should feature a capable offense going forward.

The pitching, of course, is the foundation. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Syndergaard are the players who will decide the peaks this franchise reaches over the next handful of seasons, starting with these coming playoffs. With that kind of starting pitching core, the Mets can be penciled in to contend without hesitation.

The Nationals were built to contend in 2015, and the future was going to be unclear beyond that with key players hitting free agency.

While the Mets were viewed as an up-and-coming club still finding itself at the start of the season, the Nationals were thought to be the squad of mostly veterans—including 22-year-old Harper in his fourth year—built on potentially dominant starting pitching and enough offensive firepower to win, even if the starters had a letdown.

Now, more than eight months after the Nats signed Max Scherzer and became the overwhelming division favorites, the team seems a mess. It has devolved into one that has not played with urgency all year and has a sour aura surrounding it.

At least some of the men on the field blame manager Matt Williams, long seen as a strategic debacle, but now exposed as a flawed leader. General manager Mike Rizzo spent much of the downtrodden season defending Williams, but even he has cooled on the idea to the point where, whenever he is asked about Williams’ job security, he is publicly saying he will evaluate the entire team after the campaign. 

“It’s a terrible environment,” one player told Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. “And the amazing part is everybody feels that way.”

Managers probably have less of an impact on wins and losses in baseball than they do in other team sports. Even Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, a fiery skipper, understood the game is mostly an individual sport and that players affect the outcomes. Not managers.

Yet, when a manager is so “tense,” as Nationals players described Williams as being, minds can change.

“A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it made any difference,” another player told Svrluga. “But after what we’ve been through for two years? It’s huge. Huge.”

Those quotes were published Saturday night, around the time the Mets eliminated the Nationals from the postseason. Both instances combined to likely finish off Williams’ tenure with the franchise, one that won him the league’s Manager of the Year honor last season.

The Nationals are not done being competitive. They still have a rotation fronted by Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, a great pitching prospect in Lucas Giolito and they still have Harper, Rendon and other promising young position players like center fielder Michael Taylor and shortstop Trea Turner. Those players will help keep this franchise competitive in the immediate future.

The Mets and Nationals will likely have fierce battles for years to come, but this year’s will hardly be remembered as a competitive one. In the now, these are franchises headed in opposite directions, with one likely in the market for a new manager.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Matt Williams Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation on Nationals Manager’s Future

With the Washington Nationals’ disappointing season winding down, the future of manager Matt Williams will be one of the hot topics for the franchise.

Continue for updates.

Nationals GM Vague on Williams’ Future

Wednesday, Sept. 23

Speaking to 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C., Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did not give Williams a vote of confidence:

Williams, who won National League Manager of the Year last season, has certainly drawn the ire of fans in Washington. He was booed by fans during a postgame press conference following a contest against the New York Mets.

There have been articles writtenincluding this one by Dave Cameron of FoxSports.comabout Williams’ bad tactical decisions down the stretch as the Nationals fell behind the Mets in the National League East race.

Washington has had one of MLB‘s best rosters on paper for the past two years, including likely 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper, but it lost in the division series last year and will be home when the postseason starts this October.

All of the problems with the Nationals in 2015 aren’t Williams’ fault, but his questionable tactics combined with injuries and poor performances by key players could provide the impetus needed for management to make a change when the season ends.

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Nats Manager Matt Williams’ Job Security Has Reached Its Breaking Point

The most heralded, touted and celebrated team before the season started has used the first four-plus months of it to become easily the most disappointing.

The Washington Nationals would have shocked no one by winning 100 games this year, or by winning the National League East by double digits or by finishing the season with the Cy Young and MVP Award favorites on their roster. Coming off a year in which they won 96 games and then signed the best starting pitcher available in free agency, the Nationals were the clear favorites in their division and the popular pick to represent their league in the 2015 World Series.

But through spring training, Opening Day and into the dog days of right now, things have gone awry. Sure, there is the injury card, but it has also been dealt to league favorites like the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, so that excuse does not play at a table where those teams remain favorites to win their divisions. And unlike those teams, the Nationals currently do not hold a postseason berth with about 50 games to go.

Because of all of this, manager Matt Williams’ seat on the bench should be boiling. The security of his gig is at its breaking point, and it has been since the start of August, when the Nats went into Queens at the top of the standings and were swept back to the capital a second-place team.

Things remained bad during Washington’s seven-game home stand that wrapped up Sunday with a loss to the last-place Colorado Rockies. The Nationals finished the homecoming 3-4 and are now in the midst of a road trip that pits them against the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. They are scheduled to face Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.

