One year after Matt Williams was named National League Manager of the Year, the Washington Nationals announced Monday they've fired Williams after a disappointing 2015 season that saw the team miss the postseason with an 83-79 record:
The Nationals began 2015 with World Series aspirations. Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports noted as recently as early June that oddsmakers had Washington as the odds-on favorite to win Major League Baseball's biggest prize.
As the season moved along, the Nationals were plagued by so many injuries that it was difficult to overcome the New York Mets in the National League East. Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister all spent time on the disabled list.
It didn't help Williams' cause that his questionable tactics and strategy, especially late in games, seemed to do more harm than anything else to his team.
There are many examples of Williams' poor strategy to choose from, but Ted Berg of For The Win singled out what may have been the final straw, involving Rendon, from an early September series against the Mets:
Rendon is the Nationals' second best player, and though he has missed most of the season with injuries, he has been hot at the plate for over a month now. Heck, he entered that at-bat with two hits already in the game. And so Williams' decision to let Rendon try to give himself up — even as he worked the count to his favor and kept squaring to bunt on 2-1 and 3-1 counts — looks awful. Egregiously bad.
Fan frustration began to set in, as Williams was routinely booed by Nationals fans during games. This became an untenable situation for the manager and the franchise, so a change seemed inevitable.
While the Manager of the Year award is often handed out based on team record, rather than an indicator of actual skill at the job, Williams isn't the first person to be fired by a team within a year of being awarded the trophy. Joe Girardi was fired by the then-Florida Marlins in October 2006, one month before he was awarded NL Manager of the Year.
The Nationals hired Williams even though he lacked previous managerial experience. He did lead the team to the postseason in his first season, so there were certainly good things he did along the way.
While it ultimately fell apart for Williams in Washington, he now has a better understanding of what the job entails and can be better prepared for the next position that comes his way. The best chance to prove people wrong is with a fresh start.