Sunday’s dugout skirmish between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper will likely be the defining image of the Washington Nationals’ disappointing 2015 season.
It will also likely seal Matt Williams’ fate with the organization.
What are the odds that Williams – the National League Manager of the Year in 2014 – will be back next season?
“After yesterday, I’d say about five percent, 10 percent,” Washington’s 106.7 The Fan host Grant Paulsen said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I’d be very, very surprised. (General manager) Mike Rizzo did not like how that situation was handled. It’s too bad really because his tenure in Washington got off to a really good start. He was manager of the year, they won the division. People just assumed – because it’s a good team when he took over – (that) it was like him taking over the keys to a Ferrari (and saying), ‘Well of course they’re going to make the playoffs.’ That’s not always the case. If you really look around baseball – whether it’s Brad Ausmus in Detroit and some other examples recently where really good teams were managed by guys who just didn’t do a good enough job – Williams actually had a fine first season. The problem was they had injuries stockpiling this year. His in-game tactics and his decisions got more important and more vital in these close games, and he just didn’t pass enough of the tests. But it’s also clear in the clubhouse that he lost a couple of key players.”
Papelbon fighting Harper. Max Scherzer F-boming Williams during a mound visit and refusing to fist-bump him in the dugout. It seems there’s a lot of dysfunction among the team.
“I think it all stems form the underachieving and the disappointment of the season,” Paulsen said. “Now the detractors could say, ‘Every team has losses. So many teams didn’t accomplish their goals.’ I don’t know that there’s a team in Major League Baseball, though, with higher legitimate realistic expectations this year that performed at a poorer level than the Nationals did. They were the prohibitive favorites. They had the best record in the NL two of the last three seasons. They upgraded their personnel. They went out and spent a bunch of money on Max Scherzer.”
It all amount to an 80-76 record (entering play Sept. 28), a nine-game deficit in the NL East and a 10.5-game deficit in the Wild Card standings.
“I was at spring training. I know a lot of the guys very well,” Paulsen said. “(They thought internally) that they were going to run away with that division and that they were going to be the top seed in the National League and that this would be the year – because of Scherzer in that rotation – that they break through and win a World Series. You fast-forward to the final couple weeks of the year, and you’re chasing the Mets and unlikely to make the playoffs before getting eliminated this past week, and now you’re here in a situation where this was the last hurrah. This was the last year with this group because of all the departures looming. So I think that frustration really turned into a really poor working environment.”