Craig Calcaterra

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams thinks his side of the story matters


Yesterday, after the Washington Post published its damning story about how Matt Williams had lost the Nationals clubhouse, someone quite understandably asked Williams for comment.

As CSN reports, Williams said “I think if we’re going to talk about it, it’s going to take longer than a conference like this,” and added, “I think you have to have all the facts. I mean all of them. So that being said, I’ll hold my comments for now. Because all of the facts aren’t out there.”

For the entire rich story of the situation, yes, you do have to have all of the facts. And eventually, I presume, we will. We’ll know to what extent Williams’ shortcomings as a manager were met with players who were uncooperative or had bad attitudes and what else, apart from what was reported in the Post yesterday, made the 2015 Washington Nationals all of the wonderful things that they came to be.

But, insofar as it relates to Matt Williams’ status as the manager of the Nats, does it really matter? Here are the possibilities that more facts could potentially reveal:

  • Williams has been a bad clubhouse guy but it was a two-way street and the disputes mentioned in the article were more complex than portrayed;
  • Williams’ players revolted, but they did so for no good reason and are being major jerks now;
  • Williams’ players didn’t truly revolt at all, but some of them and others close to the team are telling reporters that they did;

Which of those scenarios ends with Williams still having a job? I can’t see one. Because any of them reveal seriously bad blood, in the form of either (a) players who have been treated like crap; (b) players who have been treated like crap but gave as good as they got; or (c) players who actually weren’t treated like crap at all but want the world to think they were and are throwing Williams under the bus because they hate him so much.

Indeed, the only scenario in which Williams can plausibly manage this team beyond Sunday afternoon is if the Washington Post were a pure Jason Blair-style fabrication in which no one said anything like what was reported at all. Which, no, did not happen here because the Post’s Barry Svrulga is not some crazy person. He’s an excellent reporter with good sources.

All of which is to say that, even if Williams didn’t deserve to lose the clubhouse and even if those in the clubhouse he lost are overstating the severity of situation, his position as a manager was untenable once yesterday’s story came out.

So, while history may reveal that the players in Washington were far worse than the manager and while Matt Williams may someday be vindicated, he can no longer manage this club. It’s over.

Congress to ban “pay for patriotism” promotions at stadiums

Large Flag

We have written about conspicuous displays of patriotism at ballparks many times in this space. Last year we dealt with it at length with respect to Kansas City and the World Series, noting how much the tributes to the troops, the flag, veterans and everything else has become tied up in corporate sponsorship. About how, however well-intentioned MLB’s military and veteran-related initiatives are, at some point in the past 15 years they have become rote at best, overblown and exploited by corporate interests at worst and maybe it’s time to dial it back a bit.

Against that backdrop came a story last May at about how the military actually uses tax dollars to pay for a lot of this stuff, using it as a recruitment and P.R. tool. Indeed, National Guard officials admitted that. Which, while not illegal or anything, seems manipulative as hell in that fans are clearly led to believe that these salutes to the troops and “Hometown Hero” tributes are public services by the team or, at the very least, spontaneous tributes. Which they’re clearly not. They’re advertisements.

Now, reports, Congress is looking to stamp that out:

The National Defense Authorization Act, as agreed to by congressional negotiators, would ban such activities as the “hometown heroes” promotion at New York Jets’ home games featuring members of the New Jersey Army National Guard. Overall, the Defense Department paid 14 NFL teams $5.4 million from 2011 to 2014 for such promotions, dubbed as “pay for patriotism.”

The bill also seeks a study of all existing sports sponsorships and advertising deals.

Which presumably includes what the military does in baseball, NASCAR and everywhere else, be it overt or deceptive.

Now, as the postseason looms, let’s see if MLB and its clubs dial it back a bit on their own accord as well.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Blue Jays celebration

Pirates 8, Cardinals 2; Cardinals 11, Pirates 1: With win 100, the Cards clinch. Such an odd season for them, what with key injuries and amazingly tough competition in their division yet . . . they basically led the whole way and were never seriously challenged. All of which had the effect of giving us a 100-win team that in some way doesn’t feel like 100-win teams of the past. Which is probably a good thing for the Cardinals. There are nowhere near as many people prematurely crowning them as so many good teams get prematurely crowned. I won’t go so far as to call the Cardinals underdogs — they’ll NEVER be that given their history and the whole Cardinal Nation gestalt — but they’re the closest thing to it in the public consciousness that a 100-win team can probably get.

