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After a disastrous week, looking to the future

Sep 14, 2015, 7:38 AM EST

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Amazing how much can change in just one week. Only seven days ago, the Nationals were riding some positive momentum, heading into their critical series against the Mets a manageable 4 games back, with a chance to thrust themselves right back into the NL East race.

That, of course, didn’t happen. After a disastrous sweep in that series, then a couple more losses to open the weekend in Miami, the Nationals managed to drop 5 1/2 games in the standings in six days, leaving them an insurmountable 9 1/2 games back.

Which means it’s time to begin turning the page on 2015 and looking ahead to 2016. Which is exactly what we did last night on The Baseball Show.

In this first clip, we discuss the fate of manager Matt Williams, plus a couple of the Nationals’ pending free agents…

In this clip, we look at Drew Storen’s future after his recent implosion and self-inflicted injury…

And in this clip, Chase looks at a top prospect who may figure into the Nationals’ plans for 2016…

  1. JayB - Sep 14, 2015 at 8:29 AM

    Just do not understand what positives MW brings? Can someone help me understand what is the upside…..Boz says he is average manager….do you build a team and plan for $150 M + roster with an average manager (that is BS by the way)?

    This is going to be ugly…what I sense from reading little bits of Rizzo in the paper is he is pissed at the players for under performing and being mentally weak….so he is making them pay and trying to exert his power over their lives as best he can….which in this day and age of professional sports means…..Rizzo is living a pipe dream and should be fired too.

  2. JayB - Sep 14, 2015 at 8:34 AM

    So next manager…..not hard at all to think up several that would be better than Boswell’s “average”….Ron Gardenhire would be a good choice as would be Bud Black. To keep MW over proven leaders like those two just will show that Rizzo is acting irrationally and Lerner’s need to think real hard about giving all that money and fan good will to Rizzo at that point. Lerner’s have a cash cow property…do you let it run down this fast by given control to Rizzo once he proves the MW is more important to the plan than anything else?

    • dcphanatic - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:27 PM

      Wow. You must be a very angry fellow. Look, Eizzo is not going anywhere and neither is MW. Live with it, or don’t. Better off, move to Somalia. Maybe there you might find someone that care what you think.

  3. RealNatsFan - Sep 14, 2015 at 8:50 AM

    I agree MW’s future depends on the reason the season. I know Mike Rizzo will do what’s best for the team even if it’s Rizzo’s guy. A lot has been said by Washington media and fans about Rizzo possibly getting fired. This is a mistake. Players have been wanting to come here as a result of the success record Rizzo is responsible for. Remember this team was successful with out MVP version of Harper. The bullpen was bad this year thanks to Stammen being out for the year, the fall of two very productive guys from the year before in Trienin and Barrett, and the Jansen disaster. Going forward this is going to be the biggest Challenge to fix.

    As for the other empty roster spots here’s a few possibilities: Fister and Jzimm gone so the logical step is for Roark and Ross to step in right? That’s fine but what about your depth? Giolito will make his debut but will he be next years Ross? I think signing a veteren SP to compete for a rotation spot is a must. Ross is still young and full options and could be that depth in the farm if there are injuries.

    Ben Zobrist would be a great addition to this clubhouse. Not sure what he would garner because of age but he plays infield and out and hit .290s this year. Oh and he’s a switch hitter something this lineup needs.

    Span is going to be missed, it’s Taylor’s turn. Den Dekker has proven to be a great pinch hitter and will be great off the bench.

    Trades are going to be the key this offseason both to restock the farm and to change the culture. I don’t know who will be here in 2016 but in Rizzo I trust.

  4. JayB - Sep 14, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    den Decker will not be great at anything….but more tho the point….change the culture is exactly correct…needed for many years like 8 or so…..was that what MW was supposed to do….is that the upside? I do not see it or any other plus to keeping him a day longer.

    • RealNatsFan - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM

      JayB so they needed a change of culture during those 96 and 98 win division winning seasons? I’m not dismissing that MW’s job shouldn’t be considered. The change of culture I’m referring to culture the players have with each other since there will be a lot leaving. Desmond will be missed as a leader in the club house. And I’m not say Den Dekker is the be all end all but look at his stats as a pinch hitter this year. Who are are you wanting to bring in next year player wise and are either of those managers you mentioned employed?

  5. derwink - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    At what point do they say thanks Ian and Danny but we need to see what Turner and Dilfo can do?

    • Guapo - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:46 AM

      Desmond is gone. Some team will pay him over market for his services, but not the Nats. I’m stunned he’s still in the lineup at this point. The remainder of the season should be focused on figuring out whom will be the 2016 SS between Escobar, Espinosa and Turner.

