In one of the least surprising moves of the MLB season, the Washington Nationals fired Matt Williams on Monday.
The Nationals, who spent $210 million on Max Scherzer in the offseason, were picked by many – again – to reach, and win, the World Series. Instead, Washington barely finished with a winning record (83-79) and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
How much blame does Williams deserve for the debacle that was the 2015 season?
“I don’t think you can necessarily say it was 100 percent his fault because a lot of players underachieved this year,” CBS Sports MLB writer Matt Snyder said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I’m not going to use the injury excuse, but they had a lot of guys underachieve. (General manager) Mike Rizzo is the one who made that trade for Jonathan Papelbon, and that seemed to really disrupt things in the locker room with Drew Storen falling apart after that. He was very well-liked in the locker rom – or is very well-liked in the locker room, I should say – and it doesn’t seem like Papelbon was. So that was kind of a problem created by the GM.
“But overall, I do think Williams did a bad job and down the stretch and made a lot of really questionable managerial decisions,” Snyder continued, “especially when they were playing the Mets head-to-head with his bullpen usage. And he gets a guy on in the ninth in one of the games they blew – they were down by one – and he tries to bunt with Anthony Rendon. Just a lot of situations like that where it’s like, ‘Man, it looks like he’s self-sabotaging here.’”
Yes, from the awkward mound visit with Scherzer, to Papelbon’s very public dugout altercation with Bryce Harper, it was clear that Williams – the 2014 NL Manager of the Year – simply lost the locker room at some point this season.
“You have the reports from the Washington Post, I believe, that said at one point Jayson Werth ripped the lineup card off the wall and there was a respected veteran screaming at Matt Williams in the locker room saying, ‘At what point did you lose this team?’” Snyder said. “So it just got to the point where he had to go even though it wasn’t 100 percent his fault.”
Washington finished seven games behind the Mets (90-72), who won the NL East. The Nationals won 13 fewer games this season than last season, when they went 96-66 and won the division. That was the largest season-to-season drop in the NL, trailing only Milwaukee, which went from 82 wins last year to 68 wins this year.
Williams is the first skipper to be fired just one season after being named Manager of the Year.