Washington Nationals Editorial: Has Matt Williams Lost the Clubhouse?
By Ricky Keeler
It’s only been year two in the Matt Williams era, but with the bad week the Washington Nationals have had and the fact that they are now 2.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East and four behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card, all eyes are solely focused on Williams, who would be on the hot seat, to say the least, if the Nats missed the playoffs.
Before last night’s gut wrenching loss to the Colorado Rockies, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network had some quotes about how the atmosphere is like in a Nats clubhouse right now in his weekly Inside Baseball column:
"It’s said to be an “unhappy scene” around the Nats, as manager Matt Williams has not be well-received by many players, who find him “not loose” and “never relaxed.” One player says that while Williams looks tight as soon as games begin, it isn’t affecting the players, saying, “The players are pretty loose. We have a lot of fun. I don’t really fell like the players are tight. We’re a pretty rowdy, loose, fun-loving bunch. We have a good ol’ time regardless of what’s goin’ on with our skipper. I don’t think it affects us. That’s just how he is.” (h/t CBS Sports)"
When you take a first glance at these quotes, it helps fully understand some of the other comments that were made by the players earlier this week. First, let’s take a look at what Jayson Werth said after Tuesday night’s win when he told reporters that the Nats are still the favorites in the NL East:
"“I think going forward we can get all back healthy and get rolling and it’s our division to lose.” (h/t Chelsea Janes, the Washington Post)"
Now, fast forward to Wednesday night’s tough loss when Bryce Harper made some interesting comments that seem to tie in with the players’ relaxed mentality despite being currently down in the standings:
The Nationals have the talent to achieve their ultimate goal, but they are just not able to come up with the big hits in recent games. In their last three games, they are 5-for-25 as a team with runners in scoring position, including a disappointing 1-for-10 in last night’s loss.
Another criticism of Williams has been the use of the bullpen, which also has some players questioning decisions he made in last year’s postseason. Here’s another quote from Heyman:
"“Players are wondering about Williams’ bullpen choices, though, from as far back as failing to use Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in Game 4 of last year’s NLDS vs. the Giants.”"
You can’t blame Williams for sticking with Storen in the eighth inning last night before the grand slam by Carlos Gonzalez, but you have to wonder whether or not Jonathan Papelbon was available for a four out save. Papelbon has not pitched in a game since Tuesday while last night’s game was Storen’s fourth appearance in five days.
While the players need to take some of the criticism for underachieving at this point in the season despite all the injuries, the Nats will be looking for a scapegoat should they fail to reach the postseason. Judging by these recent comments, Williams is a frontrunner to be that scapegoat.