According to multiple reports out of the nation's capital on Saturday, though Jayson Werth was originally left out of the lineup for that night's game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Washington's 36-year-old outfielder reported to Nationals Park feeling good, spoke to Matt Williams and was inserted atop the order.
"Werth told Manager Matt Williams that he felt good so he is starting," Washington Post writer James Wagner wrote. "He is leading off."
Those reports were based on Williams' comments in the pregame press conference with reporters on Saturday.
In an article today by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the bow-tied national baseball reporter quoted sources who said Williams, "... upset left fielder Jayson Werth on Saturday after failing to include the veteran in his initial lineup.":
"The incident with Werth might have stemmed from nothing more than Williams trying to take extra care with a player who recently missed more than two months with a left wrist contusion. Werth had similar blowups with the team’s previous managers, Davey Johnson and Jim Riggleman, sources said. But Williams’ problems with his players extend beyond Werth, according to others with knowledge of the situation."
This isn't the first report of rumored discontent in the Nationals' clubhouse, of course.
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported earlier this month that he was hearing, "... manager Matt Williams has not [been] well-received by many players, who find him 'not loose' and 'never relaxed.'"
An anonymous player quoted in the article said Williams' demeanor was not affecting the Nationals, who currently sit 5.5 games out in the NL East and are a non-factor in the Wild Card race (10.0 games out of the second spot).
Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo spoke up in support of Williams when he talked to reporters recently and he shared his thoughts on the speculation about Williams' future in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier last week.
"The job description of a major league manager is you’re always on call, and your job is always on the line," Rizzo said. "Matt Williams has done an outstanding job."
Williams has worked with what he's had available and kept the Nats in contention, Rizzo noted, adding that he's done so,"... without two of his rotation starters," for long stretches, and, "... without five of his middle-of-the-lineup hitters," until just recently.
Rizzo went on to say that Williams has displayed, "... great leadership in trying times," and has, "... been a calming presence in the clubhouse; he’s got great leadership skills and the players respect him."
Asked about the speculation that Williams might be on the hot seat, Rizzo defended his manager:
"When I hear the pundits pontificate on how good or bad general managers are doing, and that managers are doing, that players are doing, I take that with a grain of salt because none of these guys are at the ballpark, or in the clubhouse, or with the team. They’re just pontificating because they have to talk for a living, and that’s what they do and that’s what they get paid for."
Rosenthal wrote this morning that, "Nats officials, at least for the moment, say that manager Matt Williams is safe."
He also mentions Cal Ripken's recent comments about having spoken to the Nationals about the job before Williams was hired, noting that though Rizzo and Washington's ownership group like Ripken personally, "... the team is not contemplating a change at the end of the season and not considering Ripken as a replacement."
Rosenthal does, however, add that, "Williams is struggling to maintain the confidence of his players," according to what other, "major-league sources said.":
"Some club officials attribute the team’s disappointing season to a series of injuries to key players; the Nats’ lineup was whole for the first time on Tuesday night, and the team thrashed the Padres, 8-3."
Will a strong run at the end of this season make a difference? Will failing to make it back to the postseason bring an end to Williams' time on the bench in the nation's capital?
The Nationals already picked up Williams' option for 2016 this winter.
In the recent reports, and going back to last season really, Williams' bullpen management, and in-game decision-making have been questioned, but with all the injuries and underperforming players in the Nationals' lineup, can Washington's struggles this season be pinned on the manager?