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Significant moment No. 2: Rizzo hires Williams

Dec 30, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

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As we count down the final days of 2013, we are counting down the 10 most significant moments of the year for the Nationals. These aren’t necessarily positive (or negative) moments, and some didn’t even take place on the field. All, though, were significant in the big picture and defined the Nationals’ year. We continue today with significant moment No. 2: Mike Rizzo’s decision to hire Matt Williams as manager …

Major-league general managers, fairly or unfairly, are judged on the biggest decisions they make. The multi-year contracts they hand out. The significant trades they make. And the managers they hire and fire.

Mike Rizzo had already experienced two managerial changes since taking over as Nationals GM in 2009, but he hadn’t found himself in this enviable position: With an opportunity to hand-select pretty much any new manager he wanted to replace the departing Davey Johnson and hand that person a loaded roster expected to win big right away.

Thus, the hiring of Matt Williams during the final week of October represented as significant a decision Rizzo has made in five seasons on the job.

There were any number of ways Rizzo could have turned to replace Johnson. He could have stayed in-house and promoted popular bench coach Randy Knorr to the top position on the staff. He could have brought in a big-name manager with a track record of success, such as Dusty Baker (who openly lobbied for the job but never even secured an interview). He could have done something really bold and hired a Hall of Famer with zero experience but as respected a name as there is in baseball (Cal Ripken, who also never was asked to interview).

Or, he could go with the person he already knew, one he had built a relationship with over a decade and a half, one often touted as a future MLB manager even though he had precious little experience even at the minor-league level.

So it was that Williams found himself at Nationals Park on Nov. 1, shaking Rizzo’s hand and donning a red curly W cap and No. 9 Nats jersey for the first time.

The two have known each other since the late ’90s, when Williams was playing third base for the Diamondbacks and Rizzo was working in Arizona’s front office. They remained close over the years, and Rizzo had more than once in passing mentioned Williams as a potential MLB manager some day.

And when presented with the opportunity to bring Williams to D.C. and give him his first managerial opportunity, Rizzo couldn’t pass it up. Williams was the choice from a pool of five official candidates, including Knorr, former Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus (who soon after was named manager of the Tigers) and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale.

What kind of manager will Williams be? He stresses strong defensive play and aggressive baserunning. He plans brief-but-intense daily workouts at spring training. He’s a player’s manager who communicates well but still conveys the feisty demeanor that defined his big-league career.

How that all translates on the field come April remains to be seen. Can Williams run a pitching staff? Can he out-think the manager in the opposing dugout? Can he keep a clubhouse of 25 varied personalities in unison?

That’s the great unknown with a first-time manager, especially one with no previous connection to this franchise. If Williams is the real deal and leads the Nationals to the World Series appearance Johnson wanted, his legacy — and Rizzo’s legacy — will forever be sealed in this town. If he can’t manage a ballgame, can’t keep the clubhouse intact and can’t get the Nats into late-October, his legacy — and most certainly Rizzo’s legacy — will fall short of expectations.

You only get so many chances to hire a manager. That’s what made Rizzo’s hiring of Williams such a significant development in Nationals history.

  1. Another_Sam - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    Nice work, Mark. We, the cadre of pretend gurus here, focusing on the negative as usual, completely overlooked this significant moment. Thanks, man.

  2. ArVAFan - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    It rained a lot in DC yesterday, so I took the opportunity to finish these New Year’s resolutions for the Nats.

    SS: 200 innings. You can do it: it’s not your turn to have all the rain delays and lousy run support, plus this year Doug Fister can take care of plunking the Uptons (you know, just in case that becomes necessary).

    Gio: Don’t fall off the mound during your 20th win. Sure, you’ll have it: with an improved bullpen and improved bench, you won’t have all those no-decision one-run losses. Alternative: more complete games so the bullpen won’t matter.

    JZimm: When the Nationals are ahead, pitch as if the game is still tied.

    Doug Fister: Looks as if you’ll be pitching the home opener. Take that opportunity to lower your ERA against the National League. Yep, that might mean you’d have to pitch a shutout. Go ahead, the fans won’t mind.