The Mets series was the tipping point for a fanbase that has had plenty of criticism for Williams since he took over the job from Davey Johnson last season. Bullpen management, or a lack of competency for it, has been the sticking point, and that is the one area a manager can least afford to screw up. You can make ridiculous decision after nonsensical decision as a skipper, but if you can manage your bullpen, it masks a whole lot. Just ask Ned Yost, the Kansas City Royals’ front man.

How Williams handled his bullpen against the Mets drew sharp criticism locally and nationally. It was deserved. Equipped with a new weapon in his bullpen war chest, the NL’s reigning Manager of the Year never deployed closer Jonathan Papelbon or his previous closer Drew Storen despite there being plenty of high-leverage situations that called for it. Not for one single pitch, over the entire series.

Together, those relievers entered Monday with a combined 2.17 ERA, and it was lower at the time of the Mets series.

“Matt Williams has made all kinds of strange decisions this year,” Grantland’s Jonah Keri said on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight on Monday. “The bullpen certainly. … There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going on in D.C. and that they’re underachieving. The Nationals should be the best team in that division. They clearly haven’t [been]. You can’t blame it all on injuries. Williams, at least tactically, has hurt that club sometimes.”

This is a long-standing issue for Williams, and it’s the No. 1 gripe pinned on him by the frustrated fanbase. That became embarrassingly clear when fans were allowed to tweet questions to Williams as a part of the club’s local MASN broadcasts, as detailed by Scott Allen of the Washington Post last week. Honestly, this kind of comical backfire should have been predictable.

There are Matt Williams defenders. Sort of. More so, there are some less willing to crucify him on Twitter, where a simple search for the manager’s name and the word “fire” will drum up endless results—the same can be said for several, if not all, managers.

But this is not knee-jerk trolling. Not at all. This is rooted in bullpen mismanagement that is as deep as Williams’ tenure will allow, which is illustrated by another simple Google search of the manager’s name and the words “bullpen mismanagement.”

Williams’ bullpen maneuvers were questioned last season, but those questions turned into fiery pitchforks in October. The first head-scratcher came in Game 2 of last year’s National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants when Williams removed ace Jordan Zimmermann with a one-run lead and one out to go for the complete-game shutout. Storen allowed the inherited runner to score, and the game was eventually lost 100 hours later in the 18th inning.

Then, in Game 4, Williams’ decisions were indefensible. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs gave a great detail of them immediately after they were made, but the basic rundown is that in the seventh inning of a tied do-or-die game for the Nationals, Williams put relievers Matt Thornton and Aaron Barrett, a rookie, in clear positions to fail. Thornton matched up horribly with Buster Posey, and Barrett had control problems. Posey got a hit off Thornton, and Barrett walked Hunter Pence and then threw a wild pitch to allow the go-ahead run to score.

The Nationals were eliminated. Their best relievers—Tyler Clippard and Storen—never even warmed up. Their ace in the ‘pen, Stephen Strasburg, never got close to entering. Had Williams used them instead, and not lifted Zimmermann in Game 2, the Nationals might be the reigning World Series champions right now. They were certainly good enough.

But Williams’ major managerial flaw showed itself then, and it’s shown itself this season, including the last 10 days. Last year it cost the team in the postseason. This year it could keep the game’s best on-paper team before the season started from even getting there.

Lighting a fire under Williams’ seat is not a knee-jerk reaction. It should be a legitimate consideration for general manager Mike Rizzo and owner Ted Lerner before the season is a complete failure.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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2014 MOYs Buck Showalter, Matt Williams Embody 2 Sides of Baseball Management

On the surface, Matt Williams and Buck Showalter have a lot in common: They’re both former corner infielders (though Showalter never cracked a big league roster), they’re both managers of Beltway-based clubs and, now, they’re both 2014 Manager of the Year winners.

But there’s also plenty that separates the two skippers, including a decade-and-a-half of managerial experience.

Showalter, the AL winner, has spent 16 seasons at the helm of various MLB teams: Four with the New York Yankees, three with the Arizona Diamondbacks, four with the Texas Rangers and five with the Baltimore Orioles. And he’s made a habit of winning MOY every decade—in 1994 with New York, in 2004 with the Rangers and on Tuesday with the Orioles.

Williams, meanwhile, just finished his first season as the top man in the dugout after an exemplary 17-year playing career, during which he netted four Gold Gloves and made five All-Star appearances. 

“As a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game,” Williams told USA Today‘s Paul White after receiving the National League prize from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).

And he deflected credit to his players: “These guys made my transition easy,” he said, per ESPN.com.

