Sep 28, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT
Matt Williams admitted fault for not recognizing the severity of Sunday’s dugout fracas between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper and for letting his now-suspended closer re-take the mound after the incident.
“I take responsibility for that,” Williams said Monday afternoon. “I could have gotten more information in that regard. I could have gotten more specifics on it. At that moment, it’s over with very quickly. They go their separate ways, and we’re in the middle of an inning. In that regard, I could have asked for more specifics, yes.”
Williams came under significant fire for his immediate handling of the situation in the bottom of the eighth, when Papelbon barked at Harper for not running harder down the first-base line on a routine popup and ultimately grabbed the presumptive NL MVP by the throat to instigate a brief but very public tussle.
Several teammates and coaches rushed to break up the fight, which occurred at the opposite end of the dugout from where Williams was standing. He said he was paying attention to the next batter at the time; once he turned to see what was happening, he caught only the waning moments of the incident.
“Looking at it briefly out of the corner of my eye initially, it was very quick,” he said. “You have arguments in the dugout. I didn’t get a chance to see the full altercation until after that. … I’m standing at the other end of the dugout and we have a hitter at the plate. That’s what I’m focused on. Then, it happens and it’s broken up very quickly and they go their separate ways. I go back to the game.”
Not realizing what exactly Papelbon did to Harper, Williams sent him back to the mound for the top of the ninth of what was then a 4-4 game. Papelbon wound up getting tagged for five runs before getting yanked to a chorus of boos.
When the game ended, Williams joined other players and coaches participating in the Nationals’ annual “Jerseys Off Their Backs” event following the final scheduled home game of the season, then came straight to the ballpark press conference room to meet with reporters. He hadn’t seen video of the altercation at that point and seemed surprised when asked why he let Papelbon remain in the game.
After watching the video later Sunday evening, he admitted the error of his ways and said he would have immediately benched his closer.
“He would have not gone out for the ninth inning,” the manager said.
Williams took blame for not asking his coaches for a more detailed explanation of the incident while also absolving his staff for not coming to him first without being asked.
“It’s my decision as the manager. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “There’s one guy that makes the decisions on the lineup, who to play, who to bring in from the bullpen, whatever that is. That’s my decision. Again, I didn’t get all the facts, at that time. So that lies with me. Beyond that, it’s not a coach’s responsibility to come to me and say: ‘I think you should do X, Y or Z.’ That’s the manager’s decision.”
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