    Number Five Starter—whoever it turns out to be. Just because you’re pitching at the end of the best (IMHO) starting rotation in the NL, don’t be intimidated. Learn from the rest of them, but don’t imitate them (except maybe the part where Fister holds men on base. That might be worth imitating).

    Wilson Ramos: Yoga. Pilates. Whatever it takes to keep those hamstrings in shape. Oh, and share those breakfast arepas with Adam LaRoche.

    Adam LaRoche: Keep Chipper Jones’ number on speed dial, in case Matt Williams is less tolerant of “0-for-April” than Davey Johnson. And eat breakfast with Wilson. He promises to share.

    Anthony Rendon: keep playing, keep learning, keep smiling. The fans love seeing you out there having a good time playing well.

    Danny Espinosa: Listen, learn, practice, repeat.

    Ian Desmond: 20/20 again for #20. Maybe without the 20 errors.

    Ryan Zimmerman: Play so well in 2014 that everyone, including you, forgets the frustrations of the first 2/3 of 2013.

    Bryce Harper: Walls. Avoid. Exception can be made for game-saving catches in Game 7, but you need to be behind the plate to get there first!

    Denard Span: 30-game hitting streak. You can do it–just keep Rick Schu’s advice from 2013 in mind.

    Jayson Werth: Werth It in 2013, Werth It in 2014.
    Bonus: Find yet another way to aggravate the Philly Phan. Unless, of course, you think having to watch their aging team play all year is enough aggravation for the Phan. . . . .Nah.

    Rafael Soriano: Earn the untuck. Every time. Without scaring the fans half to death in the process.

    Tyler Clippard: This is the year to go from Good to Great. Go for it.

    Ryan Mattheus: Take an anger management class. Or at least remember “Don’t swing with your pitching hand!”

    Drew Storen: Don’t overthink your pitches. Just because you can think really hard doesn’t mean you should.

    Christian Garcia: Make that year of rehab worthwhile.

    Craig Stammen: Earn that cap & gown. The teasing in the locker room will be worth it in the long run.

    Ross Ohlendorf: Develop stamina. Santa did not bring the Lerners a roof, so there will be rain delays (apparently no one thought to list “retractable stadium roof” in the duty-free goods section of NAFTA). There will also be injuries and perhaps even an ejection or two (see, Upton, plunking). So you may be called upon to pitch more than four innings. Be ready.

    Mike Rizzo: Sure he has a New Years’ resolution. But good luck finding out what it is until after he’s achieved it.

    Matt Williams: Don’t know his either, but it’s not “World Series or bust.” But it might contain the word “postseason.”

    Lerner Family (same as last year): Checkbook? Open. Mouth? Closed.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      Rizzo: team friendly extensions to anyone who is willing to sign them.

    • natfan9 - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      Love the Post, ArVA!

    • Section 222 - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Well done!

    • therealjohnc - Dec 31, 2013 at 12:41 AM

      Bravo!!

    • natsfan1a - Jan 1, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      Atta gal!

  3. Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    All of us are looking forward to seeing exactly what Matt Williams will bring to the table. We know he’s got a reputation for being aggressive, and and will put a lot of emphasis on playing sound, fundamental defense. Can he manage in-game pitching changes? How will the dynamics work between him and Knorr, and him and McCatty? This will be Jayson Werth’s first time working with a younger, inexperienced manager. Often in any field a new manager has to grow into his new power of being the one in charge, but in this case the expectations are to succeed while he’s learning. Anything less would be …..[fill in the blank].

    I feel that Mike Rizzo’s contract extension was the year’s most significant development for this franchise, not for what he has already accomplished, but for the longterm stability and growth of the Nationals. If Rizzo hadn’t been extended then the whole hiring of a new manager would’ve been a whole different story. Like every GM in MLB he has made moves that didn’t work out as hoped, but the job that he has done in putting together an entire promising organization from top to bottom is remarkable. This is becoming a club that will be very good for years to come, and it is largely due to Mike’s ability to put the right people in place, and maybe more importantly, to have the trust and confidence of the owners to allow him to make the moves he needs to do.

