Can Matt Williams Take The Washington Nationals To The Next Level?
Today, former Major League third baseman Matt Williams was officially announced as the new Manager of the Washington Nationals, thus officially ending the short Davey Johnson era in D.C. While some praise this hiring, others question it due to the lack of managerial experience Williams brings to the table. So the question becomes whether the hiring of out-of-house new blood in the nation’s capital will provide the spark to an extremely talented roster that it seems to have been lacking since the St. Louis Cardinals escorted them out of the NLDS a little over one year ago.
General Manager and President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo is no stranger to Williams as the two crossed paths during their time with the Arizona Diamondbacks. As the scouting director, Rizzo was able to witness first-hand the drive, team-first mentality, intensity, and understanding of the game that he believes Williams will provide in the Nationals dugout. There is no arguing that heading into this off-season the manager of the Nationals was an extremely in-demand position; however the key question was finding the right personality to get the most out of a roster with the likes of Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Ryan Zimmerman, etc.
On paper, the Nationals are clearly one of the best teams in baseball, but games are not won on paper. With a young core of All-Star caliber talent, and a General Manager who will be looking to improve the team through free agency this off-season, the only remaining question was identifying the man who would be able to get the most out of his players during the grind of a 162 game season (not including playoffs of course).
The Nationals ownership felt that Matt Williams has the ability to understand and communicate various strategies and philosophies to his players, while keeping them feeling comfortable and motivated. This type of personality and skill set is not something that can be taught, and it should allow the team to find a healthy median between being too loose and too tight. By doing this, the talent will speak for itself and the Nationals should once again become an instant World Series contender.
One bit of side news on the Matt Williams hiring revolves around him having to answer to the fact that he was the first name mentioned in the now infamous Mitchell Report, which highlighted many of the PED users in the game of baseball. According to Williams, the HGH was recommended to him by a doctor as a healing supplement from an ankle injury he had suffered the previous year. He was very open about the entire situation and it appears Rizzo and his staff accepted his answer.
As for the rest of the Nationals coaching staff, it appears that mostly everything will remain in place for the upcoming season. Managerial candidate Randy Knorr will return as the bench coach, and both Steve McCatty and Rick Schu will be back as the pitching and hitting coaches. It is impossible to predict what type of impact Matt Williams will have on a dugout loaded with star potential, but it certainly seems like Rizzo has identified his teams’ problems and devised a very specific plan of attack to implement. Only time will tell now.