Thoughts on the next manager of the Nationals...Posted on October 29, 2013 by Ryan Sullivan
After many weeks of speculation about who would replace Davey Johnson, late last week the news broke that the Nationals plan to hire Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams as their next manager. In addition, media reports speculated that the Nationals were trying to bring bench coach Randy Knorr back in the same capacity in 2014.
Williams, 47, has spent the past four seasons on the Arizona coaching staff, spending 2009 as their first base coach before shifting to third base the past three years. The only negative on Williams' impressive resume was his complete lack of major league managerial experience and limited experience in general, spending two months as interim manager in Double-A a few years ago and acting as manager in the Arizona Fall League last off-season.
Williams transitioned to coaching after a stellar 17-year major league career, finishing with a .268/.317/.489 batting line, five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and four Silver Slugger awards. Many baseball fans will remember Williams for his career year in the strike-shortened 1994 season when he batted .267/.319/.607 with 43 home runs and drove in 96 runs. Known as a fiery player and outstanding leader, Williams made the playoffs five separate times in his career, including three separate World Series appearances as a member of San Francisco Giants (1989), Cleveland Indians (1997), and winning it with Arizona in 2001.
Since the end of the season, the Nationals engaged in a thorough managerial search, interviewing at least five other candidates including Knorr, Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett, Toronto Blue Jays' bench coach DeMarlo Hale, San Diego Padres' executive Brad Ausmus, and Tampa Bay Rays' bench coach Dave Martinez, before deciding on Williams. In stark contrast to their former manager, Davey Johnson, each of these candidates lacked managerial experience in the big leagues. However, general manager Mike Rizzo grew quite fond of Williams during their mutual time in the Arizona organization, and seized the opportunity to make him the manager in Washington.
While it is mildly surprising the Nationals went outside the organization with this hire considering the past two skippers Davey Johnson and Jim Riggleman were in-house selections, Williams was one of the top managerial prospects available this offseason. Considering the current managerial openings with the Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, and Seattle Mariners, there was a near certainty Williams would have been hired to fill one of those other vacancies this winter.
Give Rizzo credit for going against conventional wisdom of hiring in-house candidates Knorr or Jewett and instead choosing the best candidate in his opinion in Williams. This hiring certainly shows the power that Rizzo yields in the organization, as this selection has his signature all over it. Aside from perhaps the notorious Stephen Strasburg shutdown last season, this selection is the biggest decision in Rizzo’s career, and will go a long way towards determining his eventual legacy in Washington.
Only time will tell if the combination of Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo form a successful partnership and eventually lead the Nationals to the World Series. As said on the latest Red Porch Report podcast, the two main qualities I was seeking in the new manager was someone from outside the organization and someone known for having a fiery, aggressive personality, both traits found in Williams. That said, all Nationals fans should be encouraged by this selection, as Rizzo lead the organization through a careful and thorough managerial search and selected an outstanding well-qualified candidate.
Welcome to Washington, Matt!
We get Dr. Ray Solano's expert opinion on the Nats' surgeries, discuss Matt Williams, and debut Going Down Swinging, a new rants and raves segment.