  4. Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    The last time a rookie manager named Williams donned the number 9 in Washington, things worked out pretty well. For the first year anyway.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:07 AM

    LOL,Jw, I was an avid Senator’s fan when Ted Williams was hired,as were a few others on this board, and he did bring a lot of excitement to DC. His first year the Senators went 86-76 and finished in 4th place, which was remarkably promising for us. The next year wasn’t so good, 70-92 and a 6th place finish, and his third, and final season they finished in 5th place with a 63-96 record. Their collective record under Ted was 219-264. Those kind of results under the new Mr. Williams would not fly.

    • alexva6 - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      what Teddy Ballgame did with the hitters that first year was nothing short of remarkable

      • Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        No question, alexva6. It was fun to watch.

  6. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    To me this move is the most significant for next year. All the others in Mark’s list are about last years results. Kind of apples and oranges.

    I am very much looking forward to his impact on the team. Last time they had a manager who expected them to work hard and perform they did not like it much. I do not really think Nats need to work too much harder (no NASCAR or GOLF on game during in Spring training games please)….but they need to work a ton smarter. Situation hitting. Focus in the field. Hold runners and execute the fundamentals and this team is going to win the East hands down.

    What I want to see from this team is higher expectations of individuals and real accountability when players under-perform week after week.. Nobody should be passive when a guy does not hit a cut off man or takes a called 3rd strike with a runner on 3 and less than two outs. I do not want to hear ‘that’s baseball, get em next time” ever again. I am expecting to see more than one dust up in the dugout this year. If this all happens as I believe it will, it is going to be fun to watch 100 wins!

  7. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I also never want to hear……I need to play him….he is my guy and he needs to get going….it may take a few 100 ABs for him to get this swing down. Or….he is working so hard in the cage…he just needs time and he will start to cut his strikeouts down…..yea right Davey!

  8. Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    The JayBees of the world who are expecting Matt Williams to be the second coming of Billy Martin will be sorely disappointed. He looks a lot like Manny Acta and will manage a lot like Davey Johnson.

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      JW….Acta….come on….that is a joke, Acta had zero passion and energy and never played above A ball. He standing in the clubhouse at all. Williams will manage very differently and Davey. He is not going to wait for a 3 run homer and let “his guys” at called 3rd strikes with runners on 2 or 3. He has already said so…he is looking to scratch out an extra run a game by being proactive….Nats will 100 games if he does it.

      • alexva6 - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        and zero talent to manage

  9. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    Final on Davey…promise….never what to her players nicknames in press conferences….Rochy……..Man it is clearer by the day just how lost Davey was last year…..he would put an y on everyone’s name…..will not miss that at all.

    • Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      Right. None of the successful Nats managers like Acta and Riggleman called players by nicknames in press conferences.

  10. Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Acta arrived with the same sense of swagger that Williams has now. Acta made the same kind of promises that Williams is making now. Go back and read the press clippings from 2007. They look just like this morning’s post.

    Both are bald former third base coaches with no managerial experience. Time will tell, but right now they look like the same guy.

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Jw…..you are not helping your case at all here. Are you really saying Rizzo picked an ACTA type….for this club………..I think you have to dig a bit deeper than no hair and 3rd coach…..come on now you can do better than that.

    • scbilly - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      As a former perennial All-Star, Williams has a more standing in the locker room from day one than Acta was ever able to to accumulate. In his time as a third base coach he’s already displayed more fire and determination to have his players backs than Acta has in his years managing two MLB teams. This may or may not work out, but to call Acta and Williams the same guy is to ignore an awful lot about both of them.

      And Williams’ tenure as the junior field manager in DC pro sports certainly didn’t last long …

  11. knoxvillenat - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    ” Last time they had a manager who expected them to work hard and perform they did not like it much.”

    JayB,

    Are you referring to Frank Robinson or another manager? I remember Riggleman having the club take a lot more infield during his tenure and supposedly some of the players openly complained about it.