      • derwink - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:08 AM

        I agree. At bats for Turner can only help him at this point. I don’t mind Desmond but he’ll be playing for another team next year. They know what Escobar and Espinosa can do. Let Turner loose and let him develop.

        Play Trea.

      • Guapo - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:16 AM

        #playtrea

      • dcphanatic - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:44 PM

        I don’t want Desmond to take another at bat for the Nats ever again. I pray he takes his 200 Ks to the Mets next season! As far as I am concerned from game one of this season, when he ran over Uggla after a ball he had no business chasing. That play cost the game and set the tone for the season. He will finish the season with modestly better numbers that I figured he would. But every strikeout with RISP he took and his self absorbing way belays any leadership claims he might ever had.

    • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:09 AM

      Based on Rizzo’s comments (quoted in Nationals Journal this morning), probably not until we are mathematically eliminated. Which won’t be too long at this rate.

      I agree with him on that. As long as the games are meaningful for someome, they owe the fans who pay to be there in the last week, and the rest of the league, the best lineup we can put on the field, as long as the guys are healthy. Giving young guys ABs is secondary. September stats don’t mean a lot. That won’t stop some fans who have seen plenty for calling loudly to play Turner and Difo of course.

  6. Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    I have to say that the discussion of MW’s future on this show was pretty lame. After all that’s happened this year, particularly the collapse when the chips were down, his future depends on whether the Nats play hard during meaningless games in September? Really? I have a hard time imagining Rizzo making the decision on that basis, and for reporters/analysts it’s just a dodge to push off whether you think he should stay or go at this point, and even whether you think he will go or not, regardless of your personal opinion. If you don’t want to take a position on either of those questions, why do the segment at all?

    Now, am I sure he will go? Of course not. As noted, he’s Rizzo’s guy and if Rizzo wants to keep him, he can blame the season on injuries and point to his manager of the year title last year. But should he go? Absolutely. This past week was just the icing on the cake. Like Storen, he may work out well somewhere else. But his time in DC is irrevocably tainted by the failures of this year — not just the series of bad managerial decisions in recent weeks but the failure to figure out early on how to get past the injuries and make the most of what appeared to be a historically good roster.

    I think the fan base will be very upset if he’s back next year, and frankly, I can’t imagine the Lerners want to see any more of his face at those post game pressers either.

    • JayB - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Thank you 2’s……why is it so hard for Mark or “real fans” as defined by this blog…..to see what is so clear….he is clueless in game…..and no fun the rest of the time…..Bos saying he is an average manager after killing him the day before had to be the result of a call from Rizzo saying take it back or no access beyond min your press pass get you.

      • nats4me - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:09 AM

        Let’s think that scenario through logically….so you are saying that Rizzo threatened one of the most prestigious baseball writers in the country, who works for one the most prestigious newspapers in the country because he was hard on his manager?

        I think your bias against Rizzo and Williams is beginning to show in areas that are best left to those who believe in UFO’s, and other conspiracy theories.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 14, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      You nailed it.

    • kkpp3 - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:02 AM

      Agree with all you said

      Rizzo’s attitude right now shows a tin ear when it comes to the fans. He says the bullpen collapse is “probably the reason we’re at where we’re at right now.” Really, you think? No %^#* Sherlock. And saying the team will “play hard to win every game” for the rest of the season is just pablum.

      I don’t see any advantage for the team In keeping Williams. Rizzo, of course, has a vested interest in giving him a chance to redeem himself. In keeping Williams, Rizzo will avoid admitting a mistake now and hold out the opportunity of a better season for MW next year and a chance to say “see, I was right all along.”

      • bowdenball - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:18 AM

        This is a little ridiculous. A tin ear? I seriously doubt it. Rizzo knows exactly what fans are thinking. He’s just not going to undercut his manager or his team until the season ends. What exactly would you have him do differently? Fire his manager with three weeks left in the season? What does that accomplish? Absolutely nothing other than making it harder to hire the next manager. Read the riot act in public to his players? Again, accomplishes nothing.

        Nothing is going to happen until the end of the season. There’s very good reasons for that. Once the season is over Williams will almost certainly be dismissed. Anything you hear between now and then should be taken with an ocean of salt.

      • kkpp3 - Sep 14, 2015 at 12:44 PM

        I agree, Rizzo must know what the fans are thinking, but his comments don’t show that. Hence the tin ear crack. No need to go from pablum to reading the riot act. Either say nothing or say something with some substance at this point. I’ll keep my salt shaker handy.

