November 27, 2015

Washington Nationals fire manager Matt Williams, entire coaching staff

“This is not an easy thing. This is a business and as such requires some very, very tough difficult choices and this certainly was one of them.” — Mike Rizzo


Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo announced today that field manager Matt Williams was relieved of his duties.

Additionally, bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator Mark Weidemaier have also been informed their contracts will not be renewed.

“A tough day for me personally,” Rizzo said at Monday’s press conference from Nationals Park. “A tough day for our entire organization, but these are the first of the decisions that we felt we needed to make as we meticulously evaluate why the 2015 season didn’t go the way we had hoped.

“As I’ve said, this entire season was a disappointment, not only to myself, but to ownership and to the fan base of Washington, D.C. It was not our best year. It wasn’t Matt’s best year. It wasn’t my best year. As an organization, it wasn’t our best year. All of us, together, feel the disappointment throughout the 2015 season.

“We felt that it was right for us to look at every aspect of the organization and figure out ways that we could work better, getting us back on track to reach our ultimate goal, which of course, is bringing a World Series championship back to D.C. and its fan base.”

Williams, 49, led the Nats to an 83-79 record this season in what has to be one of the most disappointing seasons in MLB in recent memory. The Nats, consensus World Series pick by the national media, failed to make the post-season in Williams’ second season at the helm.

He made the playoffs and was named Manager of the Year last season, but even then, many thought the Nats succeeded despite Williams, not because of him. Williams’ questionable bullpen management was highlighted in the NLDS, especially in Games 2 and 4, when he lifted a cruising Jordan Zimmermann for Drew Storen, then put in Aaron Barrett instead of a rested Tyler Clippard, Storen or even Stephen Strasburg. Both decisions backfired.

During the first half of the this season, the Nats managed to hold first place despite playing with a makeshift lineup with regulars Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman all spending significant portions of the season on the disabled list. Stephen Strasburg joined them for a chunk of the summer and Doug Fister could not replicate his stellar 2014.

Despite all this, the Nats were still in first place in the N.L. East on Aug. 1.

At that point, the walking wounded returned, sending their lesser skilled backups to the bench. But baseball has a long-standing tradition of a month-long spring training for a reason, and Span, Rendon, Werth and Zimmerman all proved to be quite rusty when they returned to the lineup.

The team was swept by the Mets that first weekend in August and limped to a 4-13 record over the first three weeks of the month, turning a 3-game lead in the division to a 4 1/2 game deficit at the conclusion of the 10-game west coast swing.

Through it all, Williams’ bullpen management left much to be desired, repeatedly using relievers in rote roles instead of assessing the situation and utilizing the most appropriate pitcher, and his instance of asking players to sacrifice that had little experience or success with the technique particularly frustrated fans and pundits alike. Yes, the players weren’t performing, but often the manager was not putting them in positions to succeed.

Williams fate seemed to be sealed as the season dwindled, but a series of reports with a week to go in the season by Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga were particularly damning. In one of the reports, Svrluga described an irate Jayson Werth going off on Williams about his poor communications skills and asking Williams during a tirade “When do you think you lost the clubhouse?”

Then, on the next-to-last home game — on Fan Appreciation Day, no less — closer Jonathan Papelbon screamed at Bryce Harper for not running hard enough on a pop-up, then physically attacked the presumptive N.L. MVP, choking Harper and knocking him backwards into the bench. Williams, seemingly unaware of the severity of the incident in his own dugout, then sent Papelbon back out to pitch the next inning.

“He’s our closer,” Williams said about why he sent Papelbon back out after the fight. “That’s all I’m going to say on the matter. He’s our closer. In a tie game, he’s in the ballgame in the ninth inning.” This, despite the fact that the Nats had to acquiesce to Papelbon’s trade request that he pitch only in save situations.

The next day, after Williams had a chance to review the video, he confessed his lack of information about the incident and stated that had he known at the time, he would not have put Papelbon back on the mound.

When Williams was hired, he boasted of a day-to-day plan for spring training and the season and fans fell in love with the idea of his organization skills. But the organization turned into inflexibility, and inflexibility eventually turned into a seemingly tone-deaf manager that had been tuned out by his players and ridiculed in the media.

Williams is certainly not the sole reason for the Nats misfortunes in 2015. He had no control over the injuries, nor the players he had available to replace the starters. He didn’t control the Nats medical staff or their rehab programs. He couldn’t control that four position starters would all return within days of each other, rushed back into a pennant race without proper at bats to regain timing.

But the things that Williams did have control over became increasingly difficult to process and understand. He seemingly made the same mistakes over and over, either unwilling or incapable of making corrections along the way. And his manner with the media suggested a rigid inflexibility and adherence to pre-set roles.

The next Nationals manager will have a strong base to work from, but will inherit a lot of questions as well. The team’s fortune is tied to two aging players that can’t stay healthy and at least four prominent veterans are leaving via free agency. The team will most likely have a raw rookie at shortstop, and could have four new starters in the lineup on opening day from the previous year, plus a completely revamped bullpen.

But the new skipper will also have the reigning MVP in right field, an ace that threw two no-hitters and a one-hitter in the same season, and a second ace that was one of the two or three best starters in the league once he returned healthy from his second stint on the D.L. this year.

The 2015 season, which started with such promise, ended in disappointment and dysfunction. As it happens in so many cases, the field manager paid for that disappointment with his job. Perhaps Matt Williams will be given another chance to manage elsewhere in the big leagues. Maybe he becomes a trusted hitting or bench coach somewhere. But it was clear as the season drew nearer to a close that he was no longer the right fit to manage this group of players.

