Cleat Geeks

The Causality of Mediocrity

I am scared for Washington National’s manager Matt Williams. I am not scared for him personally, because I don’t even know Mr. Williams, nor have I ever met him. Maybe scared is not the right word. I guess I hate to see him be the scapegoat for a team full of underachieving overpaid baseball players.

maxscherzerThe Nationals were World Series favorites after adding the top free agent on the market in Max Scherzer to headline a staff that was already above avarege. They are now in an absolute free fall. With the lost 5-0 on Sunday to the San Francisco Giants, the Nationals fall under .500 (58-59) for the first time since May 6. Not only that, but they’ve lost six straight, they’re 4.5 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the NL East and they’re 9.5 back for a wild-card spot.

Forget the World Series, the Nats may not make the playoffs. This is a team that most so-called experts (not myself, if you remember, when this site went up on-line I said they would not make the play-offs and was laughed at) picked to run away with the NL East. Therefore, missing the postseason would be cause for heads to roll. And we all know that it is easier to fire 1 than 25.

The Nats themselves still see the talent and potential on the roster. GM Mike Rizzo is trying to dress things up nicely to hide the fact that his team is a giant disappointment right now. “This is a professional group that knows how to play the game and knows how to win,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said as a quiet clubhouse packed up before a charter flight to the team’s next stop in Denver. “They’ve been in slumps before. We’re confident in their ability levels. I’m confident that they’ll snap out of it and that we’re going to be judged by what we are at the end of the season, not August.”

Nobody from the Nats is saying it, but they have to know they’re running out of time to fix things. We’re in the second half of August, which is practically September. Six weeks is enough time to make a run. But, the Nationals have not made a run so far, so what makes you think they will suddenly kick themselves into gear?

After Sunday’s loss, Rizzo told’s Bill Ladson that he doesn’t expect to fiddle with the roster any. Manager Matt Williams said he’s hoping Monday’s day off will help them “come back fresh.” That would be nice. The Nats are hitting .222 since the All-Star break. They’re 4-12 in August, having been outscored 83-59.mike-rizzo-gm-e1292625666451

There’s one solution that Nats fans seem to be in growing favor of as the losses mount and that’s firing Williams, their second-year manager. That’s somewhat hasty — like when Don Mattingly was on the hot seat two years ago because his slumping team wasn’t meeting expectations. But it’s pretty obvious something has to change with the Nats. But, Williams never hit .222 for an extended stretch and he played great defense as he won 4 gold gloves. Yet this underachieving team that he was picked to manage, and did not assemble, is terrible defensively and not hitting well as a team lately.

Rizzo, for what it’s worth, gave a wishy-washy answer Sunday when asked whether he’d give Williams a public endorsements. (Because those always end well). From Ladson at Asked if he should give Williams a vote of confidence or say something publicly about his skipper, Rizzo said, “I have nothing but complimentary things to say about our manager since we hired him.”

Washington Nationals' Jayson Werth celebrates with Bryce Harper after they scored on Adam LaRoche's two-RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park Friday, Aug. 31, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“We are the team to beat in the National League. We know it, everybody knows it.” says Jayson Werth on every promo of MLB Central on MLB Network. Well they have beat you, and now you are below .500. When I watch this team, it just looks like they are all looking at each other to be the leader of the team. Like they are waiting for someone else besides themselves to take over the team and the game.

I honestly think the last straw, and the latest reason the Nationals will not make the play-offs was the trade of Jonathan Papelbon. They had a great closer in Drew Storen. It was another bad decision from management as they simply signed someone and spent way to much money doing so to address a need that was not there. Like the huge contracts they gave Werth, Scherzer and others.

If there is a silver lining it is that they will finish off August playing a bunch of sub par teams: The Colorado Rockies, with whom they start a four-game series Tuesday in Denver, then the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres and Miami Marlins.

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