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Rizzo: Personnel decisions will come soon

Oct 4, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT

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NEW YORK — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he plans to meet Monday with top club officials and doesn’t expect to waste any time determining the fates of manager Matt Williams, his coaching staff and other front office personnel.

“We’re going to evaluate each aspect of the organization,” Rizzo said Sunday afternoon prior to his club’s final game of the season. “Any decision we make, we’re going to be decisive and make decisions sooner rather than later about personnel, both on the field and off the field and in the front office. We’re not going to let people twist in the wind. We want to make our decisions and move on and get moving into 2016.”

Rizzo wouldn’t directly answer whether Williams will be retained, but the GM made it clear he’s disappointed in this season as a whole, with a franchise widely expected to defend its NL East title and contend for a World Series championship finishing in second place, well behind the Mets and only a few games over the .500 mark.

“We come into the last game of the season extremely disappointed, extremely frustrated about the year,” he said. “We had much higher expectations. We thought going into the season we created a roster that could’ve and should’ve competed for the National League East championship and beyond — that’s what we were built for — and it didn’t happen. Myriad of reasons come into it. We’re going to investigate all those things after the season, when we do our postseason analytics of what went wrong. But, suffice to say, nobody’s more disappointed than I am about the way this season transpired.”

A staunch supporter of Williams, who he hired to be the club’s manager two years ago based more on his longstanding relationship with the former Diamondbacks third baseman and coach than on experience in the field, Rizzo has backtracked some in the last few weeks, saying only a decision would be made after the season ended.

The situation has turned tense and uncomfortable over the last week in particular, beginning with Jonathan Papelbon’s attack on Bryce Harper in the dugout last Sunday at Nationals Park, with Williams coming under criticism for not seeing what happened and not finding out from his staff before sending Papelbon back to the mound. Several unflattering reports about Williams and his relationship with players then surfaced, with the second-year manager left to manage the team’s final road trip while everyone else speculated about his future.

Williams, whose contract option for 2016 was picked up in February on the heels of him winning NL Manager of the Year honors, has not yet been informed of his fate. Rizzo will consult with members of the Nationals’ ownership group before making the decision.

“We have a process that we go through,” Rizzo said. “Ownership has some involvement. Baseball operations obviously is responsible for it. And ultimately I make the final choice.”

Rizzo credited the Mets for the aggressive moves they made at the July 31 trade deadline, most notably the addition of slugger Yoenis Cespedes. He defended the Nationals’ decision not to make any moves beyond the controversial Papelbon trade but admitted that plan — counting on injured veterans Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Anthony Rendon to be healthy and productive down the stretch — wasn’t successful in the end.

“We thought the roster that we had, and the players that we had coming off the disabled list, was enough to get us through,” he said. “Obviously, we were wrong in that assessment, just because the guys we did have come back weren’t in playoff-type of mode. They were more in spring training-type of mode. So we will look back on it and rethink and see if we can improve on that.”

Rizzo acknowledged there are numerous roster decisions that must be made this winter, beginning with a bullpen that is likely to be overhauled. He did say he has been in touch with Papelbon — who was suspended by the organization through the end of the season — in the last week and hasn’t yet addressed the closer’s future, except to say he’s still “a member of the team” and under contract for 2016.

Rizzo also said he was pleased with his organization’s depth during the course of the season, with rookies Clint Robinson, Michael Taylor and Joe Ross filling in long-term for injured veterans, and doesn’t believe that ultimately cost the team a division title.

“These guys came through and really performed this year, and they’re going to be a big part of the future,” Rizzo said. “With that said, I thought we did that due diligence in having plan B’s and plan C’s when guys with health issues went down.”

Rizzo insisted the Nationals have “great chemistry in the clubhouse” and pointed to the growing core of young, talented players both at and near the big-league level as evidence of the franchise’s strong standing heading into 2016 despite the anticipated losses of free agents Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Span.

“We fell short this year of our expectations, but we’re going to win 83, maybe 84 games this year,” he said. “We’re not happy about that. That’s not enough. But we look at our future as a strong core of current major-league players that we control. We’ve got a great minor-league system. We’ve got a great front office. We’ve got a great player development system. We’ve got a great process in place in the front office to make decisions. So we feel good about ourselves and look forward to putting 2015 behind us and attacking the offseason and 2016.”