Sometimes it’s not fair that a manager pays for an underwhelming season by his players. In this case, Williams did more than enough to earn his dismissal.

Nationals Fire Entire Coaching Staff

The Nationals let their entire coaching staff go this morning, including manager Matt Williams, pitching coach Steve McCatty, bench coach Randy Knorr, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and advance coach Mark Weidemaier, according to

Matt Williams amassed a record of 179-145 in two seasons at the helm of the Nationals, but lost the division series in 2014, and failed to make the postseason despite a tremendously talented squad in 2015.

Washington Nationals Game 162 Review: Turn out the lights, the party is over


Curtis Granderson hit an eighth inning solo home run off reliever Blake Treinen and the Washington Nationals season — which started with so much promise but ended in disappointment and dysfunction — came to a close with a 1-0 loss to the playoff-bound New York Mets at Citifield in Queens.

Maybe in just the faintest bit of irony, Tyler Clippard (5-4) earned the win for the Mets, pitching a perfect eighth inning and striking out two.

The Nats (83-79) managed just two hits on the day — Clint Robinson’s single off Jonathan Niese, and Bryce Harper’s ninth-inning two-out opposite field double — which extended the season one more batter, allowing Jayson Werth to fly out weakly to center to end the season. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 160/161 Review: Scherzer Throws No-Hitter as Nats Sweep Mets


Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.
Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

The Lion in Winter, James Goldman

I ran into a friend at the grocery store between games today. Tony’s a long-suffering DC sports fan, and as we passed each other in the parking lot, he said, “Of course, now we can beat the Mets.

That’s how a lot of Nats fans must have felt on Saturday.

Not Max Scherzer.

After a 3-1 victory in the first game against the Mets, the Nationals sent Scherzer to the mound for the nightcap, and Scherzer pitched as if the Nationals were still in it. They might not have been, but Scherzer could’ve fooled anyone.

Even the most meaningless baseball isn’t devoid of meaning. [Read more…]


Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer struck out 17 en route to his second no-hitter of the season, beating the New York Mets 2-0. According to Game Score, he recorded a 104, which is second only to Kerry Wood’s all-time game score high of 105.

Full coverage coming soon on District Sports Page.

Report: Matt Williams to be fired as Washington Nationals manager

The Washington Nationals will fire Matt Williams as the team’s manager at the end of the season, according to CBS Sports.

The move comes as an expected beginning to a crucial and surely eventual offseason for the organization. 2015 saw preseason talk of a World Series title give way to an 81-78 record (at press time) and the face of the franchise, Bryce Harper, get choked in the dugout in the season’s penultimate home game by closer and trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Papelbon. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 159 Review: Strasburg finishes strong in win over Braves


It’s little solace after what was supposed to be a championship-caliber season, but the Washington Nationals guaranteed a non-losing  record, knocking off the Atlanta Braves 3-0 at Turner Field on Thursday.

Stephen Strasburg — completing his very strong second half — went six solid innings, Clint Robinson homered, and Felipe Rivero threw two perfect innings to record his first MLB save. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals Game 158 Review: Nats Shutout in Atlanta


Jordan Zimmermann drew the loss on Wednesday night at Turner Field in what was likely his final outing in a Nationals Uniform. The offense was sluggish and unable to produce, which surprises precisely no one at this point. A.J. Pierczynski and Michael Bourn added RBIs for the Braves in the first and second frames.

It’s hard to overstate the value of a pitcher like Zimmermann to the Nationals over the last half decade. He finishes his Nationals career at 70-50, a 3.32 ERA, and some of the most memorable mound moments in Nationals history.

The Braves struck early in the first, on a Nick Markakis double, followed by a single from A.J. Pierczynski. Michael Bourn singled in Todd Cunningham to add a second run in the second inning, marking the end of the offense for the night. Zimmermann settled down into a groove, scattering two hits after the second, and walking one and striking out another.

The Nationals couldn’t break through on Wednesday night, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. They left seven runners aboard, more than once leaving a pair aboard, having gotten them there with one out. The Nationals offense has been a source of much frustration for fans this year, and Wednesday night everything came up zeroes.

Jordan Zimmermann deserved a better farewell from his teammates, but given the farewell he was given from management last week at Nationals Park, I suppose that’s to be epected. Nothing is going right in Natstown these days. And that’s an awful pity.

HERO: Thanks for everything, Jordan Zimmermann. We’ll miss you.

GOAT: No goats, not tonight.

Washington Nationals Game 157 Review: Turner homers but Nats fall to Braves

In a game watched by almost no one in person, Trea Turner hit his first Major League home run but the Washington Nationals lost to the Atlanta Braves 2-1 in nearly-empty Turner Field in Atlanta.

Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski homered twice against Nats starter Tanner Roark twice to provide the difference. Pierzzynski went 3 for 3 on the evening.

Braves starter Matt Wisler gave up one earned run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

In off-field news, the team announced that Ryan Zimmerman would not play again this season due to the strained oblique muscle that has kept him out of the lineup the past several weeks.

Roark (L, 4-7, 4.63) allowed just the two earned runs on five hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings and 104 pitches — his longest appearance of the season.

Turner, who played second base and hit second in the order, went 2 for 3 with a walk. In very limited opportunities Turner is hitting .292/.393/.458.

The Nats managed just five more hits, including Reed Johnson’s pinch-hit single in Roark’s spot late in the game.



Washington Nationals suspend Jonathan Papelbon

The Washington Nationals have suspended closer Jonathan Papelbon for the remainder of the season, general manager Mike Rizzo announced today.

[Read more…]

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