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Leyland retirement shouldn’t impact Nats’ search

Oct 21, 2013, 3:57 PM EDT

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Jim Leyland’s retirement earlier today as Tigers manager resonated throughout the baseball world, but the surprise announcement shouldn’t significantly affect the Nationals’ ongoing search for a new skipper.

Leyland’s departure does create another high-profile and attractive opening for managerial candidates, leaving five positions now available: the Nationals, Tigers, Reds, Cubs and Mariners. But the only candidate who might be up for the job both in Detroit and Washington is ex-catcher Brad Ausmus, who appears to be a second-tier choice for the Nationals anyway.

Ausmus, who currently works in the Padres front office, has been granted permission to interview with the Nationals. A Tigers catcher in 1996 and from 1999-2000, Ausmus figures to be among the candidates to replace Leyland in Detroit.

The two frontrunners for the Nationals, though, appear to remain current bench coach Randy Knorr and Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams. Each interviewed with general manager Mike Rizzo in the last two weeks, according to sources familiar with the process.

Rizzo is expected to make a decision shortly after the World Series, which begins Wednesday and concludes no later than Oct. 31.

There briefly was a scenario in which today’s Leyland news could have taken Williams out of the mix for the Nats’ job: If former Tigers great Kirk Gibson left Arizona to replace Leyland, and Williams was then promoted to replace Gibson. But Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told the Arizona Republic that Gibson isn’t leaving, which keeps Williams in the running for the Nationals’ job.

One other development today could bear watching: Don Mattingly, in his season wrap-up news conference, suggested he may not return to the Dodgers even though his contract automatically vested for next season after his club beat the Braves in the NLDS. If, by some chance, Mattingly were to leave L.A., he almost certainly would become a strong candidate for the Nationals’ job.

Rizzo was interested in Mattingly following the 2009 season, but the latter declined to be interviewed, sensing he was likely to succeed Joe Torre in Los Angeles within the next few years.

  1. djbinfl - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    I think Mattingly made it pretty clear he would not do another one year deal. Bit of a slap of the GM to do it while seated 6 feet away. Was Kasten still here when Riggleman left? Just wondering if this leave them spinning in the wind comes from above.

  2. jd - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I certainly haven’t been impressed with anything Mattingly has done in LA.

    Mark,

    On what are you basing your impression as to who the front runners and who the 2nd tier candidates are?

    I am not questioning you, just wondering.

    • Mark Zuckerman - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      JD: While it’s been difficult to ascertain a whole lot of info on the managerial search (because the Nats have gone completely silent on the subject), I’m fairly comfortable at this point saying Knorr and Williams are the two “top-tier” candidates while the others fall to the “second-tier.” I say this both because of what I have been told by people in the know and also because of the obvious connections with both guys. Knorr is clearly the top in-house candidate and really has been a strong candidate since we knew Davey was leaving. And Williams has a strong relationship with Rizzo, which usually matters a lot in these situations. Ausmus may be a possibility, but there’s no clear connection between him and the Nats/Rizzo, so the sense I get is that he would have to really knock their socks off in an interview to leapfrog the other two guys. What Mattingly has going for him — should he become available — is something the others don’t have: experience managing a high-profile (and successful) big-league team, while still being relatively young.

      Hope that helps some.

      • sjberke - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:24 PM

        Mark, I wonder why Tony Beasley hasn’t gotten more mention. I know that these days teams usually don’t promote their AAA managers straight to the big job, but Tony has had extensive major league coaching experience going back to when he was Frank Robinson’s first base coach. Chances are he has gotten an interview or will get one, simply because baseball policy mandates that at least one minority candidate be interviewed. But I hope he receives more than token consideration.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:55 PM

    Based on my observations of Mike Rizzo over the past few years, both Mark Zuckerman’s original article and his 4:57 post strike me as exactly right. It seems clear that Mr. Rizzo values personal connections and loyalty. Both Randy Knorr (given his current employment by the Nats) and Matt Williams (given his prior connections with Mr. Rizzo) meets this criteria. If it were anyone other than one of those two, I would be quite surprised.

  4. neumanco1 - Oct 22, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    Dusty Baker get an interview?

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NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 71 53 --
ATLANTA 66 60 6.0
MIAMI 63 62 8.5
NEW YORK 59 68 13.5
PHILADELPHIA 55 71 17.0
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WED: Diamondbacks at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Diamondbacks at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
FRI: Giants at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Giants at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Giants at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Nats at Phillies, 7:05 p.m.
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