We've said repeatedly over the last few days that we've concluded that Frank Robinson isn't the right manager for this team. We've reached this conclusion reluctantly because we think that Robinson brings a lot to the party; how many other managers can say they were one of the best players ever to play the game? That's got to be worth a lot in winning the players' respect. And we don't think it's a coincidence that Robinson was the manager when the Nationals overachieved in the first half.
But we still think that Frank Robinson must go. Why?
1. Most importantly, Robinson refuses to put the best team on the field. As we've said repeatedly, had the Nationals put a replacement level player at shortstop instead of Cristian Guzman, they would be leading the Wild Card Race. We don't want to hear about Guzman's last 50 at bats--for virtually the entire season Guzman was historically bad and Robinson didn't do anything about it. Robinson also refuses to play young players at the end of the season such as Ryan Zimmerman and Rick Short who are putting up better numbers than the players (including those who seem to be mailing in their performance) Robinson continues to pencil into the lineup. There is no excuse for that, and Robinson's only justification--that veterans deserve playing time--shows that he is more concerned with a commitment to particular players than with winning baseball games.
2. Robinson doesn't have the right temperament for this team. Robinson doesn't have the ability to moderate his fiery competitiveness when the situation calls for it. He has materially undermined the Nationals' playoff chances by pursuing a personal vendetta against pitchers he thinks have slighted him, and he seems incapable of being supportive of young players trying to find their way in the major leagues.
3. He seemingly can't moderate disputes or tensions between players. Although the full story hasn't been told, it appears clear that the Nationals' clubhouse is torn by internal conflict. One of the most important jobs for a manager is to moderate those tensions through the course of the season and keep the players focused on winning.
4. Robinson willfully ignores a substantial body of learning he could use to manage more effectively. He is fond of saying that he doesn't manage according to the numbers. That's fine, but ignoring the numbers is nonsensical. Why not at least consider all of the data other managers are using against you?
To be clear, we would not fire Robinson for his in-game moves. Some of those moves have driven us nuts at various times of the season, but that would be true of almost any manager. If Robinson hadn't been guilty of the offenses we detail above, we wouldn't lift a finger because of his in-game moves.