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Rizzo on firing Williams: ‘A tough day’

Oct 5, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

Early Monday afternoon, after he had made official one of the most difficult decisions of his entire tenure in Washington, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo addressed reporters over the phone to explain exactly why he had fired Matt Williams – the man he handpicked just two years prior – as manager.

Rizzo, who met with Williams in his office early Monday morning, first expressed how hard it was to make the decision.

“It is really a tough day here at Nationals Park, a tough day for me personally, and a tough day for our entire organization. But these are the first of the decisions that we felt we needed to make as we meticulously evaluate why the 2015 season didn’t go the way we had hoped,” he said.

“It was face-to-face, man-to-man in his office early this morning. Matt took it as a professional. He was very thankful of the opportunity to manage this baseball team. He also was thankful for me in showing the faith in him to give him his first managerial job. He’s obviously very, very disappointed in the result and the outcome of this year. It was a very serious discussion, but a very professional result happened.”

Rizzo hired Williams to coach a team with World Series aspirations before the 2014 season, despite the fact Williams had never previously managed at the big league level. Williams won the NL manager of the year award in 2014, only to see his team fall far short of expectations and miss the playoffs in 2015.

Despite their parting, Rizzo wishes Williams the best moving forward.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Matt Williams for the work he had done here. He worked extremely hard and diligently to try and bring a championship to Washington, D.C. I share greatly in his disappointment that his tenure here did not end in the way that we wanted it to. I truly think that the experience he gained here will serve him well as his career continues,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo noted Williams’ work ethic, how he was the first person to arrive at the ballpark every day and often the last to leave. Rizzo also said there was no single incident that was seen as a tipping point for his firing, that the decision was based on his full two seasons on the job.

Now Rizzo will have to find Williams’ replacement, just as he did two years ago when Davey Johnson left the position. That process, Rizzo said, will begin Monday afternoon. It will likely take several weeks to be completed.

  1. Karl Kolchak - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    Williams deserved to be fired…but this wholesale housecleaning smacks in part of diverting blame away from the person who is at least equally responsible for the 2015 debacle: Mike Rizzo.

    • Steady Eddie - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      Sorry, but that’s just utter nonsense. Anything less than a clean slate would tell any prospective manager that they don’t have a free hand, and would further raise questions for candidates about what other authorities are being or will come to be held away from them.

      Bottom line is that they need to do this to maximize their chances of getting the best they realistically can.

      From the coaching staff’s perspective, this is fairer than leaving them in limbo that they may or may not be canned at any point down the road and at least gives them more time to find something else.

      • Karl Kolchak - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:29 PM

        So why didn’t he give Williams the same “clean slate?” Oh, because he wasn’t trying to deflect blame from himself.

      • Steady Eddie - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:38 PM

        Duh, it was because he didn’t need to give MW a free hand to get him. Which was in retrospect part of the problem. This is just further acknowledgement that Rizzo blew it last time and might have been insisted on by the Lerners. If they have a prayer of getting someone good with a current opt out like Terry Francona, they’re going to have to give him more room than Rizzo gave MW, and clearing the decks is the minimum necessary to send that signal.

      • John20784 - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        Nationals have never fired all the coaches before. Never. This is a big show purge.

        Fire Calvin Coolidge and William Howard Taft and get back to the core Rushmore Four. That’s change that I can support.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:59 PM

        *like*

        John20784 – Oct 5, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        Nationals have never fired all the coaches before. Never. This is a big show purge.

        Fire Calvin Coolidge and William Howard Taft and get back to the core Rushmore Four. That’s change that I can support.

    • NatsLady - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:32 PM

      No, I think Rizzo believed in Matty, and also in the veteran coaches (such as McCatty and Knorr) who knew the players and could help a first-time manager. Situation is different now.

      • Karl Kolchak - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:36 PM

        Except that back in 2013 they didn’t know for several weeks that they were going to hire a first time manager.

      • NatsLady - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:17 PM

        Yes, they did. Rizzo had Williams in mind from the first, that’s pretty clear. And the other candidates (except Knorr) were also first-time guys (Ausmus, etc.).

