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Source: Nationals plan to hire Williams as manager

Oct 25, 2013, 9:52 AM EDT

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Matt Williams appears to be the choice for the Nationals’ managerial opening.

General manager Mike Rizzo has settled on Williams among the pool of candidates who interviewed for the job and plans to hire the Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach, a source familiar with the process confirmed this morning.

Rizzo also hopes to keep Randy Knorr, the other front-runner to replace Davey Johnson, as bench coach. Knorr said this morning he has not yet heard anything from the Nationals, but would consider staying on Williams’ staff if asked.

“That’s the way it goes,” said Knorr, who has been employed by the Expos/Nationals organization since 2001. “It was an honor and great experience to go through the interviewing process. … I would like to talk to Mike or Matt first. I’ve had a lot of these players and would love to be here when we play in the World Series.”

The Nationals haven’t confirmed the news, first reported by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. An official announcement may not come until after the World Series, with Major League Baseball strongly discouraging clubs to take attention away from the annual Fall Classic.

Williams, 47, has been a member of the Diamondbacks’ coaching staff the last four seasons and previously managed in the Arizona Fall League. An intense competitor during his playing days with the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks, he was a popular clubhouse leader for the 2001 Arizona club that won the World Series and employed Rizzo as scouting director.

Those who know Williams — who hit 378 homers, won four Gold Glove awards and made five All-Star teams — say he has mellowed some in retirement but remains popular for his straightforward approach and endearing loyalty to those who play for him. Rizzo has spoken fondly about Williams for years and has suggested in the past he would make a good manager someday.

Williams was selected from a pool of at least five candidates who interviewed with Rizzo to replace the departing Johnson. In addition to Knorr, who was Johnson’s bench coach the last two seasons and had overwhelming support from Nationals players, Rizzo interviewed third base coach Trent Jewett, Padres special assistant Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale.

  1. David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Love that Knorr says WHEN we play in a World Series, not if.

  2. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    Not a well kept secret on the selection. Glad Knorr will stay. Can Matty coach 3rd too?

    • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      Ha, you don’t want that. I heard Diamondbacks fans talking about how much they loved him, but hated him at 3B.

  3. Hiram Hover - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Interesting that Mark’s report seems less certain that Knorr will in fact return. As Candide (I think) pointed out on earlier thread, this is the time for both sides to say nice things about each other. We will see.

    • adcwonk - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      My reading of Mark’s report is that Rizzo is leaving it up to Williams, and the Knorr is hoping to stay on.

  4. Section 222 - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    You mean “enduring” loyalty, right?

    I’m surprised the legedarily tight-shipped Rizzo machine let this out, and to Ken Rosenthal no less. How does Ken Rosenthal get a scoop like this anyway?

    At first I was surprised to read that Knorr might stick around, but I suppose until a managerial slot opens that he can interview for, this is as good a place as any to be a bench coach. But wouldn’t a new manager want to pick his bench coach? It will be fascinating to see who else from the current staff is offered a job.

    • jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      Sec222,

      My feeling exactly. If I’m a new manager I would like the freedom to pick my own team of coaches. My initial gut reaction to this is that Rizzo had better get this right. By going back to his Arizona roots once again I think he is sticking his neck all the way out. If this season goes badly I think it will start getting awfully hot under Rizzo’s seat.

    • Jw - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      Brand new first time managers rarely get to select their own bench coaches, or even very many of their coaches. This is especially true when most of the incumbent staff are organization men and there’s no reason for the GM to blow up the organization. Rizzo probably made this clear to Williams when he offered him the job.

    • naterialguy - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:51 AM

      My guess is that bench coach preference made it into the conversation during the interview process.

  5. tcostant - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I think this is official, one of the guys I work with got an email alert from Nationals about the hire.

  6. snerdblurter - Oct 25, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Is this the old trick where a non-finalized decision is leaked early to gauge the media/fan reaction? A la Dan Snyder’s brief tryst with Jim Fassel?

