The Peter Principles (Ch. 8) – That Time Peter Angelos Tried To Buy The Washington Redskins

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As for Question 2, I really like the Trade Deadline craziness and wouldn't try to improve on it.

Your first question is a big deal for how to view the Nats. Kintzler and Kelley both looked like public executions, regardless of the degree to which they were or not. And I certainly think a very tough message was sent to the clubhouse. "You're either in or you're in the way. He was in the way," will be quoted for quite a while.

I've always enjoyed talking to Kelley, but I got it, I immediately understood why Rizzo did what he did.

First, let me get Kintzler out of the way. I do NOT agree with trading him, especially when you already knew it would be WEEKS before Doolittle came back. I think that will prove to be a mistake, even though the Nats will save about $6.7M in salary through '19 by dealing him. The Nats think maybe he's showing age, losing some of his stuff. I think he's a really good, tough reliever who'd just gotten healthy and whose stuff looks quite good, in 17 games since coming off the DL his ERA is 1.59 and only allowed 13 runners. As the Nats play the Braves and Phils this month, largely without Doolittle, I think the name "Kintzler" will cross a lot of minds. His nickname was "Salt" because he was "salty", outspoken, free with advice (solicited or not), funny and maybe a bit crabby/honest in a way that I like. But a GM might not. The Nats knew who he was, the whole package, when they gave him a two-year deal after '17. Now they give him the boot after "somebody" on the team says that their "locker room is a mess." Man, I've heard a lot worse things than that said about locker rooms." FWIW, you can look back in a column of mine from three months ago and find a Nat saying "the clubhouse is a mess."

Though I don't enjoy saying it, because I've enjoyed talking with Kelley plenty of times, I think he'll understand, in time, that there are some things that you just don't do AT ESPECIALLY EXPLOSIVE TIMES. Or you will be the one left holding the live hand grenade with the pin in your other hand. Part of Kelley's problem is what he did, but, in my book, the bigger problem was WHEN he did it. He was completely oblivious to the context of his tantrum. And it ended his time with the Nats. We'll see where, or if, he lands. 

The Nats had just gone through a sequence of traumas and controversies with the trade deadline (will Harper be traded) and Trea Turner's insulting tweets several years ago and his public apology. Sean Doolittle did a magnificent job of standing up for the team and saying exactly the right words about the Turner situation. Turner took full responsibility, looked devastated, ashamed and said the keywords, which nobody else ever says, "it isn't WHEN I said those things, it's that I said them at all." The Kintzler trade was still in the air. People in the Nats house had really gone through the wringer, but, in a sense, thought that MAYBE, just maybe, it would somehow pull them together. Then they go out and take a 25-1 lead against the Mets. It's a message, to other teams or just to themselves. It's an emotional purge.

And a pitcher, Kelley, whose arm has been babied and paid special attention for the last two years like no pitcher I've ever covered, even really good pitchers, not end-of-the-road guys like Kelley, decided he is going to throw hurl his glove to the ground on the ground because his ERA got roughed up in a blowout and he's also going to stare into the dugout.

If NONE of that other stuff had happened, maybe Kelley's version, he was upset at the umpires about blah-blah-blah, would have been swallowed. But, in context, it was INCREDIBLY selfish, especially for someone who gets touted as a team leader. I think it also lit the fuse to the Rizzo dynamite. And sometimes that's not bad. Almost every good team I've followed as had both a good cop and a bad cop in the organization. Rizzo is about a good a "bad cop" as exists. His 'baseball values" are the bedrock of his identity. He doesn't have to figure out what they are. He grew up with the game. It's just in him. So, he has trip wires. Not that many. But some. And if you hit 'em, watch out, he's going to let you know.  

Rizzo usually faces issues like Kelley VERY quickly. When Jim Riggleman said that he "wasn't getting on the (team) bus," Rizzo fired him within minutes, if not seconds. Rig (who was just in town managing the Reds, 46-47 under him!) pointed out at the time that he didn't make some crazy demand that the terms for a new contract be reached right that minute or day, just that he wasn't going to get on the team bus (to Chicago) until Rizzo agreed, in principle to have a conversation with him about a new deal past the '11 season. Rig remembered all the semi-reasonable stuff that he thinks he said. Riz remembers, "not getting on the bus unless..."

I have to admit that, at times like that, Rizzo sees the big, simple picture in a flash, and usually correctly. What he saw with Kelley was an acting out, intentional or not, "I'm a vet who's too good/important to pitch mop-up relief and I'm not going to hide that, maybe, I'm mad at the manager." When he did it, my first thought was, "Only the '18 Nationals could find a way to screw up a 25-1 lead." They (Kelley) found a way to make everybody end the day feeling like they were a selfish, bad-chemistry team that's going nowhere. 

I'll be interested to find out if any of Kelley's teammates confronted him before Rizzo got the chance. Remember, the Nats had a team meeting long before a game at which every player got a jersey that had "Nationals" on the back as well as the front. You know, "team first...gung ho...everybody all in." Good thing I was not born with the gifts of a great athlete because the skeptic in me would have had a hard time not saying, "We swing at 3-0 pitches when we're down three runs in the ninth. We can't know situations well enough to throw to the right base. We get picked off time after time, even when we aren't running. We act like we have clauses in our contracts that excuse us from participating in the concept of "get 'em over, get 'em in." We've got guys who think it is beneath them to pitch mop-up relief when they haven't pitched in four days. And we think that 'Nationals on the Back" will fix THAT. How about, instead, we just get in the face of the guys who are being selfish, for a minute after they do it, and if words, or worse, get exchanged, then that may just have to happen.

My sense of the Nats at the moment is that they liked Kelley personally, that won't change, but given everything that's happened to them and what they'll have to try to fight through the rest of this season, they liked what Rizzo did even more. Somebody had to restore order. Very few rookie managers have the authority or the manner to pull that off. Oh, there have been some. But Davey Martinez isn't one of them, yet. He has a reputation, as a player and coach, as having enough fire in him for such situations. But that final confrontation, you don't think Kelley got fired by text do you, was right in Rizzo's wheelhouse.

(But, unless Koda Glover comes up from AAA pretty soon, Doolittle gets back semi-fast and Madson and Herrera get to peak form, the Nats are going to miss Kintzler.) 

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