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      Yup Riggs…..recall Werth hated the extra work….on of the dust ups I am expecting in the dug out is Williams and Werth….should be interesting.

  12. sjm308 - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    I might remember this incorrectly but I can’t remember Acta getting upset during a game ONCE. I don’t believe he ever challenged an umpires call and if he did, he certainly did not show much passion. I do remember Williams getting very upset when we were playing the D’Backs and he and Werth went at it (at least verbally).

    JW, I have met Mr. Acta and there is just no swagger to his personality at all, He is a gentleman, a great guy and he knows baseball but I don’t think he was that great a manager and I don’t think he had the fire that I think Williams will bring. All Managers make promises, its how they got hired and its ridiculous to think a manager would come in and not think positive.

    JayB – I am not sure I understand one of your posts, but surely you are not suggesting that the players not play golf when they are done with their workouts for the day. I don’t think everyone on the team plays but please, they need to have some sort of freedom as long as they get their work done. I had no problem with NASCAR or any of that as long as they had worked hard that morning.

    I agree with Sam that too many people here think negatively and it was a huge problem for me as a coach even in college. Once you get people thinking positively, its much easier to reach your goals. I had 3 huge letters drawn on our Natatorium walls PMA (positive mental attitude) and the kids had to see it when they opened the door. No sense worrying about what could go wrong, we need to focus on what will go right!!

    Go Nats!!

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 30, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      +1

    • Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Go back to Nov 2006, pick any article about Acta’s introductory news conference, change Kasten, Bowden and Acta to Rizzo and Williams while leaving all the quotes the same, and you have the news conference introducing Williams. Williams now is exactly what Acta was then – a bald former third base coach with zero managerial experience who the JayBees of the world just KNEW was going to do everything they wanted a manager to do. Let’s hope it works better this time around.

    • slidell2 - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Actually, I do remember one time. It happened, coincidentally, shortly after Manny was roasted on Goesselman’s blog (remember him, now in Minnesota?) for non-passion. As I recall, it was on a play at the plate, and Manny was actually tossed. I remember it because I was “somewhat” taken aback.

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      I do not want guys golfing at the same time as ST games are being played that is a all. Also no NASCAR all day/night events will your teammates are back at camp and in game or formal workouts

      If no team game or workout then file golf works

  13. JamesFan - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Most important acquisition of the off-season. If he can motivate them to play to their potential and injuries don’t weigh them down, the Nats are capable of running away with the NLEast. The “IFs” are huge, however.

  14. natsguy - Dec 30, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    My new years wish for Schmuckanosa is that he gets his surgery done and takes a year to get rehabbed like he should have last year. Otherwise, he should get used to the view of DC from Syracuse or Harrisburg. He caused too many problems last year with his stubborn refusal to get his injuries fixed.

  15. veejh - Dec 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

    I have a good feeling about this coming season. The offense will be the polar opposite of Davey’s. This will get these young guys fired up. Bring on them Braves. I can’t wait to beat the snot out of them this year!

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 2:26 PM

      Agree 2013 Nats were major under achievers but more than that the vets choked. That comes from Davey letting them feel “good” about losing close games. Feel good about taking called strike 3 with bases loaded

      Williams is not going to make the dugout a warm safe place if that happens this year

  16. nats128 - Dec 30, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    I think the #1 most significant moment was the day the Nats were eliminated from the post-season. The lesson to be learned is that the season is a marathon and you cant allow yourself to get to far behind as the sprint to the finish sometimes isnt realistic.

  17. Section 222 - Dec 30, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    So we’re down to the most significant moment of 2013 for the Nats. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but unlike last year, this one’s hard to predict. I can think of 10 others that might have made the top 10 but didn’t, and I can’t imagine any of them are going to show up as No. 1 tomorrow. I guess they are honorable mentions:

    1. Zim’s arm troubles — hard to pick a specific moment, though that doesn’t seem to have been a prerequisite for this list (see Span’s hitting streak, Gio and Biogenesis), how about that April game vs. the Braves?

