After Sunday’s loss concluded a 3-4 homestand against the lowly Diamondbacks and Rockies, Nationals Manager Matt Williams insisted that his team won’t dwell on the past week.

“Of course we want to get better,” Williams said. “Of course we want to win games. And what we do right now is jump on that plane with a good attitude and go get the Dodgers and see what we can do. What other choice do we have? Pretty much none. So we’ll go do that.”

Nationals players recognize the importance of the 10-game road trip that begins Monday in Los Angeles, but they say it isn’t time to panic. Still, something has to change if the Nationals, who trail the Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East, are to win their third division title in three years.


On Tuesday, Hugh Kaufman performed a rubber-chicken sacrifice at Nationals Park, a ritual that Kaufman has turned to before when the Nationals have been mired in prolonged slumps. The Nationals won Tuesday, but lost the next day.


On Thursday, Max Scherzer brought the Nationals’ lineup card to home plate, a job normally reserved for one of the coaches. The Nationals won, so the superstitious Scherzer took the lineup card out again on Friday. The Nationals lost that night, so Scherzer was not on lineup card duty on Saturday.

Maybe it’s time for Williams to step up, not in the sense that he makes in-game decisions becoming of the reigning National League manager of the year, but in the sense that he finally fulfills his promise to imitate Babe Ruth if the Nationals won 10 straight games last year.


If you’re not familiar with the back story, Williams was well known among teammates during his playing days for impersonating other players and managers’ voices and swings. Before a game at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1991, Williams tucked a pillow under his jersey and imitated Babe Ruth hitting a home run before waddling around the bases and tipping his cap to imaginary fans.


During an interview with F.P. Santangelo in May 2014, Williams said he’d revive his Ruth impression under one condition.

“If we do 10 in a row, I will break it out,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but yeah, I would. Ten in a row, you got it.”


The Nationals didn’t win more than five games in a row until mid-August. When their streak reached seven games, Williams was reminded of his promise and confirmed that it still stood.

“Well I didn’t necessarily want to bring that up,” he said. “But it is. Yes, it is. It’s still available.”

The Nationals won their 10th consecutive game on Aug. 21 on an Anthony Rendon walk-off single. After the game, Williams said he’d wait for the right time to do the impression. The middle of a pennant race was not it.

“Timing is ultimately important,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t imagine that right now is a proper time. It’s probably not appropriate, but in some form or fashion, at some point, probably in the privacy of some stadium somewhere, we’ll bring it out again. I don’t know when that will be. I haven’t done it since the last time I did it, but a promise is a promise, so at some point, somewhere. I can’t tell you when that would be, but at some point.”


“Some point” eventually turned to 2015. In February, Williams was asked about his outstanding promise at spring training. Via Chelsea Janes:

Asked when he would do the deed, Williams put an elbow on his desk and looked serious.
“You know, I’ve made this decision,” he began, his tone stronger and more sullen than at any point prior. Then:
“I can’t even keep a straight face. I have no idea.”
Williams explained his logic behind postponing the performance, and did so with such clarity that one could hardly find a point to argue:
“You know, there’s some folks that speculate that it’s kind of like a fine wine, right? So if you open that bottle of fine wine, why would you try to age it any further, because it’s already ready to drink, right?” Williams posited. “So that being said, why would you try to top what’s already been done? So that’s one avenue of thinking. The other avenue is, people are asking, ‘When are you going to do it?’ I don’t have a clue. I’m just trying to get through spring, man. So we’ll see. We’ll just keep people hanging.”

Five months later and two days shy of the one-year anniversary of the start of the Nationals’ 10-game streak, we’re still hanging.

It would be ludicrous to suggest that the Nationals are struggling because Williams hasn’t intentionally looked like a fool by breaking out his Bambino impression this season. But in the wake of the report by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman last week that the Nationals clubhouse is an “unhappy scene” and many players find Williams “not loose” and “never relaxed,” there’s no time like the present.

Williams could wait until the Nationals get to San Francisco, where the impersonation was born and the 2014 season died (unless Washington loses its first two games to the Dodgers, in which case Williams should do the impression for reporters instead of answering postgame questions on Wednesday). At the very least, it would give fans something to laugh about.