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Rizzo: Decision on Williams will come soon


Rizzo: Decision on Williams will come soon

NEW YORK — Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he plans to meet Monday with top club officials and doesn’t expect to waste any time determining the fates of manager Matt Williams, his coaching staff and other front office personnel.

“We’re going to evaluate each aspect of the organization,” Rizzo said Sunday afternoon prior to his club’s final game of the season. “Any decision we make, we’re going to be decisive and make decisions sooner rather than later about personnel, both on the field and off the field and in the front office. We’re not going to let people twist in the wind. We want to make our decisions and move on and get moving into 2016.”

Rizzo wouldn’t directly answer whether Williams will be retained, but the GM made it clear he’s disappointed in this season as a whole, with a franchise widely expected to defend its NL East title and contend for a World Series championship finishing in second place, well behind the Mets and only a few games over the .500 mark.

“We come into the last game of the season extremely disappointed, extremely frustrated about the year,” he said. “We had much higher expectations. We thought going into the season we created a roster that could’ve and should’ve competed for the National League East championship and beyond — that’s what we were built for — and it didn’t happen. Myriad of reasons come into it. We’re going to investigate all those things after the season, when we do our postseason analytics of what went wrong. But, suffice to say, nobody’s more disappointed than I am about the way this season transpired.”

A staunch supporter of Williams, who he hired to be the club’s manager two years ago based more on his longstanding relationship with the former Diamondbacks third baseman and coach than on experience in the field, Rizzo has backtracked some in the last few weeks, saying only a decision would be made after the season ended.

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The situation has turned tense and uncomfortable over the last week in particular, beginning with Jonathan Papelbon’s attack on Bryce Harper in the dugout last Sunday at Nationals Park, with Williams coming under criticism for not seeing what happened and not finding out from his staff before sending Papelbon back to the mound. Several unflattering reports about Williams and his relationship with players then surfaced, with the second-year manager left to manage the team’s final road trip while everyone else speculated about his future.

Williams, whose contract option for 2016 was picked up in February on the heels of him winning NL Manager of the Year honors, has not yet been informed of his fate. Rizzo will consult with members of the Nationals’ ownership group before making the decision.

“We have a process that we go through,” Rizzo said. “Ownership has some involvement. Baseball operations obviously is responsible for it. And ultimately I make the final choice.”

Rizzo credited the Mets for the aggressive moves they made at the July 31 trade deadline, most notably the addition of slugger Yoenis Cespedes. He defended the Nationals’ decision not to make any moves beyond the controversial Papelbon trade but admitted that plan — counting on injured veterans Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span and Anthony Rendon to be healthy and productive down the stretch — wasn’t successful in the end.

“We thought the roster that we had, and the players that we had coming off the disabled list, was enough to get us through,” he said. “Obviously, we were wrong in that assessment, just because the guys we did have come back weren’t in playoff-type of mode. They were more in spring training-type of mode. So we will look back on it and rethink and see if we can improve on that.”

Rizzo acknowledged there are numerous roster decisions that must be made this winter, beginning with a bullpen that is likely to be overhauled. He did say he has been in touch with Papelbon — who was suspended by the organization through the end of the season — in the last week and hasn’t yet addressed the closer’s future, except to say he’s still “a member of the team” and under contract for 2016.

Rizzo also said he was pleased with his organization’s depth during the course of the season, with rookies Clint Robinson, Michael Taylor and Joe Ross filling in long-term for injured veterans, and doesn’t believe that ultimately cost the team a division title.

“These guys came through and really performed this year, and they’re going to be a big part of the future,” Rizzo said. “With that said, I thought we did that due diligence in having plan B’s and plan C’s when guys with health issues went down.”

Rizzo insisted the Nationals have “great chemistry in the clubhouse” and pointed to the growing core of young, talented players both at and near the big-league level as evidence of the franchise’s strong standing heading into 2016 despite the anticipated losses of free agents Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Span.

“We fell short this year of our expectations, but we’re going to win 83, maybe 84 games this year,” he said. “We’re not happy about that. That’s not enough. But we look at our future as a strong core of current major-league players that we control. We’ve got a great minor-league system. We’ve got a great front office. We’ve got a great player development system. We’ve got a great process in place in the front office to make decisions. So we feel good about ourselves and look forward to putting 2015 behind us and attacking the offseason and 2016.”

MORE NATIONALS: Putting Scherzer's no-hitters into historical context

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.