Manage a major league baseball team long enough and there’s a decent chance disgruntled fans will use a hashtag calling for your ouster. Make questionable decisions that contribute to a three-game sweep at the hands of your closest competition in the division and you’re apt to inspire an especially disgruntled fan to create a new Twitter handle.
The Nationals went into Citi Field with a three-game lead in the National League East and a new closer in Jonathan Papelbon, who was supposed to make Manager Matt Williams’s job easier and the bullpen more difficult to score against. The Nationals left New York tied with the Mets atop the division and with a well-rested 1-2 punch; Papelbon and Drew Storen, Williams’s top two relievers, didn’t throw a single pitch.
Williams said Storen was unavailable Friday, a 2-1 loss, but Storen and Papelbon were available for Saturday and Sunday’s games.
Williams’s decisions in the late innings of Saturday’s 3-2 loss were his most baffling of the series. He allowed rookie Joe Ross to hit in the seventh inning of a one-run game and pitch to the red-hot Lucas Duda in the bottom of the inning. Duda, who had homered against Ross in the fourth inning, homered again to tie the game.
In the eighth, Williams had lefty Matt Thornton intentionally walk Yoenis Cespedes, who is hitting .181 against lefties, to get to Duda, who is hitting .302 against lefties … and might be the hottest hitter in baseball. Duda drove in the go-ahead run with a double.
In a thorough post following Saturday’s loss, Jim Meyerriecks of Federal Baseball outlines the main criticisms against Williams and makes the case that the Nationals boss is out of excuses. Williams tends to overextend his starters, as he did with Ross on Saturday, mismanages his bullpen, and hasn’t found playing time for Danny Espinosa since Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman returned from injuries.
Some of these criticisms, particularly with respect to bullpen management, might sound familiar to Mets fans, who have griped about Manager Terry Collins since the 2011 season. The Mets have averaged 76 wins a season under Collins and haven’t qualified for the postseason. Yes, there’s a @FIRETERRYCOLLINS.
The Collins critics were mostly quiet over the weekend, though, with Mets fans seemingly convinced that it could always be worse. It should be a fun pennant race.