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Williams on criticism: “It’s never any fun”

Sep 9, 2015, 6:19 PM EDT

AP

Matt Williams has heard the fervor building over the last few weeks. He knows the criticism being levied at him. But he knows he can’t get caught up in any of that.

“Well, it’s never any fun. I can tell you that,” the beleaguered Nationals manager said Wednesday afternoon. “But if I know anything about our group, or if I know anything about myself personally, when times are difficult, you put your head down and you go. You don’t have a choice in this game, other than to be prepared for today and let ‘er fly. That’s what we do.”

Williams has taken heat for in-game decision nearly since he started the job last season, from his controversial benching of Bryce Harper for a lack of hustle to his by-the-book pitching changes during the playoffs. He wound up winning NL Manager of the Year honors over the winter, but the criticism hasn’t subsided in his second year in the dugout, again much of it focused on his pitching moves and in-game strategy.

“It’s part of the job,” he said. “I know that we’re all, to a man in that clubhouse over there, doing everything we can to win a game. We stand by each other. I support our guys. I support our coaches. And we’re in this together.”

Media criticism has been present for awhile, but fan criticism has perked up considerably this summer. Rarely does Williams make a trip to the mound without hearing at least a smattering of boos.

The nadir likely came Tuesday night, on the heels of an 8-7 loss to the Mets that featured a seventh-inning meltdown by the Nationals’ bullpen, followed by Williams’ questionable decision to have Anthony Rendon bunt with no outs and the tying run on first base in the bottom of the ninth against New York closer Jeurys Familia. (Rendon wound up working the count to 3-1, then bunted a high, 98-mph fastball too hard, resulting in a force out at second base.)

Then came Williams’ postgame press conference, at the end of which a couple of fans watching from the adjacent Presidents Club could be heard booing as the manager wrapped up. The visual — a beleaguered skipper walking away after a horrific loss to boos in a location where that wouldn’t typically happen — was as bad as it gets.

“Our fan base is fantastic,” Williams said Wednesday. “They’re passionate about this team. They want us to win desperately, as we do. And we want provide that for them. We want to provide a quality team that they can come and enjoy watch play and they can get behind. Hopefully that starts today, and we can make a race of it.”

  1. jfmii - Sep 9, 2015 at 6:29 PM

    He was a good player and probably is a good guy. But he just doesn’t have “it” when it comes to in-game management. Davey had “it”. Davey always wore out his welcome with players and management, but he was always one step ahead once the game started. And my favorite, Chuck Tanner

    • ehay2k - Sep 9, 2015 at 10:38 PM

      Except when Davey failed miserably by trying to be too clever, such as when he brought EJax in for relief in NLDS game 5.

  2. JayB - Sep 9, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    dope….not a clue why this is happening…..and trying to wrap himself in players and asst coaches fake support…he is trying to save his job but has not clue why such a wide sector of baseball is calling him out on stupid moves….amazing he is so dumb he misses K. Law and John H and players mocking him to his face.

    • voteforno6 - Sep 9, 2015 at 8:04 PM

      I wonder how much Keith Law knows about people, or baseball for that matter.

      • NatsLady - Sep 9, 2015 at 11:24 PM

        I detest Keith Law, and avoid his writing whenever possible.

    • sunshinebobby - Sep 9, 2015 at 8:22 PM

      I’m not a big MW fan, and probably hope he gets sacked. But I hate Keith Law even worse.

      • Joe Seamhead - Sep 9, 2015 at 9:01 PM

        With good reason, Bobby.

  3. rmoore446 - Sep 9, 2015 at 7:06 PM

    I have some sympathy for Williams, even though he has been too rigid. He has recently relented on the slots where he used his relief pitchers and has been bringing in Storen and Pap earlier than the 8th and the 9th. He has tried to adapt but nothing helps when no matter what buttons are pushed, it doesn’t work. As an old-timer, I’ve seen a lot of managers. Jeeze, I’ve watched Leo Durocher manage some games and at the top of most admired managers, I’d certainly list Walter Alston–names lost in the mists of history.

    I agree that Williams doesn’t have the “it” as Davey and others had and have. But he is trying his best and even, finally, adapting due to adverse circumstances. Would I rather have Bud Black now? Yes. But I don’t think that is going to happen. I also see some growth in Williams in the recent adversity. If he can survive, he might eventually become a good manager. But that’s an open question.

  4. knoxvillenat - Sep 9, 2015 at 7:37 PM

    I kind of like NatsJack’s suggestion of Ron Gardenhire myself. I’m firmly convinced however that Rizzo is the type who will hire only one of “his guys”, someone he has a past with such as Rick Schu or Matt Williams. I just don’t see him being one to look at another organization for coaching or managerial talent.

    • Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 9:45 PM

      Another reason Rizzo should be fired.

  5. voteforno6 - Sep 9, 2015 at 8:02 PM

    Everybody’s an expert. There’s a lot more to being a manager than using a particular player in a particular spot. What could Matt Williams have done differently? Maybe the players just weren’t good enough – at what point is anyone going to blame them?

  6. senators5 - Sep 9, 2015 at 8:37 PM

    As much as I have admired RZ, it is become increasingly obvious that his time is growing short way too fast for the Nats and the entire NL. I would hope that JZ could stay and move RZ to the AL where he can become a DH. With the exception of Harper and maybe Rendon the rest could leave tomorrow and I would not be upset.

    • knoxvillenat - Sep 9, 2015 at 8:48 PM

      I’ll add MAT and Stras to your list, I don’t want to give up on either of them.

      • Karl Kolchak - Sep 9, 2015 at 10:29 PM

        Turner either. Kid just got here.

  7. ehay2k - Sep 9, 2015 at 10:42 PM

    Phil Wood made an interesting observation on the post game show tonite. He noted that none of the players have publicly come out and backed MW as he absorbed all this criticism. That could mean nothing, but I hadn’t noticed that until Wood said it.

    • micksback1 - Sep 10, 2015 at 3:13 PM

      Stras’ expression on his face in the dugout speaks volumes of where the team is in regard in believing in MW. I believe the players are all on the same page in now knowing they have had an arrogant, no account, stooge run their ball club.

  8. Guapo - Sep 10, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Hopefully, you’ll find golf to be more fun. Sorry things didn’t work out.

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