October 19, 2019

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.

Williams was tabbed to replace Davey Johnson after the 2013 season ended, and both spring training camps he oversaw were surrounded by talk of the team bringing a long-awaited championship to the nation’s capital. A National League-best 96 wins in 2014 garnered Williams the Manager of the Year award, but the topic of notably inflexible bullpen management came to the fore in a 3-1 National League Division Series loss to eventual world champion San Francisco.

The pickup of ace Max Scherzer last offseason looked to send Washington and Williams over the top, but injuries and continued by-the-book bullpen management began to take hold early. The trade with Philadelphia to get Papelbon raised eyebrows and coincided with a post-all-star-break swoon that the team would not recover from. The division champion New York Mets swept the Nationals in Queens in late July/early August, and a long stretch of losses in a West Coast swing soon followed. A glimmer of hope remained until New York again swept the Nats in mid-early September, this time on South Capitol Street. The middle game of that set saw Washington blow a 7-1 lead, and Williams was booed out of his own postgame press conference.

The Mets clinched the division on Sept. 26, and reports surfaced almost immediately that Williams, 49, had lost the support of the 25 men in his clubhouse. The very next day, Harper was assaulted in the dugout while Williams was said to be totally oblivious to the situation. Williams drew substantial ire when he sent Papelbon out to finish the game, and justified the decision in the post-mortem by saying “he’s [Papelbon] our closer” and that it was a tie game.

Social media was quickly flooded with calls for Williams to be removed from his position without delay. A report by the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga earlier this week indicated that star outfielder Jayson Werth accused Williams in August of having lost the clubhouse some time ago.

Unlike two years ago when Williams was the odds-on favorite to land the job, there isn’t a clear candidate to be the team’s sixth full-time manager since they moved to D.C. With a total rebuild of the bullpen in store, as well as a significant restructuring of the infield, general manager Mike Rizzo will be well-advised to act quickly but not hurriedly in perhaps the most important decision of his executive career.

History will determine the legacy of Williams and his role in the disappointment of his 328 game-stretch as skipper. However, the joy that Nationals fans are publicly exhibiting at this moment may speak louder than any future pundit’s analysis.

About Eric Hobeck

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Capitals. Eric contributes to high school sports coverage at InsideNova.com. He served as sports editor of The Rotunda at Longwood University for two years, where he was also the men’s basketball beat writer. He hosted a campus radio show for three years and called basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

%d bloggers like this: