By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 16, 2006
The Washington Nationals fired bullpen coach John Wetteland yesterday, a move made at the behest of Manager Frank Robinson, who said he could no longer put up with what he considered to be a long line of transgressions and insubordination that was affecting the chemistry of his relief corps.
"They seem to focus a little bit more on practical jokes and fooling around out there in the bullpen rather than focusing and concentrating on the game, and keeping their minds focused to what they would have to do when they came into the ballgame to get people out," Robinson said after yesterday's 8-1 loss to Colorado. "I just couldn't put up with it anymore. I talked to John on a number of occasions and told him flat-out what I needed and how I wanted things done. He just didn't seem to understand."
Wetteland drove out of RFK Stadium on his motorcycle before an announcement about his dismissal was made, and he did not return a message left on his cellphone. General Manager Jim Bowden, who hired Wetteland -- the MVP of the 1996 World Series for the New York Yankees -- issued a statement supporting Robinson, but also didn't return phone calls.
"John will be missed," veteran left-hander Mike Stanton said. "He helped a lot of the young kids here."
Several club sources said Wetteland encouraged pranks among the relievers, and they started with firecrackers in spring training that were set off in the bullpen during Grapefruit League games and in the clubhouse. One source said the clubs in each of the first four cities the Nationals played in this season complained to Major League Baseball about damage to their bullpen sustained when Washington was in town. Two sources said the most egregious misdeed came in Philadelphia, where Wetteland was involved in an attempt to disassemble a video camera.
"All of that stuff adds up," one club source said. "But in the end, I think there was a respect issue with Frank."
The Nationals will likely have a replacement for Wetteland this weekend. Asked if the relievers might be upset, Robinson said, "Maybe they'll get mad enough to get somebody out."