Oct 4, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT
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.”
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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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)...
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