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Williams defends decision to have Rendon bunt

Sep 9, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

USA Today

After the Nationals’ bullpen collapsed in jawdropping fashion, after the Mets had not only tied the game after trailing by six, but then took the lead on a go-ahead homer, the Nats found themselves with a pretty decent chance for redemption.

The top of their order was up in the ninth against New York closer Jeurys Familia, and Jayson Werth led off with a single. That brought up Anthony Rendon, who won a Silver Slugger in 2014 and had already recorded two hits on the night.

Looking to get a runner in scoring position, Nats manager Matt Williams called for Rendon to bunt, instead of swing away. So, Rendon crouched forward looking to lay one down, as Familia smoked 97 mile per hour fastballs to the inside part of the plate.

Familia is not an easy pitcher to bunt against, but Rendon saw him well enough to work a 3-1 count. That shifted the at-bat in Rendon’s favor, but instead of pulling back and resetting for a full swing, he decided to stay with the bunt, intent on moving Werth to second.

Rendon made contact, but it was not soft enough and it allowed Mets first baseman to throw Werth out at second.

“It was bunted too hard,” Williams explained. “We got a chance to get Jayson on second base with arguably our two best hitters coming to the plate and didn’t work.”

Familia was careful in the next at-bat against Bryce Harper and walked him. Yunel Escobar then followed with a double play to end the game.

Williams said the Nats did consider allowing Rendon to swing at 3-1, but did not adjust their plan.

“Of course, but Familia is a ground ball guy. And he missed with three. If we go full there then we are going to swing, but just too hard of a bunt,” Williams said.

Having Escobar up with two men on in the ninth is a situation the Nats will take if offered again. Escobar has been one of the team’s best hitters this season and had three singles already on the night.

But not allowing Rendon to take a chance certainly loomed large afterwards in a game that will have plenty of people second-guessing what could have been.

  1. stoatva - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    If Rendon bunts successfully they walk Harper to get to Escobar with one out. We already know how that one turned out.

    • Section 222 - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:32 AM

      Yup. MW just doesn’t think ahead like that. Especially with a 3-1 or 3-2 count Rendon has a chance to do damage. And if they walk Rendon, the bat is in Harper’s hands instead of taken out of it.

      It’s almost like he turned into manic robo-manager, unable to adjust to the game situation once he makes a decision.

  2. wmlsays - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    MW is MW. Hindsight isn’t going to bring back anything. On to the next game, where another questionable decision will lead to more hindsights. Really, though, Rizzo just has not crafted a great team capable of anything but a few playoff appearances (every once in a while). The guy still gets a free pass. There are other GMs out there that are capable of doing the job as well, if not better, that Mike Rizzo. The Rizzo worship seems silly, He’s not Theo Epstein. The Pirates, Cards, Mets, Cubs, Mets are all better teams. They are accomplishing (or about to accomplish) things that the Nats were supposed to be capable of accomplishing (the reality is, they are not a WS caliber team). This year, they are, at best, mediocre. That’s on Rizzo.

    • thecack - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:55 AM

      Yup, its Rizzo’s fault that 10 players regressed significantly this year. He played no part in pulling a basement dwelling embarrassment of a franchise out of the cellar and opening a title window!

      It’s baseball. The playoffs are literally a coinflip crapshoot, and he put together a roster that was a legit contender for 4 straight years. They also won’t be significantly worse off next year, with a few blue-chip players coming in the pipeline for 16 and 17.

      He made mistakes with hiring Williams and betting on Treinin and Jannsen this year that compounded heavily when Stammen got hurt. And basically every single not-Harper regular player much worse than their career averages and/or were hurt.

      He’s a bum!! Fire his ass!!!!!!! Not winning the World Series makes him awful!!!!!!

      • wmlsays - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:00 PM

        The Nats have not improved significantly since 2012. In many ways, they have regressed. The team seems prone to injury. Bad luck may have a lot to do with it, but really, with everything Rizzo has done in the last three years, they are no closer to being a WS contender now than they were three years ago.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:09 PM

        “They also won’t be significantly worse off next year”

        Better check the condition of the franchise before you make that assertion. After four consecutive poor-to-terrible drafts, all seven of the Nats’ minor league teams finished under .500 and many of their prospects had terrible seasons. Turner and Pitcher Luke Giolito are the only two “can’t miss” prospects that are close to being ready–yet the team is losing six key players to free agency this year. Zimmerman and Werth will be even older and more decrepit, so yes, they could be significantly worse next year if they don’t make major changes–to include firing the GM that left them in such a sorry state.

      • Mike Gallagher - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:14 PM

        Spot on, thecrack.

  3. kkpp3 - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    I think I just heard the Earl of Baltimore chuckle in his grave.

