WASHINGTON — Nationals General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo gave an impassioned vote of support for Matt Williams, amidst the team’s recent losing skid.
The Nationals are 11-20 since the all-star break and, after enduring a sea of injuries all season, finally relinquished their division lead — which they had held for more than a month — to the New York Mets at the onset of August.
The Nats are 5-10 since falling behind the Mets in the NL East on Aug. 3, with their 15-6 win over the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night snapping a six-game losing streak.
Washington, the consensus pre-season favorite to win the division, trails the Mets by 4.5 games.
During Rizzo’s weekly radio appearance with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Wednesday, he was asked very matter-of-factly: “A lot of people feel like [Williams is] managing down the stretch for his job. How do you react to that?”
Rizzo defended the 2014 NL Manager of the Year against critics calling for his job, with a growing sense of frustration in his voice.
“The job description of a Major League manager is you’re always on call, and your job is always on the line,” he said. “Matt Williams has done an outstanding job.”
“His winning percentage is one of the highest out of all active managers in the game right now, he’s the reigning manager of the year, and this guy has put together the most different lineups out of any team in the Major Leagues — as many disabled list days for core players of any team in the National League.
“At times this season, he’s been without two of his rotation starters, without five of his middle-of-the-lineup hitters. Not one time have we had our consistent, total lineup in place for one game this whole season, and we’re still competing, we’re still contending, we’re still optimistic that we can win the division.
“So I would say that he’s shown great leadership in trying times, he’s been a calming presence in the clubhouse; he’s got great leadership skills and the players respect him. So that’s my take on Matt Williams. We’re all pulling on the rope the same, and we all have the same goals in mind, and he’s doing extremely well, in my mind.”
Rizzo was then asked another question (condensed): ‘Are you surprised there’s even chatter about Williams possibly being fired?’ This time, Rizzo launched into a fiery tirade against what he believes to be unfair media coverage.
“No, it’s so easy for you guys in the media to second-guess and play armchair manager,” he said. “I read the pundits and the ‘so-called’ experts of managers that have been fired that are now on TV, and criticizing managers that haven’t been fired, that are actually in the dugouts.”
“What nobody knows is, you don’t know that X pitcher is unavailable today, and we want to stay off two of the pitchers because he’s pitched three days in a row. You know, people think that these players are just robots and you can run them out there as the situation calls for, each and every time, but we have to take into account: there’s 25 players, 25 different attitudes, 25 different availability levels each and every game.
“There’s so many moving parts that go into it. I guarantee you, when you ask Matt Williams why he did a move, he has 10 or 12 reasons why he did that move, and 9 or 10 of them he does not want to disclose to the media or to the public because it gives the other team an unfair advantage.
“When I hear the pundits pontificate on how good or bad general managers are doing, and that managers are doing, that players are doing, I take that with a grain of salt because none of these guys are at the ballpark, or in the clubhouse, or with the team. They’re just pontificating because they have to talk for a living, and that’s what they do and that’s what they get paid for.”
Listen to Rizzo’s fiery rant below.