If Williams leaned on his players, Showalter’s players lean on him. “We present ourselves as a prepared team, and we feed off our leader,” Orioles outfielder Adam Jones told Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun.  

It makes sense to trust a guy who has racked up 1,259 wins, third-most among active managers.

That’s not to say Williams doesn’t command respect in the clubhouse. The Nats hired him with the expectation that he’d be a players’ manager, as The Washington Post‘s Adam Kilgore reported in October 2013. 

But there’s simply no substitute for experience; greener managers often have to rely on their players, staffs and front offices, as Williams admitted to Kilgore, “It just means that our organization had a great year. We set out with the goal to be competitive every day and to go out there and have a chance to win, and we accomplished that. It’s a sense of pride for the organization.”

To be fair, Showalter often expresses the same brand of humility, despite his expansive resume. “We have great players, I’m just trying to stay out of the way,” he told ESPN.com‘s Johnette Howard in September 2012, as the Orioles were charging toward a 93-win season and a wild-card berth.

This year, Showalter did one better and guided the Birds to their first division title in 17 years. It’s a commendable accomplishment, even if it ended in a disappointing American League Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.

There’s something else the 2014 MOYs have in common: Like Showalter, Williams watched his club fizzle in the postseason, losing in four games in the National League Division Series to the eventual world champion San Francisco Giants.

The general perception is that Williams was outmanaged by San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy, who finished third in Manager of the Year balloting (BBWAA members cast their votes before the playoffs). John Canzano of The Oregonian summed up this line of thinking, undoubtedly shared by many in the Bay Area and beyond:

The bottom line, though, is that this is a regular-season award. And Williams piloted the Nationals to an NL-best 96-66 regular-season record, a 10-game improvement over 2013. 

Showalter can boast a similar swing—his O’s improved by 11 games compared to last year—and that’s surely what voters were looking at.

Williams and Showalter may stand at opposite ends of their career arcs, but this year they each got the one thing that matters: results.

Would both men trade their hardware for an October do-over and another shot at World Series glory? Most definitely. Will they be under an even more intense microscope if their squads make the postseason next year? You bet.

That’s baseball, where the question is always: What have you done for me lately?

For the moment, the grizzled managerial vet and the fresh-faced newbie can revel in an accolade that transcends service time and offers a reminder that each season, be it the first or the 16th, is a gift.

As Showalter told MLB.com‘s Brittany Ghiroli, “I am so thankful to get the opportunity every day. It’s something I never have taken for granted.”


All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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MLB Manager of the Year 2014: AL and NL Winners, Voting Results and Reaction

The Baseball Writer’s Association of America announced the 2014 Manager of the Year awards Tuesday evening, as Matt Williams of the Washington Nationals won in the National League and Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles won in the American League.    

Here are the National League voting results:

And here are the American League results:

Williams led the Nationals to a 96-66 record, the best in the National League, and topped the NL East by 17 games. While the team stumbled in the postseason, keep in mind that the BBWAA awards only take into consideration the regular season. 

Williams quickly deflected any credit for the award to his team, per MLB Network PR:

Still, he joined a pretty exclusive group, per the MLB on Twitter:

Eric James Byrnes of the MLB Network thought Williams was more than deserving:

Meanwhile, Showalter won this award for the third time in his career. Despite injuries throughout the 2014 campaign to key players like Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, Showalter led the Orioles to a 96-66 record and an AL East title, arguably the most competitive division in baseball. 

Showalter also has a knack for winning this award in regular increments, as ESPN Stats & Info tweeted:

Of course, perhaps Showalter winning the award shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to the MLB Fan Cave on Twitter, everybody loves Buck:

Both managers were deserving of the award. The dominance of the Nationals in the NL East was hard to ignore, while Showalter’s job in the brutal AL East despite major injuries was nothing short of incredible.

One would expect both of these managers would have their respective teams in the postseason race again next season.


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Bleacher Report’s Full 2014 MLB Awards Preview, Predictions

As the baseball industry awaits the first big transaction of the offseason—sorry, Adam Lind for Marco Estrada doesn’t exactly get the juices flowing—the focus shifts temporarily to another matter, the individual awards.

Until there’s a major move either in the free-agent market or on the trade front, the chases and races for MVP, Cy Young, Manager of the Year and Rookie of the Year hold our attention.

Starting Monday, Nov. 10, and continuing every evening through Thursday, Nov. 13, the winner of each honor in either league will be announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

With all of the finalists—three per for all four awards—having been determined earlier this week, here’s a preview of the choices and a rundown of the predicted winners.