    2. Ramos’s consecutive game streak – -not as flashy as Span’s streak, but perhaps just as significant in terms of its promise for the future of the team. In both cases, there’s a lot of hope involved.

    3. The end of the H-Rod experiment — Rizzo admitting the time had come to cut bait was significant. It also signaled a performance-based approach to the bullpen that was a positive development.

    4. Espi’s woes — Perhaps the first clear sign that the “WS or Bust” year wasn’t going to turn out as planned/hoped.

    5. Rendon’s emergence — Before the year started, no one thought he’d be the Nats’ starting 2B in mid-2013 and beyond. He played the field well and show signs of being a very solid bat for years to come, especially in his patience and pitch selection. I’d put this ahead of the beanball war and Storen’s demotion as far as significance to the team.

    6. JZnn’s great season — We knew he was great before the season, but now the whole baseball world knows it. That will make him harder to sign long term, unfortunately.

    7. Promotions of Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark — After the first prospect pitcher to be promoted, Nate Karns, was kind of a bust, Jordan and Roark exceeded expectations and look to be solid future contributors to the team, or, at least, valuable trade bait.

    8. ALR’s season long slump — Part of the (over) confidence we had for this season was the assumption that we had a 30 HR, 110 RBI guy in the middle of the lineup. And when he started slow, people said, “well, he’s just a slow starter,” even though he carried the team last April. Despite his anemic bat, he hit 4th or 5th more than any other National. His defense wasn’t that great either, as it turns out.

    9. The Fister trade — Yeah, it happened after the season, but so did the Williams hiring. And it was pretty darn significant for the team’s prospects in 2014 and 2015. Or at least we hope it was.

    10. The tale of two Dodgers series — The away series featured Harper’s second encounter of the too close kind with a wall. In the home series, we were outplayed, out managed, and out shined by a superior team, and our chances to make the playoffs were pretty much toast after we lost the third straight game on July 21.

    On second thought maybe that wall incident or the two wall incidents combined were the most significant moment of the season and will make an appearance tomorrow. There would be an interesting symmetry between Harper occupying No. 10 with his best day, and No. 1 with his worst. In retrospect, the Nats weren’t going to have another magical year without Harper having an otherworldly season. And those wall collisions pretty much assured that he’d have, at best, a good season, not a great one.

    Anyone else have a prediction — serious or humorous — of Mark’s most significant moment?

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      No need for a magical season to win NL East just needed average seasons and some spence of urgency and no HROD

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      If you’re going to include Zim’s arm troubles, then you probably have to include LaRoche’s ADD “meds” issue, I think. Oh, wait, you did. #8.

      Nevermind.

      How about Desmond’s “not a fluke” season?

  18. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    The Nats really need to do a takeoff promo on one of those “you’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers commercials, the one where the football coach is Robin Williams, and have him turn back into Matt Williams when he eats, I dunno, a half-smoke with chili and cheese.

    Because they are hungry, get it?

    I got to stop giving this stuff away for free…

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:34 PM

      Maybe instead of Robin Williams they could use Anthony Willams, the mayor who got the park built.

      Oh, wait, no, I got it — SERENA WILLIAMS!

      Make it a series!
      Billy Dee Williams? Too closely associated with Colt 45.
      Paul Williams? Nah. No connection here.
      Andy Williams, no, he’s too deceased.

    • natsfan1a - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:55 PM

      Maybe there’s a Williams-Sonoma tie-in there as well. :-)

  19. Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    You could pick Davey’s “WSOB” quote as a significant moment. Probably more significant than Strasburg’s shutout or Harper’s first two ABs of a long season, IMO, but maybe not ahead of Biogenesis or The Wall, and certainly not ahead of firing Eckstein.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:13 PM

      But I think I’m going with getting swept by the Braves right after Harper gets quoted as saying “This [stuff] ain’t over.”

      • Section 222 - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:43 PM

        Hey, while we’re on ill-fated and quickly forgotteen motivational comments, how about “eat some face.” And, while we’re at it, Pretty Frickin’ Bueno.” Wait, maybe not that one since it lives on as the host of the NIDO spreadsheet.