      • unkyd59 - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:24 PM

        That’s three strikes, Kolchak, yeeerrrr out!!!

    • akiterp - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:59 PM

      MW replaced the “retiring “ Davey….MW was filling a cog in Rizzo’s machine. There was no reason to give MW a whole lot of latitude as it was his first time as a manager and there wasn’t a whole lot broken.

      MW has been fired. You would expect that the rest of the machine would go as well. Rizzo is cleaning house and knows as well as most that it is as much a reflection of himself as it is anyone else. Rizzo has lost some credibility with the Learners, the fans, the players …. I’m sure he’ll get it back

    • jd - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:26 PM

      Karl,

      Rizzo surely took a large hit for his team’s failure with his bosses. to the degree that he had little or no choice in today’s events. The reason that Rizzo still has a job is that he has accumulated some ‘capital’ by making excellent player selections, great trades and ostensibly building a championship level team. Williams hasn’t accumulated any such ‘capital’.

  2. NatsNut - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    After reading several articles, I get the sense that there’s a big difference between the wholesale firing being reported (and is probably great click bait), and not renewing all of their contracts. From Rizzo’s further explanation, it now makes perfect sense to me for them to start with a clean slate but make our guys available to the new manager, and whoever the new manager doesn’t bring back, just pick the guy up as a field coordinator or whatever. I think it’s all going to be ok.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:29 PM

      Assuming, of course, the former coaches don’t get jobs elsewhere in the meantime.

      • Karl Kolchak - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:35 PM

        Exactly. They can spin it all they want–but this was a wholesale housecleaning.

  3. joemktg - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:40 PM

    The coaching staff is a valuable resource to the organization at different levels: they know the minor league system, how the organization operates, the scouts, etc. Wouldn’t be surprised if most were kept and contributed with player identification and development.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:49 PM

    Of course it’s a housecleaning. The 2015 Nats underperformed (in some cases to the point of dysfunction) in virtually every area for which you have a coach: overall performance, starting pitching, the bullpen, defense, and hitting (yes, the scored some runs, but as all of us have pointed out, their approach or ‘situational hitting’ or whatever you want to call it was inconsistent and often lacking). And once the decision was made not to fire Mike Rizzo, then it makes sense for Mr. Rizzo to clean house and start over. And, as Steady Eddy points out, you’ve got to clear out the house to allow a new — almost certainly experienced — manager to bring in his own staff.

  5. raleighnat - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:02 PM

    Rizzo blew it when he hired Williams. This is how you fix it when it is obvious you blew it. In hindsight it seems obvious we needed someone with experience. I wasn’t one calling it a mistake at the time – I’m sure others did. I still like Rizzo and am glad he is addressing this quickly and decisively. I can guarantee you he hires a veteran manager this time!

    • ArVAFan - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:31 PM

      Speaking of blowing it, anyone want to guess how many days until Papel-gone?

      • virginiascopist - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:32 PM

        We could set up a pool, but I’d say the best answer is just as soon as Rizzo can find a trading partner not on Pap’s no-trade list who is willing to kick in XX percent of his salary (fingers crossed it’s not less than 50 percent). My question is, will Storen also be traded?

      • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:14 PM

        I guess it can’t happen till 5 days after the World Serious is over (That’s what we call t in our house). Though they could just DFA him ANYTIME. Who on earth would want this guy?

  6. jd - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    Here is how I feel about the coaches. When a baseball season is such a colossal failure it’s not unreasonable to blow up the whole thing and build again from scratch. Let’s say Mc.Catty and the others are really good coaches, still maybe it’s time for the players to hear other voices. Whatever they were teaching wasn’t translated into expected performance.

    I wish them all well but I don’t think it’s critical that any of them come back with the Nats.