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Bryce Harper Will Maximize Superstar Potential Under Matt Williams

The relationship between former Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson and outfielder Bryce Harper was highly scrutinized by the media this past season.

Harper was expected to play a major role in the team’s quest for a World Series title this year following Washington’s disappointing loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series in 2012.

However, the Nats’ highly anticipated 2013 season never came together as expected, as the team dealt with injuries to key players such as Harper and struggled to remain relevant in the playoff race until basically the final month of the regular season.

Because Harper was expected to be the driving force behind the team’s success this year, a big deal was made about the 21-year-old’s all-out style of play and inability to stay healthy. As a result, the relationship between Johnson and the promising outfielder became increasingly strained.

While there had always been concern about Harper’s playing style dating back to his arrival in the major leagues on April 4, 2012, it was never an issue until the outfielder ran face first into the outfield wall during a game at Dodger Stadium on May 13.

On May 26, Harper landed on the disabled list with left knee bursitis.

A little over a month later, Johnson and Harper engaged in a public disagreement after the outfielder expressed pause about beginning his rehab assignment ahead of schedule.

Johnson didn’t take kindly to Harper’s personal assessment of his own progress and potential return from the disabled list, per The Associated Press (via Sports Illustrated):

“I’ll have a conversation with him about that,” Johnson said. “When a player starts playing, it’s really up to me, what I think they need. Not up to the player. I’m always trying to do what’s best for the player. But at the same time, it’s my job to know when they’re ready and when they’re not.”

After missing 31 games on the disabled list, Harper made his return to the lineup on July 1 and, in classic Harper fashion, launched a home run in his first at-bat. However, after going 0-for-18 over the next four games, Johnson was considering resting the outfielder for an entire weekend series against the San Diego Padres.

Harper, of course, wasn’t interested in riding the pine and ultimately sent a text message to Johnson telling the Nats skipper to either “play me or trade me,” according to CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman.

Johnson was quick to defuse the situation and kept his response short, saying only, “He came in and we had a nice chat. As far as I’m concerned, he’s good to go.”

While Johnson’s attempts at managing Harper’s intensity over the last two seasons was admirable, the organization hopes that newly appointed manager Matt Williams will bring out the best in the 21-year-old.

In 2012, Harper was named the National League Rookie of the Year after batting .270/.340/.477 with 98 runs scored, 57 extra-base hits (22 home runs), 59 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 139 games. More significantly, the then-19-year-old played a vital role in the club’s 98-win campaign and playoff berth as NL East champions.

This season, Harper was limited to only 118 games due to injury and never posted the superstar-like numbers that everyone expected. That being said, it’s not as though his sophomore campaign was a failure by any means. Harper was still productive when in the lineup, batting .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI in 497 plate appearances.

However, the ball is now in Williams’ court in terms of furthering Harper’s physical and mental development during the 2014 season and beyond.

Though Williams lacks experience in the role, the first-time manager is confident that he can help the two-time All-Star maximize his potential and become an elite player.

In his introductory press conference last Friday, Williams discussed what it means to have Harper on his team as well as his plans for the outfielder moving forward, via Nats Insider:

“I’m here to help him,” Williams said. “I’m here to help him become the MVP and a Hall of Fame player. I want that for him. I want him to be that guy. I want him to be our leader. I want him to be the star that everybody wants him to be.”

“You just have to understand it, and that’s my job: to understand what Bryce does, understand the microscope he’s under,” Williams said. “It’s not easy being Bryce Harper. Who wouldn’t want to be Bryce? But it’s not easy. I understand that side of it for him.”

In general, Williams was highly complimentary of the 21-year-old’s approach to the game and overall demeanor:

“I love it, I love the way he plays the game. He plays the game the way it should be played,” Williams said. “He is all-out, every day, all the time, every game. He’s paid for it by getting injured and running into walls.”

Williams has no intentions of taming Harper or forcing him to become something he’s not. Instead, he wants to create an environment that will be conducive to the outfielder’s emergence as one of the sport’s best players, if not the best player:

“Now can we be a little smarter sometimes? Sure. And not necessarily run into that wall? Of course,” he said. “But the kid’s 21 years old. Let him go – this is a stallion. This is a guy that is ready to just explode. We’re going to try to give him the game plan to do that.”

While Williams’ handling of Harper next season will be endlessly dissected by the media as it was under Davey Johnson’s watch in each of the past two years, the Nats’ new skipper is already embracing the challenge.

Though time will dictate whether the change in leadership ultimately fosters Harper’s development as a superstar, it’s certainly encouraging that Williams is saying all the right things and seemingly eager to impart his wisdom. 

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