        Speaking of which, when should the new season of drink owing start? January 1? First day of Ps and Cs?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:56 PM

        I’m inclined to P&CR Day, but I could make a case for 1/1/14.
        End of the World Series could work. Anytime, really. Just really needs updating.

  20. letswin3 - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I’m hopeful that ST under Williams will be tighter than under Davey. More technical stuff like: exactly what part of the infield to attempt to lay down a bunt, exactly what situations must be present to overthrow a cutoff man, pitcher techniques to better hold runners, etc. But I also understand that relaxation is important when you are going to be in Florida for like 6-7 weeks playing ST games against many guys that are either “working on some things” or are being given a cookie since they will be in the minors when April 1 hits……I’m sure it can get very boring, so a little golf or NASCAR should be acceptable (although watching cars go around in circles for even an hour seems to me to be more boring than laying down bunts for 11 straight hours without a lunch break).

    That reminds me…. 2 seasons ago I noticed a nuance that I’d never quite noticed before. A hitter hit what appeared to be a sacrifice fly to an outfielder…but then he seemed to strategically “place” his bat about 3 or 4 feet in front of home plate, directly in the line that the fielder would use to make the throw home, before trotting off to first base. The strategy looked to be that a one-hopper could easily ricochet off the bat and insure that the runner scored. Well, a few games later I saw it again…..but this time I watched the catcher, who casually grabbed the bat and tossed it out of play before the flyball was even caught. Looks like there are parts of this game that a guy who never played it beyond Little League can still be fascinated by….. I’m sure this is old hat for most of you, but it’s the kind of thing that makes me excited for every new season to get started. Of course, a new Manager, an overall healthy squad, a cagey trade for a 4th starter (probably second in most rotations) and an improved (?) bench should get everyone excited for this next campaign.

  21. veejh - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Slam dunk on Harper hits wall as #1

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      A high-percentage shot, indeed.

  22. David Proctor - Dec 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Nats Park to host the 2015 Winter Classic:

    http://tracking.si.com/2013/12/30/nationals-park-likely-venue-2015-winter-classic/

  23. Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Anyone that thinks that Jayson Werth complains about working too hard has never watched him in ST in FL. That’s the the most ignorant bunch of BS I’ve read on here since the unmentionable one left. I watched him for two weeks last spring and the guy works his ass off. I think that the whole “country club” spring training line is mostly blown out of proportion and somewhat mis-informed. Did all of the veterans travel 3-4 hours for split squad games? No, not usually, at least not until the roster was thinned.Those games were pretty much reserved for the likes of Tyler Moore and Carlos Rivera to get work in the field, not that it seemed to do either of them much good. Guess what? The Tigers didn’t send all of their vets to play the Nats at Space Coast either.
    The Nats were fundamentally pretty good last year, in the field. RZimm had issues that had little to do with lack of practice. Bryce was a bozo at times on the cutoff issue, but who else? The infielders rarely attempted to make the wrong play, or to throw to the wrong base, other then by Rendon a couple of times, and he wasn’t playing 2B in spring training.He gets a total pass for the few mental errors he made. The area that they looked the worst at that could be minimized with more reps in workouts is the pitchers and catchers inability to hold runners. And I put that on McCatty, who seemingly puts little emphasis on it, and on Kurt Suzuki who didn’t have the physical skills to do anything about it.

    • David Proctor - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      Absolutely agree 100%.

    • therealjohnc - Dec 31, 2013 at 1:09 AM

      Misinformed? UNPOSSIBLE! How dare you, sir! That meme has been mined deeply by our most deeply negative and self-informed commenters to ever be shaken by such things as logic, reasoning, or the personal observation of others.

  24. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    I was there too…and yes Werth works hard in 90 mins a day of spring training….I also recall he was at odds with Riggs about doing the work during the season as a team to help others get better….which they really really needed.

    RZimm did nothing this past spring training and it showed. Holding runners and covering the right bases on bunt plays both needed work and they did not get it from Davey in Spring Training or in the season. I think you have to set the example as the Vets…we are not to good to travel, we are not too good to play the field and work on things we need to work on as a team…..Williams is going to run things very very different….and I will as always bet there to see it.