  4. PM - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    At home, 3-1 count, and then choosing to give up an out voluntarily in the hope of TYING the game? Maybe MW thought Rendon could hit a 2-run walk off bunt? Time for the MW show to hit the road.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:10 PM

      Tie the game and bring the waterboy in to pitch the 10th inning. A BRILLIANT plan!

    • BatBoy - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      just out of sugery! OMG! All I may say! GYFNG!

  5. tcostant - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    You have three outs left, you give one away. Even it it worked, then will walk Harper. Bad Manager!

  6. phillygirl1807 - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    The team has been crafted with players who have decent numbers, but no HEART. It takes HEART to clutch hit and to clutch pitch. How could Storen walk 3 batters in the 7th inning? How could any of those “relief” pitchers fail so miserably? There were 2 outs! It’s as if they all collectively gave up. Played like little leaguers.

    I hope the team will be rebuilt with players who have a different mentality. We do not want to see spoiled babies, delicate flowers, and head cases any more. We don’t need 20-30 home run hitters who strike out again and again in key situations.

    We need fiery small ball players who hit in the clutch. We need pitchers who have steel hearts and who won’t panic if another player makes an error. We need a catcher who can frame pitches better and who is smarter about calling games. We need a bullpen with aces who can pitch without nerves. And we need a manager who is tougher and more resolute – who will sit players down who are not performing, regardless of how “likable” they are.

    We need a hitting coach who will induce players to change their hitting approaches and batting stands – or sit them down until they do. We need a pitching coach who will diagnose a problem quickly and who will work with the pitcher to solve the problem. And we need a training staff that will prevent so many players from getting oblique strains that make them miss half the season.

    All of this may take a couple of years. I’m willing to wait. I’m tired of being disappointed by the current group of Nats. They need to be cleaned out, for sure!!

    I will be at tonight’s game, mainly because I have a ticket. But I will not stay and watch another tragic 7th inning, that’s for sure!

  7. loudounhound - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    I have a question for everyone, and please forgive if it’s already been covered. Most contributors to this board want MW fired, as do I. Many have suggested Randy Knorr as at least an interim coach. We’ve seen Knorr make some pretty forceful/unexpected decisions when he runs the show after our manager has been tossed by the umpire. I don’t think I have ever seen MW consulting with Knorr when the camera is on the dugout. Has anyone? It seems like you see other bench coaches side by side with the manager in other dugouts.

    This team has been pretty tight lipped about any possible locker room discord, and I can appreciate all the reasons for not publicly airing disputes. Maybe there are none to report. Or maybe Knorr and MW have such differing opinions and opposite approaches that either, a) MW doesn’t even want to hear Knorr’s in-game opinions, or b) Knorr has long since given up voicing them because they fall on deaf ears. Maybe this is all my imagination in overdrive. Would appreciate your thoughts on the MW/Knorr relationship.

    • nats106 - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:55 PM

      Loudounhound, I don’t think it has been brought up.

      Randy Knorr has had a difficult year-far more difficult than anyone else in the Nationals management organization has endured, despite the lack of on-field performance. I can’t speak to their relationship directly or indirectly, but you just hit on something I never considered-that Williams and Knorr have or had a tight relationship that took a backseat to Randy’s loss of a loved one this season.

      That can be a devastating thing, affecting your work, even though you try hard to not affect it. You also helped me regain some perspective on this season. Some things are just not important as a freakin W/L record in the general scheme of things.

  8. Mike Gallagher - Sep 9, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    We need to rebuild the whiny, panicky, entitled fan base.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:21 PM

      Not a bad idea, but the minors are pretty bare in that regard, and to be honest, nobody else in the league does much better under these circumstances.

      • sjm308 - Sep 9, 2015 at 4:44 PM

        I think for the good of the team you should get a new sofa!! Maybe a recliner?

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:34 PM

      Gotta admit–the Potomac Nationals were so bad and unexciting this year that I attended only one of their games instead of my usual 3 or 4.

  9. alexva6 - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    they don’t play that way all year but since MW is getting grilled about not changing his ways when the situation is called for he does this so he can say “see I know when to change”

    but as usual it’s the wrong time to do it.

  10. zmunchkin - Sep 9, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    Matt Williams has repeatedly and consistently shown he has no clue about in game management.

    He had a checklist of rules to follow last year. He had a different one to start the year. And now he has a new one.

    What he doesn’t have: a clue about how to manage in-game.

    Bunting Rendon with Harper on deck is simply indefensible. Even if the bunt works, they walk Harper and then . . . well we know what happens next. Only five players in all of MLB have GIDPed more than Yunel:

    http://www.sportingcharts.com/mlb/stats/player-grounded-into-double-plays-leaders/2015/

    • sec112 - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:41 PM

      Of course a major contributor that is that no one has been on base more than the guy who frequently bats in front of him.