        Firing Williams during the season and giving the job to Knorr Is a big step, of course. I don’t see it as undercutting. Williams would be gone; nothing to undercut. Everybody knows that managers often pay for the failures of their players as well as for their own. It might have lit a fire under the players earlier, when it still mattered, but not now. But if you’re going to fire Williams, why keep him twisting in the wind till the end of the season? Give Knorr the job and provide a little joy for the rest of the season.

  7. brooksandstreams - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Admittedly my perspective comes from the outside looking in (a Mets fan so take it for what it’s worth). I don’t think there’s any question that this season has been a disaster for MW. Injuries aside, it looks as if his regimented style is wearing thin with the Nats players. But i’m curious…why isn’t Rizzo’s seat hotter? Looking at your team from last season: Trading Clippard was mistake at the time because of the fickle nature of bullpens from year to year; Scherzer seemed like overkill considering the year you got from Roark and this season…while i get he might not have been great in the postseason, but Storen was a top-tier closer in the NL before Papelbon came and took his job (which was tawdry on all fronts: for Papelbon to demand the closer’s job and for Rizzo to agree to it). IDK, i’m sure i’m missing something, so you guys tell me….

    • bowdenball - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      Well, the first thing you’re missing is that the Clippard trade was a clear success. Escobar has clearly provided more value than Clippard this season and is also under contract through next season while Clippard is a free agent. It was an easy win. The 2015 team would have an even worse record if it had Clippard but not Escobar, easily.

      The broader question of why Rizzo’s job isn’t in jeopardy- he inherited the worst team in baseball and built them into a team that has won two division titles in three years and will finish above .500 four years running while also ranking in the top ten of the minor league system rankings throughout the rebuild. He’s made far more good moves than bad ones- for an example look no further than the Souza/Wil Myers three way trade that brought Joe Ross and Trea Turner to the Nats for next to nothing. If you go back through the years you’d see that many of the pieces of the current team came other savvy moves- Roark, for example, came to us in a Cristian Guzman deal back at the start of his tenure.

      Bottom line, he’s done an amazing job building a team with a reasonable chance to make the playoffs every year without ever sacrificing the future to do it. The fact that there’s people criticizing him and the team so loudly in a season when the Nats will finish with a better record than in any season prior to his tenure as GM is proof of that.

      • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 12:32 PM

        I agree 100% bb. The problems this year were not of Rizzo’s making. He made the right moves to address a weakness at 2B (Clippard for Esco) and then fill Clip’s role in the bullpen (Janssen and later, Carpenter). I’ll bet if you go back and look at the comments here not a single person predicted that Barrett, Treinen, and the long shuttle of AAA replacements for them would be so bad. And while some correctly doubted that Werth and Span would come back fully recovered strong from their off-season surgeries, no one predicted serious injuries to Rendon and Zim (well, some predicted he’d be injured because, well, he’s injured a lot), and nagging problems for Stras and Fister. Nor did anyone expect Desi to take 100 games to get going.

        He even made a smart and virtually cost-free move at the deadline to strengthen the bullpen. Anticipating Storen’s post deadline meltdown is not something it’s reasonable to expect. No one is inside that guy’s head. And it’s impossible to judge whether we could have or should have acquired CarGo or Cespedes without knowing what the asking price was. Besides, Werth has been pretty good offensively since the deadline and Span’s new/re-injury was a surprise to all of us.

        Basically the problem for this team this year was underperformance from and/or injuries to too many key players combined with brain dead by the book in-game managing in too many key situations. Not Rizzo’s fault by a longshot and I don’t expect the Lerners to judge him harshly.

        MW? That’s another matter entirely.

    • someguyinva - Sep 14, 2015 at 1:10 PM

      Rizzo’s seat isn’t hot because he built a roster that was the consensus pick to run away with the NL East and contend for a World Series title. The fact that the Nats haven’t lived up to expectations can’t be laid at the feet of the GM, in my opinion, because he put the pieces in place to make a run.

      Remember back to the morning of July 31 of this year, when the Nats woke up in New York with a 3 game lead in the division, despite all the injuries they’d suffered to date. All the regulars were coming back from the DL, and Papelbon was in uniform to address the bullpen’s problems, allowing Storen to handle the 8th. Yes, Storen wasn’t happy about his demotion, but he was in the middle of a five game post-trade stretch where he’d pitch five innings and allow one baserunner – http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=storedr01&t=p&year=2015&share=1.60#336-340-sum:pitching_gamelogs For the Nats to be leading the division at that point, despite all the injuries and bullpen ineffectiveness they’d suffered up till then, says something about the strength of the 40 man roster that Rizzo put together.