  1. janebeard - Oct 4, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    My first target is Papelbon. I know I’m in the minority there. But they have to fix what they broke, and this is the obvious move. I’d rather have HRod in the 9th. His pitching was crazy but HE was a good guy.

    I hope they see that you can’y buy a “piece,” a “position.” You bring in a whole person, body mind and spirit. The fact that these guys never jelled as a team, I blame on Rizzo more than anyone else. Cool as he is (and he IS), you bring in Max and that kills all hope of a deal with Jordan, who is spectacular. I won’t rehash it all here. Just>>>Fix the ‘pen by saying “Pap is gone. Dunno who will pitch the 9th, but we know it won’t be this guy.”

    • Another_Sam - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:06 PM

      I’m with you, JaneB.

    • philipd763 - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:29 PM

      There’s a lot more to fix than just the bullpen!

    • natsfan1a - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:58 PM

      Please 86 58. Thank you.

  2. hersheyman - Oct 4, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    Williams is target 1A, Paplebon is 1B.

  3. hersheyman - Oct 4, 2015 at 5:01 PM

    Severino is very very impressive. Ramos should be looking over his shoulder.

    • natsfan1a - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:59 PM

      Was fun to watch him.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:56 PM

      Heh. Severino won’t be ready until after Ramos is a free agent. Severino has a big league glove & arm, but hasn’t hit effectively at any level in the minors. He’s a quintessential backup catcher type until he actually proves he can hit.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 4, 2015 at 5:29 PM

    I know some NatsInsiders would like to see Randy Knorr replace Matt Williams, but I’ve gotta believe that we’re likely to see the entire MLB-level coaching staff let go and replaced. Particularly if the Nats end up with any sort of a ‘name’ manager, I would really expect the new guy to assemble his own staff.

    • natsfan1a - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:01 PM

      Not that I’m even an armchair GM, but I think I’d prefer someone who has managed at the big league level. I also would not be surprised to see turnover in the coaching staff.

      • MurraysFile - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:05 PM

        Agree – a veteran team that is a contender does not need a rookie manager. In retrospect, MW’s approach might have been better suited to a younger group that is still learning the game.

  5. JayB - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:07 PM

    RIzzo is too much of a control freak to hire a big name…..It has to be his guy who he can control….Joe Madden type or Joe G type would be what we should be looking for but that would push Rizzo to the back with Lerners and that is not going to happen.

    • veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:22 PM

      This is a stretch. You have no idea how their hiring process works.

    • philipd763 - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:31 PM

      As always, it will be someone from the Diamondback organization, maybe Kirk Gibson!

  6. JayB - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:18 PM

    Still Knoor is a fine choice by me…..what this team needs is someone who will not mess it up…..MW is about the only manager I can recall who cost his team way more than say 3 wins….MW lost 15 games directly by a rough count.

  7. derwink - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    Trying to sum up the general feeling for the winter:

    Free agents: Zimmermann, Fister, Desmond, Span, Thornton (Uggla, Reed Johnson, Gwynn Jr. too but don’t really matter)

    Fire? Matt Williams, some say McCatty, some say training staff

    Likely Traded? Papelbon, Storen

    I could see Tyler Moore, Danny Espinosa, and Escobar getting traded for the right price/piece.

    Either way, that’s a lot of turnover. Next year’s team is going to look a lot different.

    • unkyd59 - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:13 PM

      Winky, I agree with everything except Espinosa. He’ll start at 2b next year, until Difo shows up. Escobar is who I would sell high on. Coming off a career year, which I’m in no fashion comfortable with projecting him to repeat at that level… He would certainly bring a decent position player or something for the bullpen..
      …….prospect…?

      • derwink - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:17 PM

        Especially now that Difo has broken his hand. That makes sense…I was thinking he’d be a sell-sort-of-high candidate though.

      • unkyd59 - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:33 PM

        Difo should be playing winter ball somewhere by mid-December… Young people heal faster than I do…😉

      • Nats Fan Zee - Oct 4, 2015 at 11:36 PM

        Talk about sell high … They have to trade Danny. The conga line of trades over the past few years all are because the Nats thought that they could rehabilitate his bat … Cabrera, Escobar, Lombardozzi, Walters, Clippard to name a few all trying to get a MI to replace Danny. He has stayed on the team because he had no value. Yes he has performed magnificantly this year. Yes he is a gifted fielder but the Nats can’t afford to keep him on the bench for fear they will try to use him in a starting role again.

