Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo offered his take on what went wrong for the Nationals in their disappointing, drama-filled, 2015 campaign in an MLB Network Radio interview in late September.
The Nats failed to defend their NL East crown, missed out on a return to the postseason and saw their manager, Matt Williams, and his entire staff relieved of their duties, amidst reports that he struggled to communicate with his team and "lost the clubhouse."
Rizzo didn't address that drama, noting at another point in September that it was hard to respond to anonymously- sourced reports. He did, however, talk about the on-field issues.
"I think that we were inconsistent," Rizzo said.
"We were inconsistent offensively. Our starting rotation was inconsistent. We had guys making spot starts because of disabled list days and that type of thing. So starting pitching was inconsistent, which was the backbone of the plan this year.
"Offensively, we just couldn't get in any rhythm. We were out of sync just about the whole year because we were kind of piecing together a lineup day in and day out. I think that the timing of the injuries and the timing of guys returning had a lot to do with it. We couldn't get any consistency this year, any rhythm in our lineup and defensively, we played very poorly defensively and I think that affected our pitching and our bullpen."
On the bullpen specifically, Rizzo said a couple key injuries played in important role in the Nationals' issues.
"The injuries in the bullpen were problematic because we didn't backfill those spots when a [Craig] Stammen and then later on when a [David] Carpenter went down and that type of thing," he explained.
"We relied on some young players in the back end of the bullpen at the back end of games and they weren't fully-developed and fully ready for the role and I take responsibility for that portion of it.
"We just had some underperforming players that were healthy and that kind of factored into it. Kind of a perfect storm of a lot of different things, but there's plenty of fingers to be pointed at the GM for not putting together a roster that had enough depth."
One of the two relievers Rizzo referred to, Craig Stammen, talked to MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr Tuesday and offered his own thoughts on what went wrong for the 2015 Nats, which in his mind included a change in the clubhouse culture, communication issues and more:
"I took it personally. I want to cover all my bases where that kind of stuff doesn't happen as far as a culture going sour, communication issues and all that kind of stuff, quotes come out in the paper making everybody look bad," Stammen said.
"That stuff just really eats at me and ate at me this whole offseason. I think the players need to check their egos at the door and understand that if we don't perform, it's going to put a lot of other people's jobs in danger. We get lucky that we are players and we're privileged to play the game that we do and make the money we do. Sometimes the blame always gets pushed on other people.
"I really think that we need to put it on our minds that what happened last year wasn't their fault. They may have taken the blame for it, but we've got to be better players, got to be better communicators ourselves. We've got to be a better team. We've got a lot of things to get better at and a lot of it is not even on the field."
Now-former Nationals' pitching coach Steve McCatty too talked about what went wrong for the 2015 Nats in an MLB Network Radio interview yesterday.
"To me it was definitely the injuries," McCatty said when asked about the behind-the-scenes drama and on-field issues.
As Rizzo suggested, injury issues early in the season, especially to relievers, played a big role in the Nationals' struggles, McCatty explained.
"We weren't able to get settled down after trading [Tyler] Clippard, getting [Casey] Janssen to come in and then out of Spring Training he was hurt for the first month and a half and then we had [Craig] Stammen get hurt within the first two weeks, so that was a big blow to the bullpen and we were never able to get that seventh and eighth inning spot to be on a consistent basis and then when you lose Denard Span, [Anthony] Rendon, Jayson Werth, [Ryan Zimmerman] and all the guys we lost, you missed a lot of games, it makes a difference."
It wasn't just the injuries though, but the fact that when the injured players returned, they all came back at once and struggled to get up to speed.
"And then you look at it and a lot of times you say, 'We don't need to make any trades just because when they get healthy towards the end of June then that's when it seemed like they were all going to be coming back, that's like five great trades because you get all these [guys] coming back at the same time," McCatty said.
"But the downside is that, those guys, when they go down and try to get minor league at bats, to get ready to play in the big leagues, just not the same. So having them all hurt at once and then trying to get back in the lineup at the same time, when you're coming off the DL and you're not seeing live major league [pitching] in 50, 60, 70 at bats like you might see in Spring Training, then you're going to struggle and that's what happened with us. So having those guys hurt, it makes a big difference. It makes [a difference] how you hit and it makes a difference in your defense.
"Again, the worst part is that somebody -- I've heard them say before -- where people expect you to win 110 games, and then something happens, it makes it seem like you played a lot worse than you did. But just with those injuries, maybe some of it carried over a little bit into the clubhouse and found guys getting upset and saying things."
Can Dusty Baker manage those personalities? Can the Nationals' new medical staff have an impact and play a role in keeping the players on the field? Can Rizzo and Co. rebuild the back end of the bullpen, find the left-handed bat they are rumored to be after and get the Nats back to the postseason?