    Doesnt seem like something Rizzo would do, but agreed that its bizarre this would be leaked between WS games 2 and 3… maybe he wants to see what the response is to the roid angle?

    • snerdblurter - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:01 AM

      Ah, disregard my hare-brained theories. Knorr’s tweeting about it so it must be real.

  7. philipd763 - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Good choice but no surprise. Knorr ‘s chances were hurt by his association with the very lax Septuagenarian manager.

    • karlkolchak - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:57 AM

      Yep–the team need an change in atmosphere, and anyone who was associated with the old regime was tainted, fairly or unfairly.

  8. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    So I have taken a break from baseball… I keep thinking that I will wake up and its spring.. I am so not feeling this cold weather…

    Anywho – Not surprising at all… Mr Williams, Welcome to DC… Look forward to seeing some good things from you…

    Hope that Knorr is staying on… Cant wait to see who will replace Jewitt at 3rd…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Yah, definitely need a new 3rd base coach and find Trent another job.

  9. Drew - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    I get that he was a talented and hard-nosed slugger, but doesn’t anyone care that Williams bought $11,600 worth of HGH, steroids and needles from a Florida clinic in 2002?

    This is not speculation. He admitted using HGH to rehab his ankle. He told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007 that he did not like the effects — which does not explain why he continued to purchase the junk in 2003.

    If you care about the reputation of your franchise and the messages you’re sending to Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore and Matt Skole, why on God’s green earth would you hire a steroid and HGH user as your manager?

    • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      I honestly don’t care, no. I understand why some would, though.

      • sjm308 - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        Nope, don’t care at all.
        Just want him to make good decisions with this club.

      • Drew - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        I respect your opinion, David, but I certainly care.

        Part of what sets baseball apart is the magical numbers that resonate across the generations — 60 and 61, 714 and 755.

        Doesn’t hiring a steroid and HGH user send an implicit or even explicit message that it was OK for McGwire, Sosa and Bonds to sully the sacred numbers?

      • Jw - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

        So you must be absolutely incensed that Mark McGwire is now a successful hitting coach. Myself, I don’t care if the next manager is named in the Mitchell Report. As long as it’s not Nook Logan or Paul LoDuca, that is.

      • adcwonk - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        Part of what sets baseball apart is the magical numbers that resonate across the generations — 60 and 61, 714 and 755.

        True, but:

        He got them in 2002 (at the end of the season, I think?) in order to (according to him) recover from a bad ankle.

        By June in 2003, he had already retired.

    • Hiram Hover - Oct 25, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Do I wish he hadn’t been a PED user? Sure.

      Do I think it disqualifies him from managing? No.

      It doesn’t change my opinion of the team, nor do I think it’s likely to make Harper et al. any more likely to become PED users themselves.

  10. Drew - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Two last points on Matt Williams:

    I’m not saying he’s not qualified. He has the credentials.

    For instance, no one can reasonably say Eliot Spitzer was unqualified to be New York’s comptroller. The voters just decided not to go there in light of his past transgressions.

    As for McGwire as hitting coach: I would not hire him for the same reasons I stated above.

    I think the message of the managerial hire is far more important because he is the daily pregame and postgame FOF.

  11. adcwonk - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    “Ian Desmond and Denard Span were named finalists on Friday for Gold Glove awards for their respective positions. ”

    The folks here that said Span = Nyjer? Their heads must be exploding . . .

    • letswin3 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      I like it. Ian, probably not gonna get it, but I still love him. Span deserves it….he was a great glove guy from day one here and makes even the tough plays look routine. I would like to see him improve on the bases, but his offense is coming around in this league. And if they should somehow decide to move Werth to first, Span becomes an important element in the outfield (with Mr Choo sliding into the picture?). Every time I think about a Harper, Span, Choo outfield, with Werth at first I start salivating…… it just makes so much sense for the Nats. Don’t ask me what we do with ALR, cause I don’t care…trade him and pay part of his salary, bench him for pinch hitting against righties only, assign him to the Budweiser vendors left field brigade…just don’t bet the 2014 season on a 237 batiing average at first.

      • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Span is great and smooth–almost too smooth, because you just don’t realize it until you look back over the season and realize he ALWAYS got to balls. But Carlos Gomez is outstanding and, regretfully, I think he probably should get it. However, McCutchen will get it because of, well, McCutchen.

  12. Kevin Andes - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I trust Rizzo who has done an excellent job putting this team together. This team needs a tough guy like Williams. Huge upgrade over a too relaxed Davey Johnson.

    • jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Just being a tough guy doesn’t do squat for me. He better also be intelligent and hard working.

      • David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        Per Ladson:

        “ccording to a source, Rizzo targeted Williams, currently the D-backs’ third-base coach, for the position as far back as the summer. Another source said Williams was Rizzo’s top choice, followed by Knorr and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez.

        Rizzo was impressed by the way Williams managed the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League last year. The Rafters lost in the finals. One person familiar with the meeting between Williams and the Nationals said that Williams knew a lot about the team’s Minor League system and talked about his plans for the big-league club.

        Williams already has the respect of Nationals second baseman Anthony Rendon, who played for Williams with the Rafters.

        “He is a great manager, from what I saw. He’s more of a players’ guy,” Rendon said last month. “At the same time, he knows when to get on people. He doesn’t raise his voice, but he gets his point through.”

        Sounds like he did his research and has a good plan for the team.

  13. Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 25, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Not even a little bit bothered. “Good manager, yes or no?”

    FWIW, I don’t believe for a minute that it “sends a message” to Harper or anybody else in the clubhouse. Maybe … *maybe* it might be a bad impression, one among several million others, for the A or AA guys, but even then I doubt it.

    • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      It’s becoming more and more obvious how widespread PEDs were, as players in the period are now becoming broadcasters. The analysts make almost passing references to the situation, and it’s clear that on every team a substantial minority (at least) was using.

      Let’s be real here. Davey Johnson tolerated cocaine and other drug abuse on teams he managed. Lives were damaged and talent wasted. Yet he will probably go to the Hall of Fame.

      Agree, I don’t think the A and AA guys are much influenced by the ML manager, with whom they have virtually no contact except in Spring Training. Nevertheless, there are some Nats minor-leaguers with suspensions on their records, and Mike Rizzo, with whom they DO have contact, needs to make it clear up and down the line that this is not the Nats Way.

  14. David Proctor - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Davey chimed in. Gotta love the subtle shot at Rizzo at the end about Williams having better options than he had. Per Kilgore:

    Former Manager Davey Johnson, who remains a front office adviser, did not have a role in the choice but still endorsed it.

    “I think that’s a good choice,” said Johnson, the man Williams will replace. “He’s more fiery, like Mike likes. I was probably too laid back for him. I think it’s good. I will definitely stay in the background.”

    Williams “was a hard-nosed player,” Johnson said. “He played the game hard. I know he hasn’t managed, but a lot of guys haven’t managed have been successful. They all came into a good situation. He’s coming into a good situation. The bench will be in better shape and the bullpen will be in better shape. He’ll have better options than I had last year. I’m happy for him.”

    • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:12 PM

      It’s no wonder Davey wears out his welcome wherever he goes. He had plenty of opportunity to influence the bench and bullpen choices–but he went on vacation instead.

      As regards the PEDs, that’s an issue for me, as a couple of our minor-leaguers now playing in the AFL have had suspensions. Williams needs to address this, and make sure that it’s understood that whatever he did in the past is the past and won’t be tolerated in our organization.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:32 PM

        Seconded.

        ===

        As regards the PEDs, that’s an issue for me, as a couple of our minor-leaguers now playing in the AFL have had suspensions. Williams needs to address this, and make sure that it’s understood that whatever he did in the past is the past and won’t be tolerated in our organization.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      Holy BLEEP! Davey with multiple messages there towards Rizzo.

