The Nats died eight weeks ago, done in during a weekend series against the Mets in late July, two ships passing in opposite directions during the night. The Nats proved to be an overrated, underachieving team that clearly lacked team chemistry. The question now is whether to keep manager Matt Williams. Based on my own observation from a couple of visits to Nats Park this year, I’d say no. The manager/player chemistry was missing, so important during the long grind of a 162 game season. If you don’t think a manager is important, look at the Cubs. During a June visit to Nats Park (when my wife was able to get lower level, club level seats from her company), I noticed Cubs manager Joe Maddon had an easy, healthy rapport with his players and staff. He was clearly a communicator and a teacher. Contrast that with Williams and his apparent uneasy body language with his players and you’re on to something. Age caught up to Jason Werth, too; happens to everybody. With Werth’s long term contract, I’m not sure how the team can address that. Stay tuned. One last note on team chemistry. It came to my attention this week that the great Yankee teams of the late 40s and early 50s (five straight World Series championships) did not have the best pitchers in baseball, yet their staff was clearly the most effective. Why? Catcher Yogi Berra, who passed away this week, apparently had great rapport with his pitchers and knew how to call a game.
The Redskins are in what I’d call a state of ‘organizational purgatory’. They’re trying. They’re trying to change the culture. Whether they really can with Dan Snyder remains to be seen. Jay Gruden’s a good man, maybe not the best coach, too vanilla, but he did make the decision to go with Kirk Cousins this season. Problems remain, however. RGIII is still on the team, and until the organization makes a clean break, the potential for unneeded drama is there. The coaching staff also lacks cohesion. They may have talent and reputations, but coaches don’t come to Washington to win, they come to get paid. The team needs a sense of urgency, a work ethos. Stop listening to the Washington media and your enablers, and get to work.
The model for a good organization in this town right now is the Capitals. They don’t panic. They continue to make good moves. Barry Trotz is exactly the coach this veteran team needs with Alex Ovechkin turning 30. He’s a taskmaster, disciplined, a leader. And with the acquisition of former Olympic star T.J. Oshie, this team is going to be fun to watch. There are no guarantees in sports, but this is a legitimate, solid team with few weaknesses.
I’ll get to the Wizards soon!