The Washington Nationals were supposed to win the World Series this year.
Instead they failed to make the playoffs, were beset by player disputes and greeted the last week of the season with a dugout brawl in which the closer choked the team’s best player.
When things like this happen the manager usually does not last long and so it was no surprise that the Nationals fired Matt Williams on Monday. Perhaps the bigger shock was that it took them until the morning after the regular season ended to do so.
In a slight surprise, general manager Mike Rizzo also fired all of Williams’s coaches including highly-regarded bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Schu. While a new manager will undoubtedly want a new coaching staff, those three were longtime members of the Nationals organization. McCatty had led one of baseball’s best pitching staffs and Knorr’s wife Kimberly had died this past June.
But baseball is a cold business and Williams’s teams did not reach the success many predicted for them. Hired before last season, his Nationals lost in the division series in 2014 to San Francisco and never really took off this year. Many of his decisions were questioned both in and out of the clubhouse. A recent Washington Post story quoted several players as saying they were frustrated with basic communications about things like days off and the expectation of when and where they would play.
At one point, according to the story, outfielder Jayson Werth confronted Williams before a game this year and said: “When exactly do you think you lost this team?”
The Nationals spent more than ownership was probably willing to spend on a roster this year, committing $164m to players including the signing of top free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. But despite two no-hitters from Scherzer and a season from Bryce Harper that should win the outfielder the MVP award, Washington struggled to remain in contention. Their 83-79 record is considered a huge disappointment.
The Nationals will now look for their seventh manager in 12 years as they try to find organizational stability to go with a strong group of young players who should form the core of a contending team for several more seasons.
This article was written by Les Carpenter in Washington DC, for theguardian.com on Monday 5th October 2015 17.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010