Distinguished Senators, the Washington Nationals Blog That Is Great

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Rub Some Dirt On It

Matt Williams lost the Nationals another one last night. The Nats' one deadline acquisition, Jonathon Papelbon, sat there watching as the bullpen did what the bullpen does.

The Papelbon trade turned out to be a "Gift of the Magi" situation. Williams sold his hair to buy Mike Rizzo a watch fob, and Rizzo got Williams a closer he's too stupid to use.

My question: What is the point of Matt Williams?

He's obviously not any good tactically. He has no idea when to pull a starter. He appears to believe that there's a rule preventing a designated closer from pitching in any but save situations. He thinks a defensive replacement is something that happens to other people. He clearly only learned what a double switch was a couple of weeks ago - he handles those things like your grandpa with an iPhone.

Does he make up for it in other ways?

FP Santangelo is a proponent of what I call the emotional school of baseball criticism. You hear it pretty much every game - if the Nats are losing, the solution is to become gritty. Get the uni dirty. Play as a team. Feed off each other like a plane-crashed soccer team.
This is the goal.
I'm not as opposed to this kind of thing as I'm making it sound. There's something to it; I don't doubt that a happy clubhouse leads to better performances than a miserable one or that good attitudes are more likely to produce good results. I'm not going to base any kind of argument around the concept because it's too wispy to hang anything on, but that doesn't mean it's completely imaginary.

But the fact that FP has to say it every day means that Matt Williams isn't making it happen. I can tolerate a bad tactical manager as long as he brings other things to the table. This isn't some kind of "I renounce sabermetrics!" thing either. If I recall correctly, that was the point of Bill James' manager book - the tactics add up to few games. It's being able to manage people that counts.

There's no reason to think Williams can do that. At least some of his players don't like him any more than we do. The team is embarrassingly bad at fundamental things like throwing a ball to first base. To the extent that there's such a thing as "playing with a sense of urgency," the Nats aren't doing it.

Other than using SAT words in radio interviews, is Matt Williams good at anything?

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