      I don’t think attempting a bunt was a terrible idea, particularly given that Rendon has not hit Familia well and had a horrible at bat against him Monday. And also considering the Mets truly horrible infield defense that could easily (and did previously) mess io fielding a good bunt. But I think you have to take the bunt off at 3-1 and try for a walk or hit.

  11. Joe Seamhead - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:06 PM

    From my old school of baseball mentality,giving up an out and taking the bat out of Rendon’s hands and having him try to bunt Werth to 2B in that situation against a guy throwing 97mph is just dumb ass baseball.

    • JayB - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:58 PM

      exactly Joe….not old school not new school thing just the fact that MW did it and did it with 3-1 count even shows all schools that he is a huge problem…he can not think on his feet and or is like Rizzo……very very stubborn

  12. langleyclub - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:32 PM

    Didn’t agree with the decision to have Rendon bunt as you never want to give a team outs when they have a late inning lead, but would we be having this conversation about whether Rendon should’ve bunted if Escobar hit a game winning double? Because the team lost and you can’t blame MW for the bullpen’s meltdown, the focus is now on the decision to bunt. The team lost the game and will miss the playoffs because of issues out of MW’s control.

    The players with a few exceptions have massively underperformed either because of injury or just a bad season. Of the Nats top 20 players heading into the season, all except Bryce Harper and Escobar have performed below expectation and that includes the entire starting rotation, and the entire bullpen (Espinosa, Robinson, MAT and Rivero were not considered among the Nats top 20 players heading into the season). When 18 of any team’s top 20 underperform either because of injury, age or just playing poorly, that team is not going to win.

    Also, the team as presently constructed is among the worst in baseball defensively. Bad defensive teams do not win (this bad defense has contributed to both the starting staff and the bullpen’s troubles).

    Finally the team has had bad luck. While injuries can be predicted to some small degree, no one could’ve predicted the number and frequency of the Nats injuries this year (which contributed to the poor defense as it kept Rendon from starting the year at 3rd). Also, constructing a bullpen depends at least in part on luck. Stammen got hurt, Barrett, Treinen, Janssen, Roark and now Storen have all under-performed among others. T

    Really hard to build a solid bullpen as relievers are so statistically hard to predict. The Cardinals have the best bullpen in the NL this year.

    One of their studs is Kevin Siegrist. He is 6-1 2.15 ERA 77K/68 IP. Last year, his ERA was 6.82.

    Another is Miguel Sogolovich: 4-1 1.73 ERA. He has not pitched in the majors since 2012. Anyone could’ve signed him.

    Even Steve Cishek has pitched well for the Cardinals after being horrible for the Marlins. So hard to predict which bullpen arms are going to succeed and fail from year to year. Rizzo can be blamed for the leaving the Nats with a bad pen, but arguments can be made in support of every reliever on the roster.

    As the manager, understand that MW is going to be the focus for the Nat’s dreadful season, but everyone from Rizzo to almost every player has a role in the team’s underperformance.

    • sec112 - Sep 9, 2015 at 2:44 PM

      + 162

    • knoxvillenat - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:01 PM

      Amen to all that you said. It seems to me a lot of people were conceding the division to the Nats early on but forgot the games are played on the field with real players and not the back of their baseball card numbers. Unfortunately for the Nats and their fans we’re finding out what a collective off year looks like when so many players either get injured (many at the same time), or just tank the entire season away.

      • coop202 - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:21 PM

        Would seem a lot of that has to do with Molina…

    • veejh - Sep 9, 2015 at 3:45 PM

      You took the words right out of my mouth.

  13. Section 222 - Sep 9, 2015 at 4:08 PM

    Here’s Tom Verducci’s take on the Rendon bunt decision:
    http://www.si.com/mlb/2015/09/09/mets-nationals-matt-williams-bunt-anthony-rendon

  14. micksback1 - Sep 9, 2015 at 5:22 PM

    3-1 count on Rendon who as 2 of 4 . Verse a 99mph fast ball pitcher. A good manager takes the bunt sign off and makes Familia throw strike 2 PERIOD.

    It would have been 2 on with zero outs and with Harper up, maybe he still walks loading the bases with zero outs or maybe Familia has to pitch to him. That option was gone because Stooge, no account Williams strikes again!

    Of course this no account clown of a manager takes NO responsibility in the post game. He never once admits a mistake that is why he sucks and this team sucks!

  15. kkpp3 - Sep 9, 2015 at 5:39 PM

    Is there any good reason not to fire Williams now rather than in the offseason? Let Knorr finish out the season. It moves the team on from the embarrassment of Williams’ failures, gives the team a kick in the butt (which probably should have happened a while ago), gives Knorr an audition, and at least clears the air a bit.

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