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Nats want new manager Matt Williams ‘to be Matt’

Nov 1, 2013, 12:05 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

[Watch the Nationals introduce Matt Williams live at 2 p.m. on CSN]

Matt Williams is set to be introduced as the Nationals manager on Friday afternoon, his first official day on the job. What lies ahead for him would be a monumental challenge for any manager – expectations to compete for a World Series – much less one who has never been a major league skipper before.

Williams will be tasked with cleaning up a team that vastly underachieved in 2013 after winning 98 games the year before, the best record in baseball. So, what exactly do the Nats expect from Williams to get them back on track?

General manager Mike Rizzo just wants Williams to be himself.

“We just want him to be Matt Williams,” Rizzo said. “That’s the guy we hired, that’s the guy we wanted, the personality we wanted in the dugout. Be yourself.”

We will surely get to know Williams better over the coming months and years as he leads the Nationals, but we do have somewhat of an idea as to who he is. Williams played 17 years in the majors, made five All-Star games and won a World Series. He also brought an intensity few players in his era could match, a devout passion for the game that was evident every day he picked up a glove.

Rizzo was part of the front office in Arizona when Williams played for the Diamondbacks, and hopes that very same energy is still there. He knows age has mellowed Williams a bit, but the fire is what he covets for the Nationals’ clubhouse.

“In terms of Matt as a player and as a manager, I don’t think there is a big difference,” Rizzo said.

“Matt played with an intensity as a player but he also was a terrific teammate. You talk to the guys he played with and they swear by him. He was always team-first and self second. He was the consummate team player and a great teammate. He was a leader in the clubhouse, by example and also as a vocal leader.”

Regardless of his personality, the results speak for themselves. That World Series he won in 2001 shows he has been there on the biggest stage. He knows what it is like, at least as a player, to get where the Nats want to go very soon.

“He obviously put himself in a position to lead a ballclub to a World Series championship and to many playoff games,” Rizzo said. “He had that pedigree in him. As a manager candidate I feel he has the same fire, the same desire.”

Williams was a very good player in the major leagues, much better than many who become managers. As Rizzo put it, he didn’t have to go into coaching, he’s already accomplished plenty.

“He put his apprenticeship in as a coach in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “[His] ascension to the manager’s spot took a long time. It took a lot of stick-to-itiveness for him. Here’s a guy who made a lot of money as a player and doesn’t need to get into coaching or managing. But because his passion for the game and his love for baseball kind of feeds him, he wants to be in it.”

Williams will help Rizzo construct the roster for 2014, having input on the types of players he wants on his team. The Nats are also expected to retain much of the coaching staff in order to keep some continuity from their two previous winning seasons.

““We’re not going to have a lot of turnover and their familiarity certainly plays into it,” Rizzo said.

The pieces are in place for the Nationals to restore their status as an elite MLB team. Now it’s up to Williams to fulfill the promise Rizzo sees in him.

  1. Sonny G 10 - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    OK, Matt. You’re the man now. I’ll be pulling for you.

  2. TimDz - Nov 1, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    I’m interested to see the first Braves series….
    I’d be willing to bet that, if Harper gets plunked, Williams will retaliate quickly….

  3. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    do any of us want Nats to target masahiro tanaka? check his stats for 2013: 24-0 (in 27 starts), 1.27 ERA, 212 IP, .943 WHIP.

  4. NatsLady - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Here is a list of free agents by position.

  5. David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    If your scouts tell you that Tanaka is an ace, which people seem to think he is although I’ve read he’s not as good as Darvish, then I think you have to bid on him. Yeah, he might cost 100 mil, but like NL said, only his 10-12 mil salary would count against the luxury tax. The Lerners can afford it. That would make our rotation questions a whole lot clearer.

  6. David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    James Wagner ‏@JamesWagnerWP 21s
    Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark here for Matt Williams’ introductory press conference.

    Roark being there is pretty random.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      He wants that 5th starter spot. Start impressing now.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    I thought he was a free agent. I know posting fee won’t count against payroll and it is one time fee but it is a lot of money. I wish he was a true free agent so Nats could take a chance at him. Also read that Dodgers are in the mix so we can forget about him.

    thanks for the list.

    • David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      Ted Lerner was just named the richest person in Maryland. He can afford it.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:01 PM

        LOL I guess he can.

      • jd - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Of course he can afford it. The question is whether it makes business sense to spend it.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        jd, you can say that same line over and over (like you have before) and some don’t get it.

  8. David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Matt Williams was VERY impressive in his press conference, I thought. Usually, those things are very boring and cliche, but I found him extremely insightful. We’ll have to wait and see how he does in game action, but I definitely see what Rizzo saw in him.

  9. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    jd, I always think from that perspective also but we don’t know Nats revenue, do we? besides I can buy into ‘it is not our money’ argument to some extent, in this particular case.

    • jd - Nov 1, 2013 at 2:57 PM


      You are absolutely right in that we don’t exactly know all the components of our revenue streams but it just makes me laugh when I hear someone say: ‘he can afford it’. He and others didn’t get rich by buying everything they can afford. The question is ‘is this investment likely to appreciate the overall value of your product by at least the cost of the investment?’ and the likelihood of winning a championship and the effect that has on the value of your product goes into the equation.