    • Jw - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      I predict our boy JayB will be very very disappointed with spring training. Over/under on the date JayB turns on Matt Williams: Opening Day. Event that causes it: Espinosa makes the team.

      • Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:42 PM

        Happy New Year, Jw!
        GYFNG!!!

  25. Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Jay B, for the Nats to take the entire Spring Training squad to games 4 hours away is nuts, in my opinion.They carry a lot more than the 40 man roster during the beginning of the spring. Nobody else brings their entire squad to Space Coast either. Also, Johnson had all of the morning workouts before the ST games closed to the general public last year. So do tell what you saw? As to Werth being at odds with Riggleman regarding doing the work and helping others I’m not sure where you were getting your information. Do tell? Now, it was no secret that Werth had little respect for the way Riggleman ran the team. Werth is smart enough to know that lots of practice does’t make perfect, but that perfect practice makes perfect. Jim Rigglemann was known somewhat as a taskmaster, but not a very efficient one. Werth knows the difference.

  26. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    I was there before ST games start….always the best time to be there before lots of fans or media shows…you can walk anywhere and talk with everyone. Strass first year with the team I watched him bunt in the cages by the back field for an hour after everyone went in for lunch. That is how you get better.

    Do not need to take full squad on a road trip…..do need to take some vets to set the tone and leave some young kids back to work on things…like holding runners.

    I was not a fan of Rigg either but you can not be a leader of undermining the manager like Werth was…..and you can not be too good to ride a bus like everyone else…..that whole NASCAR day while the rest of the team was working out was a really really bad message to send.

  27. Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    JayB, you have your opinion on Werth and Riggleman. I don’t agree with you, so I’ll leave it with this. I think Jayson Werth is the best move that the Nationals have ever made outside of the draft. I also really wanted Jim Riggleman to succeed, not just for the Nats’ sake, but because he was a local product from Richard Montgomery High School and from Frostburg State College. The fact is, he’s a crappy baseball manager and is statistically a loser. As you accused someone else earlier, you’re not doing yourself any good with your argument on bringing up Riggleman’s managing style and techniques, at least not with me.

  28. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Ok with me but I said I was not a fan of RIggs and I have said Nats should have made Werth a player Manager in July this past year. I like him a lot….but when your not the manager you have to lead by example of helping the manager. Davey was just to old and let Werth run all over him.

    All I am saying is that Williams is not going to be amused by the bad baseball…..and is not going to just say oh well that’s how it goes…..A loss in April is just as damaging as a loss in September. Nobody is getting the day off to spend 10 hours at NASCAR this year that’s for sure.

  29. David Proctor - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    There are lots of things that we make much ado about nothing, but the NASCAR thing has to be the biggest of them all. It wasn’t strictly limited to the veterans, Craig Stammen was there too. The day that they went to the NASCAR race was the second game of the grapefruit league schedule. Zimmerman couldn’t participate then anyway–he was still rehabbing from shoulder surgery. The Marlins, the Nationals grapefruit league opponent that day, started exactly TWO players who were on their Opening Day roster, plus four pitchers. The Nationals played 8 players who made the Opening Day roster, plus two pitchers.

    On top of that, Spring Training started extra early last year for the WBC. in a normal year, like it will be in 2013, Grapefruit League games will not have even begun yet. So what difference does it make if they participate?

    Spring Training was extra long last year. The entire goal was to not wear down our guys too much–especially the veterans like Werth who might need some days off.

    I’d also like to add that there’s absolutely no evidence that teams that take infield practice more benefit in any way from it. As Seamhead said, there’s a difference between working a lot and working efficiently. Williams has flat-out said he wants his Spring Training sessions to be short, but intense. AKA efficient. So are people going to begin complaining about that, too?

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      +1

      • sjm308 - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        +2

    • JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      No the NASCAR thing was just one small thing in the over arching problem that Davey set up…..”my guess do not need to work hard in ST or during the year….their natural talent will carry them through the year….the biggest problem Davey said was burn our because they are so hard on themselves…..right……that is exactly what I saw too…..

