Fire Matt Williams... I guess.
This team is where it is because it deserves to be. This is how it has played. Middling hitting where bursts of offense are matched by stretches of utter incompetence. Disappointing starting pitching and relief pitching that has made it a habit of blowing up at the worst times. Unimpressive defense and yes, questionable managing decisions here and there. Firing Williams will in itself solve exactly zero of these problems and will only fix the manager issues if a good manager is brought in behind him and we can see the difference in 40+ games.
But it would make all you guys feel better wouldn't it?
I haven't sat down and really evaluated MW's work for the season. To be honest, I really can't (no one can) because I don't know what Rizzo's goals were for him. That aside, does he deserve to be fired in that the job he is doing is significantly worse than the average manager you could put in there? I don't know. Feels like it recently but that's going to be the case with every manager when the team goes on an extended losing streak. They play bad, you make a couple bad decisions and it's a snowball rolling down hill. What I can tell you for sure is that if I was considering firing Williams after the season I would just do it now. Why not? Nothing to lose.
There's no way around it. As of August 17th, this team is a major disappointment. We can (and will) go over the various reasons why as we close out the year. The question though that matters right now is why is the team playing so badly today? Why, after pretty much everyone gets back into the line-up and rotation, and after they presumably strengthened the bullpen, does the team have it's worst 20 game stretch of the year?
Part of it is painfully simple and sadly unavoidable. For the first four months of the year the Nats had four good hitters, Bryce, Yuney, Clint Robinson, and Espinosa. When Zimmerman, Rendon and Werth came back, Robinson, Espinosa, and random other guy had to sit. Zimmerman has functionally replaced Robinson, might even be better. Certainly more pop. But Rendon has been a downgrade from Espinosa, even the Espinosa that was slumping in June. And Werth has not been an improvement from three guys in Moore/denDekker/Uggla who are questionable additions to a major league bench. So the injury returnees have made things worse, not better. But what was to be done? Not play these guys?
Well... maybe. Someone has to evaluate when they are ready to play in the major leagues everyday. Werth and Rendon have not been. So someone made a mistake in that evaluation.
Another part took the Nats by surprise and went unaddressed through the trade deadline. Nearly everyone else dipped from June to July to August
Bryce 1.143 -> 1.015 -> .804*
Clint .872 -> .756 -> .819
Escobar .855 -> .693 -> .720
Ramos .745 -> .410 -> .529
Espinosa .729 -> .606 -> .815
Taylor .704 -> .616 -> .626
Desmond .463 -> .645 -> .911
The league OPS is .707, figure in some pitcher stuff there, but the take away is in June nearly everyone was hitting ok or better. Since then things have fallen way off. Escobar is merely ok. Ramos and Taylor are terrible and not good respectively. Bryce is no longer a monster. Only Desmond has picked up the slack (Espy is playing way less) and one guy isn't going to counter all that on his own.
On one hand you see the thought process. You have guys struggling in July but you have three guys All-Star caliber the last two seasons, coming back from injury. They will simply replace the strugglers. It seems so simple.
But even at that moment it wasn't. They'd push out Robinson who wasn't struggling. They wouldn't push out Taylor and Ramos who were good bets to perform under league average. They wouldn't, at least at first, push out Desmond who was struggling mightily. It wasn't a sure bet, it was a gamble. It was a gamble that these guys could come in and perform at a high enough level to perhaps carry two poor bats, with the rest of the line-up helping. They've lost that best so far.
*I suppose you could blame Bryce if you like, but doing that would be stupid because without him being a monster May-July the Nats win fewer games and we aren't even talking about the playoffs right now.