      Ted Lerner doesn’t have to spend $100 mil just to make the fans happy; believe it or not.

  10. David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    Matt LeCroy is replacing Jim Lett as bullpen coach. I figured Williams would bring his own guy over, but I guess not.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM

      the one who allowed 8 SB in a game against Astros? that LeCroy is going to work with our relief pitchers who cannot hold runners to save their own lives?

  11. jd - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM


    Are Jewett and Tarasco returning?

    • David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      The entire coaching staff is returning except for Lett. We’ve also apparently hired a “defensive coordinator” to serve as a 7th coach who will be in charge of advanced scouting in order to properly assemble the defense as far as shifts and positioning go.

      Hopefully Jewett will get better in his second year. I didn’t think he was as bad in the second half, so there’s that.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:29 PM

        Schu is returning as hitting coach?

  12. David Proctor - Nov 1, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Yes Faraz, Schu is returning as hitting coach. I thought he did a pretty good job so no reason to fire him. And I’m sure Williams knows Schu from Arizona anyway.

  13. dgourds - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:13 PM

    Too bad they’re keeping Jewett. He’s a really poor 3rd base coach. Very bad judgement imo.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 1, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      I agree. He was the one weak link. He’s fine at 1st base so maybe they move him back.

      • letswin3 - Nov 2, 2013 at 2:24 PM

        Of course Williams said yesterday that he was proud to have led the league in getting runners thrown out at the plate. So maybe Jewett is his kinda guy. Personally, I thought Jewett failed to make many no-brainer stop signs at third for runners previously on second and first ….first to home is a long trip for most of the plodders on our club. And more importantly, if he is gonna coach third, he needs a bigger batting helmet and a looser uni fit…..he looks like he is busting out of everything on his body.

  14. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 1, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    LeCroy is a puzzler but not, in all likelihood, a very important factor. The Nats have moved him up through the minor league system. Maybe they thought six years of baby-sitting the knuckleheads in the minors had earned him a seat on the chartered major-league airplane. Maybe they thought it was just a way of getting his knowledge of the younger players in the clubhouse. Hard to imagine changing the bullpen coach having an impact on the chances of making the playoffs.

  15. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 1, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    So far I am overly impressed. Werth was at the Presser and I felt if he was key for Williams to have Jayson’s support to have the clubhouse. Chemistry is important. Keeping continuity with Knorr and Cat is also a key.

    What impressed me the most is the small details. Boston won the World Series due to great scouting and execution. It’s as if they knew where the Cardinals would hit the ball. Don’t discount the fact that Napoli was playing well off the line with bases loaded and the ball hit right to him in Game 6 to end a potential rally.

    I complained numerous times on defensive placement by Tarasco. After a while it wasn’t worth complaining any more. It looks like Williams recognizes this team needs better defensive scouting. Range is one thing but defensive positioning is another.

    Details are one thing but good instincts are another. 5 losses that could have been wins were the difference. That’s not far from being in the postseason.

  16. Joe Seamhead - Nov 1, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    I’ll say this about Jewitt staying on as 3rd base coach: go on to any Diamondbacks blog and they didn’t care to much for Matt Williams as the 3rd base coach either. Want to make a smart man go from being a smart baseball guy to the dumbest ass on the planet? Make him the manager of your baseball team. Want to make him the 2nd dumbest ass? Make him your 3rd base coach. Trent Jewitt has more baseball knowledge in his left pinky than the rest of us have combined. Wasn’t it Gene Monohan that George Steinbrenner fired for sending a guy once in the playoffs that got nailed at the plate? Who do you think of as being a great, not good, but great,third base coach?

    • nats128 - Nov 1, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      Matt Williams actually discussed his aggressive nature for sending runners and says he likes the aggressive nature. It’s one thing to send runners with 2 outs and another to make these mistakes with 1 or no outs.

      While its great that Trent Jewitt knows baseball however another to make good moves as a 3rd base coach.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 1, 2013 at 9:52 PM

        128, I agree with your assessment regarding knowing baseball/ making good 3B coaching moves, but who do any of you consider to be a great third base coach?

      • nats128 - Nov 1, 2013 at 10:39 PM

        Best I had seen in a while was Bo Porter. He made a few mistakes. Very few.

      • letswin3 - Nov 2, 2013 at 2:32 PM

        You guys are really on top of your games today. I agree with your observations, especially about instincts outweighing knowledge for coaching third.

      • nats128 - Nov 3, 2013 at 11:06 PM

        Thanks LetsWin3. I still have nightmares on 2 really bad sends this year and 1 bizarre one. One was Laroche, one was Ramos who are both extremely slow, and I cant remember the player but involved a ball booted by Uggla and the runner was dog tired running 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to home and was pegged out by several steps. Yes, he was aggressive in all cases however each were momentum stoppers and werent some of the finer players. I never had to complain about Bo manning the 3rd base coaches box.

  17. Joe Seamhead - Nov 2, 2013 at 5:54 AM

    Bo certainly was an improvement over Pat Listach, the guy that he replaced at 3rd for the Nats. Interesting that Listach became a coach on Porter’s staff in Houston.





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