  15. unterp - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    nothing against any of the current coaches, but my thinking is Matt Williams should or will clean house…

  16. rmoore446 - Oct 25, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    This isn’t a surprise given Rizzo’s established preference for anything having to do with the Diamondbacks. I think Williams’ player credentials will gain initial respect from the Nationals players as did Johnson’s. I think Knorr remaining will help Williams by retaining his in-depth knowledge of most of the players as they came up through the system.

    I’m rather hopeful that this will work out quite well.

  17. section109dc - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Does anyone have any idea who the “source familiar with the process” might be? Assuming that the front office didn’t want this leaked, isn’t this the sort of thing that could get someone fired?

    • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      Apparently the source was on the Matt Williams side, not in our front office. Once the cat was out of the bag, not much Rizzo could do, unless he was mad enough to change his mind. It will be interesting to see how much of an entourage Williams brings with him.

      • section109dc - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:08 PM

        I hadn’t even thought of that! Thanks NatsLady!

      • jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        My only hope here is that Rizzo didn’t hire Williams simply to be a ball buster in reaction to what he perceived to be a country club atmosphere. I am partial to managers who have the smarts to use data to their advantage as well as being good people managers. I have no basis to think that Williams doesn’t qualify on either front but I also haven’t heard his named ever mentioned when there is talk of bright, young up and coming managers.

        I will go into this year with a completely open mind and eventually will have the opportunity to judge the book by it’s contents.

    • NatsLady - Oct 25, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      @jd, I don’t know about the “country club” atmosphere. As outsiders, I don’t know if any of us do. I think that was a perception based on spring training, and, IMO, it was a complete MIS-perception. What hampered the Nats in first half of the season were injuries, bad luck, bad timing, and under-performance, plus, if Davey is to be believed, a poorly constructed bullpen.

      I do think there was a lack of urgency, but I think that was based on the assumption that when Werth, Ramos, Harper, Zimmerman and LaRoche were all back healthy, the team would roll–an assumption which, except for LaRoche, proved to be true, but too late. The other problems were on the pitching side, with Detwiler and Haren costing wins, and Strasburg being not yet an Ace. It should have taken 1/3 of the season to untangle all that, but it took 2/3, and that was too long.

      If anything, there was more of a country club atmosphere in 2012, when Davey played golf with the pitchers and the boys took advantage of “percs” that attach to a winning team (Fan Cave, Morse’s clothing line, etc.).

      David DeJesus let slip a rare insight into clubhouses when he mentioned how tense/tight the Cubs were compared to the “loose” Rays (he didn’t say anything about the Nats).

      My feeling is that, on the position side, we have veterans on the team, Werth, RZim, Desi, Span, LaRoche. We have NO rookies now that Rendon has been through almost a full season. All the players (especially Harper) have seen what it takes to play a winning season for 162 games, and it will be up to them, WAY more than up to the manager, to make sure they do it.

      • jd - Oct 25, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        NL,

        I think you are letting Davey off the hook way too much. Other teams had strings of injuries not less devastating than the Nats (Atlanta, Dodgers) . I think that the ‘what, me worry?’ attitude was self evident right from the start. Perhaps ‘country club’ atmosphere is a wrong description here, it was more like extreme over confidence and a laid back attitude.

        I have nothing against laid back attitudes ( I think Tito Francona is doing quite well thank you) as long as you manage well. I don’t think Davey managed well in 2013 and that’s an understatement.

        Teams coming off a bad season tend to hire a manager whose character is directly opposite of the incumbent and that is also fine provided the new manager is a good manager. When it comes to Matt Williams the jury is out. I wish him all the best.

  18. 3on2out - Oct 25, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Matt’s wife, Erica, was a regular on the short-lived “Baseball Wives.” Sharing boobtube time with the nightmare that is Anna Benson and Nyjer’s ex-GF. Let’s hope the Williams displays more discretion in the company they keep once they get in our hood.

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