      (Some have said that Rizzo should’ve gotten a bat at the trade deadline, but I still don’t know where a bat would’ve played. Werth makes too much money to sit, Taylor shouldn’t be sent down, and Espinosa was available to replace Desmond or Rendon as needed. Also, we as fans don’t know how much money he had permission to take on so it might not have been a possibility, anyway.)

      Of course, everything went to hell starting on July 31. The Mets swept the Nats while Storen and Papelbon watched, because Williams couldn’t figure out how to get either of them into a game that weekend. After that the Mets won approximately 407 games in a row, while Cespedes and company scored eleventy billion runs; meanwhile the Nats bumbled through a homestand against the Dbacks and Rockies, then they seemingly went hitless on a ten game roadtrip through LA, SF, and COL. They had one final gasp, putting together a hot streak that got them within four of the Mets a week ago (and could’ve been closer save for a couple of bullpen meltdowns in St. Louis the week before), but they were rightfully pronounced dead when last Tuesday’s game ended with the Mets winning 8-7.

      I suppose if there’s blame for Rizzo, it’d be in bullpen construction, but even there, injuries, guys not pitching up to past performance levels, and starters not being immortal as expected all put more strain on the bullpen than perhaps could’ve been foreseen. In the end, however, I think Rizzo should survive.

      • raleighnat - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:53 PM

        That’s my take. Rizzo built a quality team – granted with weaknesses in the BP which were addressed at the trade deadline. No one could have foreseen a) the extent of the injuries but more importantly b) how bad so many players with strong track records would perform. Its on the players first and Williams didn’t appear to nudge the needle in the right direction. Really, it is on the players inability to stay healthy and perform. Just consider the years that Rendon, Werth, Zimmerman, Strasburg, Fister, Ramos, and Desmond had? Add the collapse of Scherzer and Storen and good lord that’s a lot players that overall played very poorly or on very limited duty.

      • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:00 PM

        Well said someguy. It’s hard to remember just how good things looked before that sweep in NYC. And just how out of their minds good the Mets have played since then.

  8. Joe Seamhead - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:11 AM

    “I love these guys,” he said. “These are my guys. I’m nothing but a loyal person to the players. I think we have a great ballclub. I still have great confidence in what they can do. At the end of the season, ask me that same question. Because that’s the litmus test. It’s ‘where are you at at the end?’ I’ll go to battle with this group of guys any day of the week.”

    Mike Rizzo
    Aug.15,2015
    Washington Post

    • Candide - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      “I am 1,000 percent for Tom Eagleton and have no intention of dropping him from the ticket.”

      George McGovern
      July 26, 1972

      (One week later, McGovern accepted Eagleton’s offer to withdraw from the ticket.)

  9. JayB - Sep 14, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    Question is will Mark have stones to ask using this quote?

    • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      No, that’s not the question at all. Mark’s role is not to play the angry, frustrated fan. Your blood pressure would be a lot lower if you understood that simple fact and let it go.

      • Steady Eddie - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:33 AM

        Wise counsel, but someone who is persistently nasty and insulting to Mark on Mark’s own blog is not likely to listen.

        (Yeah, it’s not fully Mark’s blog or he would be free to make it better in ways that he can’t now.)

  10. jeromeaquino - Sep 14, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Bowdenball.

    I read your comments about MW’s likely dismissal. I disagree.

    1. Last year he was manager of the year. Did he suddenly get stupid, or does player performance have something to do with it along with injuries.
    2. Davey Johnson was not retained because he was too laid back. MW is highly strung, type A.
    3. Managers do not become great overnight. Didn’t Joe Torre have some clinkers before he managed the Yanks. Same with other managers.
    4. The core group, Rendon, Harper, Taylor, Espi, Escobar, Pap, Scherzer, Ross is good. They need to retain Jordan Zimm along with a definite upgrade at catcher.
    5. I don’t dispute the year was a disaster. But to fire MW is not justified.

    • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 12:33 PM

      Needless to say, I disagree. But you’ve laid out the best case for him. Will Rizzo buy it? I doubt it, but we’ll see.

      • natsjackinfl - Sep 14, 2015 at 1:55 PM

        It’s not Rizzo. It’s Ted Lerner.

      • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:05 PM

        Well yes, NJ, the Lerners could force Rizzo to fire MW if he wants to keep him, but do you really think they will? I expect Rizzo’s decision will stand. But he’ll put his own job on the line after next year if that happens b

    • nattyboh1 - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:56 PM

      Reality check, there is zero chance they re-sign JZimm.