Blue Jays 15, Orioles 2; Orioles 8, Blue Jays 1: A long time coming for the Jays — someone cue up the “this is what was happening the last time Toronto made the playoffs” listicles — but completely and utterly convincing and resounding. They were EIGHT GAMES back in late July, people. And in the space of two months they became everyone’s odds-on favorite and everyone’s most feared playoff opponent.

Twins 7, Indians 1; Indians 10, Twins 2: A big win in game one that the Twins didn’t get to savor because of a big loss in game 2. And, even with the success in the nightcap, the Indians got eliminated afterward thanks to the Astros beating the Mariners. A very “From Hell’s Heart I Stab At Thee” kind of night for everyone involved.

Athletics 8, Angels 7: I saw Barry Zito penciled in to start this one and thought how it was kinda lame that the Angels were gonna benefit from the A’s nostalgia trip for a basically dead pitcher. Then I thought “Well, that’s on the Astros and the other teams in a race with the Angels. If they had taken care of their business for the past several months they wouldn’t depend on the A’s to beat Anaheim.” Then all of those ethical calisthenics were mooted by Barry Zito being marginally effective and the Angels kicking the ball around the field like it was a little league game in May. Such is the way with ethical calisthenics a lot of the time. Actual, you know, events render them somewhat pointless.

Astros 7, Mariners 6: A nice gut-check kind of win with Houston coming back from three runs down and the bullpen hanging on, each of which were things that have been tough for them lately. With this win and the Angels’ loss the Astros move back into playoff position and control their own destiny.

Red Sox 9, Yankees 5: A four-run 11th inning meltdown prevented the Yankees from clinching their wild card spot. They still will barring a monumentally improbable series of events, but it would’ve been nice to do it at home I presume.

Phillies 7, Mets 5: The loss makes little difference for New York. The Justin De Fratus pitch that hit the left hand of Yoenis Cespedes in the top of the third inning, however, made for some serious sphincter-clenching in Queens. Cespedes seems to only have a bruise, so that’s good, even if it lingers for a bit. A break and his season would’ve been over and all of the air would’ve been sucked out of the room.

Braves 2, Nationals 0: Good to see the Nats going down fighting. It’s that dignity in the face of adversity and the knowledge that you did your best that will always stay with you, even in the face of defeat.

Cubs 10, Reds 3: Austin Jackson drove in five as the Cubs won their fourth in a row. They probably wish the playoffs started already. And not just because that would’ve technically meant that they were playing this stanky-butt Reds team in the playoffs.

Rays 6, Marlins 4: Sorry, but the next time I care about Florida baseball it’ll be because pitchers and catchers are reporting.

Rangers 6, Tigers 2: Not a bad place for the Rangers to be right now. They have to win only once in their final four games against the Los Angeles Angels to be guaranteed a playoff spot, if they win a whole bunch, they can keep the Angels out of the playoffs and if they lose a whole bunch they can really mess with the Astros. So there will be celebration and schadenfreude for Rangers fans with basically any outcome.

Royals 5, White Sox 3: Eric Hosmer hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning. They Royals, while long since having clinched, are still playing for home field advantage and with this win they clinched home-field advantage in an ALDS.

Diamondbacks 3, Rockies 1: What I said about Florida baseball above applies for Arizona baseball too.

Giants 5, Dodgers 0: L.A. wasn’t playing for anything and they probably put more effort into hangover alleviation than game prep here, but this was still a case of having their lunch handed to them as Mike Leake pitched a two-hit complete game shutout.  I wonder if folks looking over Leake’s prospectus during free agent season will remember to mentally discount this one based on the fact that it came against a Dodgers team which would probably be on shaky ground, legally speaking, if they had gotten behind the wheel of the car even this many hours after their celebration the night before.

Brewers 5, Padres 0: I won’t care about Florida or Arizona baseball until February. Feelings about San Diego baseball may take until July when the All-Star Game is played in Petco Park.