      • David Proctor - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:03 PM

        You’re being sarcastic, but that IS what I saw. I never saw a lack of effort. I saw guys pressing to try and make things happen. And when you press, things go poorly.

      • sjm308 - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        If it was just one small thing, why do you keep bringing it up??

    • Sonny G 10 - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      +3

  30. David Proctor - Dec 30, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Interesting tidbit from Boz’s chat:

    “They were cool toward Suzuki returning as a backup catcher because their internal analysis concluded that he was one of the worst at framing pitches and “stealing strikes.” In fact, he tended to push pitches out of the strike zone. That was one of the subtle reasons, perhaps, that Ramos always had a much better “Catcher’s ERA” than Suzuki with the same pitchers. Ramos frames very well and that’s a key in a sport that has dozens of borderline pitches in every game.”

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      That said, if Ramos had been healthy for the 9th inning in game 5….
      Hey, look, Zook did an admirable job, but he is a backup quality catcher. I doubt that the Twins are a better team with him if he is their primary catcher.

      • therealjohnc - Dec 31, 2013 at 1:19 AM

        If anyone is interested, you know who is really good at pitch framing? Chris Snyder. Last month Fangraphs did an article breaking down catcher value (WAR) when adjusted for pitch framing ability. The result? Not good for Suzuki or John Buck, both of whom completely offset their other offensive and defensive merits by lousy pitch framing. Their adjusted WAR? 0.0. Each. Chris Snyder’s WAR? 1.3.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-thinning-catcher-market/

        Combining the quote from Boswell about the Nat’s concerns over Suzuki’s pitch framing tells me that the Nats’ analysis agrees with Fangraphs. And that Chris Snyder has more of a chance at beating out Solano for the backup gig than we may have thought at first.

  31. JayB - Dec 30, 2013 at 8:08 PM

    Nobody takes called 3rd strikes with bases loaded due to trying to hard….that is being selfish.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Dec 30, 2013 at 9:35 PM

      Maybe. Some people, when they’re pressing, lose confidence, and look for walks. Some people guess more, trying (too hard) to out-think the pitcher.

      For whatever reason, they definitely did their House By The Side Of The Road thing way too much for my tastes.

      On an unrelated note, I cannot believe the phrase “donkey drayage” is a googlenope.

    • Joe Seamhead - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:41 PM

      Selfish? I don’t get where you’re coming from with that .You’re not making any sense.

      • sjm308 - Dec 30, 2013 at 11:12 PM

        Joe, let me know when he does make sense.

  32. sjm308 - Dec 30, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    JayB – I am pretty sure you played ball at some point in your life. Are you saying you never struck out with the bases loaded? Are you saying that if you got fooled by a pitch and didn’t swing you are being selfish? good god! what kind of athlete were you?? people do not always hit with the bases loaded, its why this is such a great game. The best hitters fail 70% of the time. Give it a rest, let them go play golf, let them go to NASCAR, let them continue to do what got them to the big leagues and stop being so damn negative. OK, end of rant.

    Actually one more thing, maybe they did take that 3rd strike because they were trying really hard and thought too much about what was going on. How would you know?? You just frustrate the hell out of me.

  33. JayB - Dec 31, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    sorry about that…..not my intent…..when you have the bases loaded you have to change your approach. You have to make contact and you have to give your team a chance to score. Striking out happens….and yes to me too. against non HOF Roger C in college…but our hitters so often would take called strike three as a matter of routine. They never adjusted to the fact they were behind int he count. They were not fooled they were still looking for there pitch in their spot and if they did not get it they were willing to tip their cap and walk away. That is just SELFISH BASEBALL.

    End of NASCAR thing……many of you must not have seen the pictures, and text and tweets and youtube videos….Werth, Zimm and ALR were in full pit crew gear of the teams and were on the track……it was not stopping by and watching the race…they became part of the race while their real team was at work. That was not cool with me…..if you do not care about it so be it……but the season of underachievement started that night in my view.

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