    • raleighnat - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:56 PM

      I think we can at least say that Matt Williams at the very best is a neutral influence. It really is on the players but why in the world would you keep Williams when there are clearly better, more experienced and balanced alternatives available (like Bud Black or Gardenhire).

  11. philipd763 - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:24 PM

    Rizzo, if he’s still around, may change his attitude when the team plays in front of a lot of empty seats next season. With Scherzer’s eye watering contract, I would guess ticket prices are going up big time for next season.

    • Section 222 - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:06 PM

      You guessed right on that. Big price hikes for already announced.

      • natslive - Sep 14, 2015 at 5:51 PM

        And guess not a lot of renewals right now because marketing dept is sending out Nats plus presentation emails trying to get fans to come to a game and listen yo their spiel

  12. Whack-A-Mule - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    If one wishes to speculate upon managerial replacements for Matt Williams, I am horrified at the idea of hiring either of the 2 proven losers (Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire) being bandied about .

    Black’s entire managerial career has him as a second-rater in the N.L. West. His greatest accomplishment ?
    A Phillies-esque (or Red Sox-esque) collapse in 2010, blowing a 6 1/2 game lead over the Giants via going 12-16 in September.
    Black is completely untutored in the post-season (or how to get there).

    Gardenhire was a collossal mediocrity in all of his years in Minnesota, reaching the A.L.C.S. only once in 13 seasons (and losing). World Series ? What is that ?
    Again, if not an abject loser, at least a proven non-winner.

    If managerial change is in the cards, perhaps we should be looking at :
    – Bo Porter
    – Brad Ausmus
    – Randy Knorr

    Or perhaps stand pat another year and undertake the roster ugrades which should have happened over the past winter.
    This season’s “sow’s ear” could not have been made into a “silk purse” by Bruce Bochy and Tony LaRussa combined.

    • nats106 - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      I’m sure Whack-a-Mule is being Tongue-in-Cheek.

      So let me respond in kind…..

      Ausmus? Really? And he’s done such a great job in Detroit. Bo? Gotta love Bo, but look at the record of any team he’s been associated with (and then look at their record after he’s gone).

      Your Knorr knomination makes me think for a second that your whole statement is serious, but then again…..

      How about dusting off Dusty Baker?. At least he is a winner in the regular season.

      Maybe we should stay with MW and have a designated Natsinsider every game to “assist” in Bullpen management since we all know more than both Rizzo and Williams combined, especially ME.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:37 PM

        And there’s the rub. If you want a manager with MLB experience who’s not under contract, chances are he’s been fired at least once, maybe twice. If you want a manager who’s won a World Series, he’s either still with the team he took to the WS or he’s retired. If come around to the view that Matt Williams probably isn’t the best manager for the Nats and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s dismissed after the season, but I would be hard-pressed to identify the perfect successor.

  13. nats106 - Sep 14, 2015 at 3:29 PM

    And all kidding aside, Bowdenball, very nice summary on Rizzo’s value. While we’re all wallowing in self pity of a frustratingly mediocre year when great things were expected, he has strengthened this ball club greatly over the past several years.

  14. jfmii - Sep 14, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    Doesn’t Matt Williams have a guaranteed contract for 2016? For my amateur baseball brain, I HATE his in-game management. But really, can anyone really define what makes a great manager or head coach? For all the reasons stated numerous times, this team had tons of things go wrong, most of which were not his fault, nor caused by him.

    He will be here in 2016. I won’t like it. Many will scream. But he will be here, and I can’t really say it will be wrong if he is.

    • kkpp3 - Sep 14, 2015 at 6:03 PM

      Was Williams the only reason for the collapse? No, of course not. Was he the biggest reason for the collapse? No, of course not. Did he make matters worse? Yes, I think so. And for that he should go. But I concede that a persuasive argument for keeping him would be that there’s nobody out there who would do any better. But Is that true? How about Knorr? How about Cal? Are there others?

  15. JamesFan - Sep 14, 2015 at 7:33 PM

    Mike Rizzo gets great credit for building the Nats into a competitive, interesting and promising team. He has never been great at creating a bullpen, and hiring MW looks to be a huge mistake. Someone has to take responsibility for the collapse of a very good team–and it is Williams.

    I can’t imagine returning Williams in 2016. If the team tanks or gets off to a slow start, the Nats will have to fire him in mid-season, and then Rizzo’s reputation also will be in jeopardy.

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