  7. JamesFan - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:03 PM

    All this anti-Rizzo stuff is nonsense. He made a big mistake on Williams and Papelbon. But in the great scheme, Rizzo has taken the Nats from 100 loses to an annual contender. He has committed unarmed robbery in most of the trades (Turner and Ross for Souza for example). His drafts have been good to great. Let’s back off and see how he manages his biggest challenge to date–how to create a competent bullpen, what to do about a fading Zim and Werth? How to get rid of Papelbon? Storen? Who plays shortstop? Is Ramos the long-term answer behind the plate? The upcoming hot stove league is the most interesting yet for the Nats.

    • jd - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:25 PM

      Bang on JamesFan.

    • natsguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:28 PM

      Its not so much Rizzo stuff. He mad some extremely bad errors regarding acquiring Papelbon and the way he handled the “discipline” of Bryce Harper. The National have taken some major hits because of those errors and he is the person who made the decisions and where the buck stops. He has made some pretty shrewd deals in the past that has allowed him enough capital to keep his job.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:57 PM

      No doubt, Rizzo has been great. He made a bunch of errors this season; mostly judgment calls on injured players coming back and the bullpen. His biggest error was 2 years ago in hiring MW- inexperienced manager to run this “win now” team with huge expectations.

  8. lphboston - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    Williams made the worst of a bad situation.

    • jfmii - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:26 PM

      Yes indeed

    • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:15 PM

      Totally agree

  9. Doc - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    I hope Rizzo gives an interview to Bud Black.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      Why do you think Bud’s special? He’s ok and has experience. The Pads dumped him.

      • virginiascopist - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:36 PM

        I don’t know much about Bud Black (aside from his record with no-so-great teams), but I do remember thinking when he was fired that he got a bum deal. Preller is the one who made a mess of that team; Black was doing the best he could with what he was given.

  10. John20784 - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:38 PM

    I’m not an intense fan who watched every move, so I’ll leave it to Rizzo to micro analyze every one of Williams’ games. From my casual fan perspective, I saw a team without Clippard, Laroche, Zimmerman, Span, Werth, and Rendon for one-half to the entire season. And, under Williams, Harper finally achieved the expectations set for him after being an afterthought in the Mike Trout – Bryce Harper rivalry for two years. Give Williams credit for some of that, especially if he is blamed for the poor performance of others.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      John- You weren’t going to ever see LaRoche this year on the Nats as he plays for the White Sox.

      The whole Trout – Harper thing is an injustice to Bryce for lots of reasons. Lots of pundits predicted a Bryce breakout this year due to age and timing (healthy!). It’s not an MW thing, although Bryce does seem to give some credit to him late in the season (Bryce trying to help save his job?); not so much after MW said he was partially to blame for Papelbon craziness.

      MW seemed to be overmatched. I do believe he did the best be could. I really blame Rizzo for hiring him int he first place. That may well have been a bit of arrogance on Rizzo’s part.

      • John20784 - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:28 PM

        Yes, Chaz, I know that Laroche (and Clippard) were traded away or not re-signed. Two of Rizzo’s decisions. Losing LaRoche’s glove hurt a lot more than most people realize.

        And most of the half year players came back and were no good. .221 for Werth and he will make $21 Million next year.

    • natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:01 PM

      It does sound like he was a real influence on Bryce.

  11. natsguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:09 PM

    Its getting time for baseball to be on and its not there anymore. I’m going to miss it for 4 months. Can’t wait till pitchers and catchers report.

    • natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:05 PM

      Me, too. Was just in the tv room looking at the clock and thinking it was about time to turn to MASN. Oh, right. I’m going to miss baseball, too.

    • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:17 PM

      I am SO WITH YOU! It’s been empty and unhappy all day. AS Ian said, “No more at bats.” None that I care much about, anyway.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:17 AM

        Yeah, I want *Nats* at-bats….

      • NatsNut - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:19 AM

        Me too! But hey, maybe I can finally do my laundry and get a decent night’s sleep again. 😉

  12. Quaker - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:25 PM

    The reason you fire everyone is to give the new manager sufficient authority to bring in his own guys.

    Doesn’t mean our old coaches can’t ultimately be rehired it just means that the new manager gets to call the shots.

