October 5, 2015 / 4:34 PM / 2 years ago

Nationals fire manager after two seasons in charge

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Nationals, a club that struggled all season and barely finished .500 despite a roster loaded with marquee names and assembled through a team-record $164 million payroll, fired manager Matt Williams on Monday.

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams (9), left stands on the mound with Washington Nationals second baseman Trea Turner (7) and Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond (20) during a pitching change in the eighth inning of their game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Braves won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Under-performing players, defensive lapses, and a slew of injuries to key players were just a few of the reasons the Nationals staggered to an 83-79 record and failed to make the postseason.

“It wasn’t Matt’s best year,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters on a conference call. “It wasn’t my best year. As an organization, it wasn’t our best year. All of us, together, feel the disappointment.”

Williams, 49, won 96 games in 2014 in his first season as manager and was named National League Manager of the Year. The Nationals lost in the NL Division Series to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

Washington opened the 2015 season as a favorite to win the World Series but the dream ended swiftly with a spate of injuries that saw Denard Span, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and others spend much of the year on the disabled list.

”There were a lot more trials and tribulations this year (for Williams),“ said Rizzo. ”Going into spring training we had what many people thought was a championship-caliber roster.

“There were a lot of injuries that came into play. There were a lot of line-ups he had to make up as the season went along. Matt had to navigate a lot of rough waters that maybe he didn’t have to in the previous season.”

Rizzo said Williams’ entire staff, including bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty and hitting coach Rick Schu have been told their contracts will not be renewed.

Williams, a five-time All-Star third baseman as a big-leaguer from 1987-2003, was criticized for a by-the-book style that left little room for improvisation.

Also, a late-season dugout brawl between star outfielder Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon that Williams said he never saw raised eyebrows from fans and media in Washington.

“Not one single incident was a tipping point of making the decision with Matt Williams,” said Rizzo. “Like I said during the season, we were going to take his whole body of work into consideration and make a decision based on that and what was best for the organization moving forward.”

Editing by Frank Pingue

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