At 63-61, the Washington Nationals appear to be one of the biggest underachievers in baseball history. Their playoff hopes are not dead, but they certainly are on life support. The New York Mets are red-hot, and do not appear poised for a collapse that will let Washington back into the division race. Despite the fact that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have combined to allow five home runs and 10 earned runs to the Philadelphia Phillies the past two days, somehow the Mets have picked up a half game in the standings.
It’s been that kind of year for the Nationals.
When Denard Span returned to the lineup on Tuesday night, it marked the first time in 124 games that manager Matt Williams could deploy his projected Opening Day lineup. Willliams has also seen injuries and inconsistency derail his ace-laden pitching staff. Only Max Scherzer has lived up to expectations, and rookie Joe Ross has taken over the fifth spot. Ross started the year in Double-A.
Through it all, Williams has had to cobble together a patchwork lineup. He’s batted Yunel Escobar, Tyler Moore, and Danny Espinosa around Bryce Harper. How’s that for protection? Anthony Rendon has not looked like the Silver Slugger he was a year ago. Ian Desmond was downright awful the entire first half. Jayson Werth is batting .202 in the 52 games he has actually found his way onto the field. Ryan Zimmerman appears to be aging rapidly before our eyes. It’s a wonder the Nationals are even in the conversation to make the playoffs.
Williams, in my opinion, has actually done a very good job this season, but some still want his head on a platter. Is Williams the one who massively overpaid the injury-prone Werth? Nope. I’m sure he wasn’t the one championing a Jonathan Papelbon acquisition either. Most of this lineup was drafted, developed, and put together before Williams entered the dugout. He has done a very good job with what he’s had to work with this season, and it should not cost him his job.
I do not think the Washington Nationals will make the playoffs this season, but Williams should be given the opportunity to return for the 2016 season, especially if the team comes together and shows some sort of fight in September. Williams will finally (hopefully) have his full lineup together for an entire month. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that things begin to gel and the Nationals roll out a 25-win month. Either way, Matt Williams should still have the full faith of Washington management.