        He has had over 5 seasons to earn a role … Time to move on while he is worth more than a bag of balls.

  8. golfersal - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:27 PM

    It’s really too bad that Rizzo doesn’t get fired tomorrow either.
    I am sick of his BS, it was his fault in several player areas. Example, he should of gotten some kind of a deal with Jordan Zimmerman, if he couldn’t do it should of traded him. Same with Ian Desmond, it was obvious that he made a fair offer to Desmond last year for $107 million, seven years and Ian said no. He should of traded him. At the same time he should of kept Clippard, if that would of been done he wouldn’t of gotten himself in so much trouble with the Papelbon trade which is probably his career biggest mistake.
    Fire Rizzo..

    • philipd763 - Oct 4, 2015 at 6:34 PM

      Agree, he has a personality just like MW’s.

    • natsguy1 - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:24 PM

      So, you’re disappointed the team didn’t make the playoffs, and the general manager should be fired not because the team didn’t make the playoffs this year but because he didn’t make trades at the beginning of the season that would have made the team worse? It would somehow have been better if this team won 75 games instead of 83?

      Seriously, who would have replaced Jordan Zimmermann’s 200+ innings (with a 109 ERA+) in the rotation and been more productive? Same thing with Desmond?

      This is just nonsense.

      • veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:32 PM

        It doesn’t matter. We wouldn’t have made the playoffs either way. Had Rizzo had a crystal ball and known how this season was going to pan out, he would traded every player that was going to be a free agent for something, right?

    • Mike Gallagher - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:51 PM

      You don’t know that “of” doesn’t mean “have”. Immediately disqualifies your opinion.

  9. Eric - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:39 PM

    Am I the only one who’s straight up excited for the post season? I mean, dont get me wrong, I’ll miss the games, but this should be very interesting.

  10. natsfan1a - Oct 4, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    I’ll watch some of the games, as I usually do, but I’m pretty much a “meh.” Will pull for the Cubs as long as they’re in it, for solidarity with family and friends in Chicago.

  11. slidell2 - Oct 4, 2015 at 8:07 PM

    As far as firing goes, I would start with the coaches who didn’t get in MW’s face immediately after the Papelbon/Harper fracas, so as to deny MW of plausible deniability. Of course, I think MW would have had to have been on Mars not to have known the seriousness of it prior to sending Pap back out. I believe the man was lying in his explanation, which is enough cause by itself to fire him

    • Mike Gallagher - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:07 PM

      Slidell2: +1

    • veejh - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:33 PM

      there must be some disconnect between MW and his staff.

      • sunshinebobby - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:58 PM

        @Veejh: Sort of like the distance between Pluto and Earth.

        They will get a lot closer Monday when Matty and the coaches are sent packing.
        Total housecleaning.

  12. MurraysFile - Oct 4, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    If the Lerners conclude that RZ can’t be relied upon as a core piece anymore, the discussion will turn to whether now is the time to trade Bryce Harper.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 4, 2015 at 9:59 PM

      BWAH HAH HAH HAH

      Really? I guess …

      No, really, you’re a Braves’ fan, right?

      • therealjohnc - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:01 PM

        Too snarky; apologies. But no, Harper isn’t going anywhere as long as the Nats view themselves as a contender. And given both the roster & the division, the Nats are contenders going forward

      • MurraysFile - Oct 4, 2015 at 10:33 PM

        Apology accepted, but open your eyes. If Storen and Papelbon are let go and RZ can’t stay on the field, the Nats will have no bullpen to speak of and no reliable pop in the lineup below Harper. Yes they’ll contend (if that means meaningful games in August) but no more so than this year. And the Lerners are looking at a $300MM+ commitment to keep him, and the odds he’ll stay are only 50-50 at best. His trade value will never be higher, but the Nats may have already hit their ceiling with him given the rest of the roster. I’m not saying they will deal him, but it is naive to think it won’t be discussed.

  13. NatsNut - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:51 AM

    I get the sense that the training staff and program are in Rizzo’s sights.

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