WASHINGTON — Few would argue that the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse deteriorated at the end of the 2015 season, with tension boiling over into public spats and awkward press conferences.
But after an offseason in which the team brought in player-friendly manager Dusty Baker and experienced significant roster turnover, could toxicity still be a concern for free agent targets? According to Washington Post reporter Barry Svrluga, the problem is more than addition by subtraction.
“It’s a complex situation,” he told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “I don’t think when people say ‘It’s a toxic clubhouse,’ if that’s the full picture of why guys are signing elsewhere, or why guys might say, ‘Hey, you might want to think twice about that.’
“I think there was an element, certainly, with Matt Williams, last year, as the manager. It became an issue because guys in that clubhouse felt like he wasn’t communicating effectively and expectations weren’t met, that sort of thing. Things kind of went off the rails at the end there.”
Months of roster-wide injuries and unachievement became explosive after the addition of closer Jonathan Papelbon, who deposed the popular Drew Storen, sending his season into a tailspin. He later had a very public, very physical altercation with team star Bryce Harper in the team dugout after the latter neglected to run out a pop fly ball.
Interestingly, Svrluga reports that the handling of Storen may have had more to do with the current state of affairs.
“There’s a big picture in which players wonder why–look, they had Jordan Zimmermann, they had Ian Desmond. They had this core of guys that they brought up through their own system–why didn’t they sign those guys?” Svrluga explained. “What went wrong? Why weren’t they able to extend those guys? And then when they did go to free agency, why did they just let them walk and not compete for their services?
“Ian’s still looking for a job but it won’t be here.
“I think that’s what…might be oversimplified as ‘clubhouse culture.’ I think it’s more of a look at the whole organization: How do they treat their own guys? Why didn’t they keep Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen, or go down the list of guys? Why have they really only signed one of their home-grown players, Ryan Zimmerman, to an extension before they reached free agency?
“I think there are some questions about that among smart players.”
For Barry’s full analysis, listen to the full segment below: