With the regular season now over, the Washington Nationals were supposed to be awaiting their opponent in the National League Divisional Series. Bryce Harper, was supposed to be ready to be on the path to being one of the few players in Major League Baseball history to win regular season and World Series MVP’s. Max Scherzer, was supposed to be coming off of a Cy Young Award winning season (which he still probably will) and preparing to dominate in the playoffs. Matt Williams, was supposed to be conducting press conferences, team meetings, and performing all other necessary duties to prepare for that next step on the way to a World Series appearance and victory. The first in the history of the Montreal Expos / Washington Nationals franchise. Instead, Harper, Scherzer, and Williams will be reduced to cleaning out their lockers. Only, for Williams it will be for the last time in Washington. In a move that surprised no one, Williams (and the entire coaching staff) was fired Monday after two seasons as the Nats skipper.
Even though the Nationals, nor the Expos for that matter, have ever won a playoff series, they came into the season as almost everyone’s odds on favorite to win the World Series. So, what went so wrong to open the door for such a disastrous season?
Sure, there was the injury to infielder Anthony Rendon, to start the season. There was the injury to outfielder, Jayson Werth early in the season, and there were also nagging injuries to infielders, Ryan Zimmerman and Yunel Escobar, and outfielder Denard Span. Then, there is the Stephen Strasburg, situation. Strasburg, hasn’t been totally right since dealing with his injuries of a couple of seasons ago. Undeniably, the cards dealt to Williams were stacked against him this season. However, there just seemed to be some disconnect in the Nats’ clubhouse from the start and it all seemed to be centered around Williams.
That disconnect came to the forefront last weekend when closer Jonathan Papelbon, confronted Harper when the star outfielder jogged to first base on an infield grounder in the eighth inning of last Sunday’s game. Of course, Harper, took opposition to it and the two had to be separated by teammates. To make matters worse, Williams kept Papelbon in the game and admitted after the game that he had no idea the two had nearly come to blows in the dugout. How is that possible? Yes, Williams was on the other side of the dugout. But, it’s inexcusable for the manager of any team not to know immediately about everything that goes on in the dugout. Especially, something of that magnitude when it involves a star player like Bryce Harper.
In the end, Matt Williams, didn’t lose his job only because of that. But, it was likely the final nail in the coffin. The emergence of the New York Mets didn’t help matters at all either. It’s not a good look to the fan base when the Nats are in turmoil, and the Mets are the team headed to the playoffs. In the end, the Nationals did what they had to do. They had to start over at the top, and that meant Williams had to go. This team is too talented to be as mediocre as they were this season. Whomever, takes over as manager will have one of baseball’s most talented squads at his disposal. It will be interesting to see how well they do with it.
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