    Matt was not an experienced manager so he inherited staff. The broad hint here is the new guy will be experienced and will be given first choice of who he wants to bring into the senior staff positions … Pitching coach; bench coach primarily.

  13. natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:10 PM

    On the plus side, Scherzer is NL player of the week. Atta way, Max.

    http://m.nationals.mlb.com/news/article/153369726/max-scherzer-named-nl-player-of-the-week

  14. sunshinebobby - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    Considering how many people jumped on me for the blasphemy of suggesting Cal, how would you feel about Bo Porter?

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:43 PM

      To be fair, ‘blasphemy’ is rather harsh. They didn’t think much of the idea, though, and for good reasons. Likewise, Bo may yet be a good manager someday, somewhere, but this doesn’t seem like a good fit. They need a Torre type, who can take the pressure off.

  15. Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 7:54 PM

    Oh, and here’s a name I haven’t seen put up yet: Rick Rentaria. The Cubs more or less admitted they were hosing him to get Joe Maddon, but it was too good a chance to pass up at the time, and it looks like they were probably right. That said, Rentaria did a decent job there.

    • thelatencn - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:40 PM

      I mentioned him yesterday, but got newposted so I don’t think very many saw it. My reasons were the same as yours. Does anyone know what he’s doing — I tried to find it but failed.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:45 PM

        My Cubs sources tell me “Ricky is enjoying life and cashing paychecks.” His contract runs through 2016.

  16. JayB - Oct 5, 2015 at 8:04 PM

    I agree this has to be a Ron G type….someone who has big broad shoulders and will no make stupid mistakes. I know two coaches who were on his staff and he let them both go after several years in the dugout and they both still have great things to say about him. That is something MW and the Nats coaches really got wrong….it is clear the MW did not talk with them or give them responsibilities and in return they let him twist in the wind on the Pap incident.

  17. sunshinebobby - Oct 5, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    I am going to politely and respectfully disagree, Mr. Jay B. I think Gardy’s best days are behind him. Plus, he’s an AL guy. And Bud Black has never had any best days. For this reason: the heart of the Nats is in their youth — Harper, MAT, Rendon. I just don’t see how a 60-something is going to work with those types of guys. I could be wrong. That;s why I think Ripken is an excellent bridge to both generations.

    I think we have to think youthful. But of course, that might risk repeating the Matty mistake.

    • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:21 PM

      But Ripken has never MANAGED. ANYWHERE. I think that we need someone who knows how to react, knows how to build chemistry between people, and not just manage himself. Cal Ripken would be a PR move that adds no actual expertise to the team. If he wanted t be a manager, he should have been magian at the Minor League level. Showing up every day as a player isn’t, in my mind, a good enough reason to manage. I love you Sunshine, you know I do. But Cal is not the guy,
      Agree that Black’s never had good days, really, and that Gardhire is old. Dusty — too mean. Renteria is interesting to me. But whomever it is HAS to have been managing more than a stock portfolio for the last ten years.

      • senators5 - Oct 5, 2015 at 11:41 PM

        My comment is probably unfair BUT in the Ripken world it has been said by many who know him well that Cal Jr. is a chip off his old man’s block. Us old timers know that Cal Sr.was a tightly wound piece of work and one would have to wonder if Junior. would have those same traits if he became a manager and if that was so for the Nats, it might be as Yogi said deja vu all over again. Cal’s dad as many will remember bled orange and black but met his Peter’s Principle when he became the manager of the Os.

  18. veejh - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:18 PM

    The long time bench coach for the Giants, Wotus, seems a bit intriguing. He’s worked under Bochy for years (sure seems like Bochy makes good managing decisions and would be a great mentor), and has been a part of multiple WS winning teams (he knows what it takes to win).

  19. Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 10:00 PM

    One thing about Randy Knorr that Boswell, among others, mentioned: his wife’s death was very hard on him. He might need to take some time.

  20. NatsNut - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    I kinda feel for the players on losing all their coaches. You can tell there was a lot of affection for them, especially Knorr, McCatty and Tarasco. It must have been shocking and a little heartbreaking for them too.

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