Sep 29, 2015, 12:18 PM EDT
With the team he constructed fresh off being eliminated from playoff contention, with his manager under fire and his team in the national spotlight for a public brawl featuring the best player in baseball, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo took the podium after Monday’s game to a barrage of camera flashes, ready to answer as to why the Nats had found themselves in one of the more embarrassing baseball moments in recent years.
Rizzo fiddled with the microphone as he did his best to explain how Jonathan Papelbon, the closer he acquired just days before the trade deadline, had turned the Nationals’ home dugout into a UFC octagon just 24 hours prior. He gave his personal opinion on the unfathomable decision to put Papelbon back into the game after he grabbed one of the game’s brightest young stars by the throat and slammed him into a wall on live television.
And then the conversation took a sharp turn, as questions of not only Matt Williams’ job performance arose, so did queries about the man at the podium, the brilliant baseball architect whose deal to bring Papelbon to Washington has arguably turned into one of the more colossal mistakes made by a baseball front office in recent memory.
The job security of Rizzo has not seriously come into question publicly, but the future of the manager he hand-picked before the 2014 season certainly has. Rizzo was asked point blank of Williams will be back with the Nationals in 2016.
“We’re going to make 2016 decisions after we finish 2015. He’s under contract to be the manager next year,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo then explained why he thinks Williams has struggled to keep the Nationals afloat this season:
“I think Matt has persevered through a lot of different injuries, a lot of different ebbs and flows of the season. He’s had to juggle maybe as many different lineups as any manager has in baseball and many injuries at different times and groups of players coming off the disabled list at the same time.”
Multiple outlets including CBS Sports and The Washington Post have reported on a rift within the Nats’ clubhouse, some suggesting Williams has lost the support of key players. Rizzo would not respond to those accusations directly.
“If I knew who that person was, I would respond to it. When it’s some blind accusation from an unnamed source, I don’t react to those,” he said.
But Rizzo would give a direct defense of his own job performance, keying in on preseason predictions which have become a sore subject for the team as a whole.
“I could say that the roster we put together in preseason, we felt it was a strong roster. You guys felt it was a strong roster. I think 17 of 18 of you picked us to win the World Series. So, I think you guys thought we created ourselves a good, balanced, high-character and high-quality lineup,” he explained.
“A lot of things went wrong. When things go wrong, you find out where your deficiencies are. Things went wrong quickly and they went wrong very often. Probably, I would say that, looking back at the season, when I look back at it, I’ll probably see some things that I should have done different, things that I didn’t do. Everything rolls down from the general manager and the president of baseball operations’ office. I take full responsibility for the quality of players that we put on the field. That goes from the 2009 season, when I took over, to after today’s win.”
Rizzo won’t have to wait much longer to look back at the Nats’ season, as it will be over in a matter of days. Then, he will have to make the difficult decision of whether to give Williams another chance.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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