January 25, 2022

Report: Washington Nationals to hire Bud Black as new manager

The Washington Nationals will hire Bud Black to be their new manager, according to James Wagner of The Washington Post.

[Read more…]

Report: Matt Williams to be fired as Washington Nationals manager

The Washington Nationals will fire Matt Williams as the team’s manager at the end of the season, according to CBS Sports.

The move comes as an expected beginning to a crucial and surely eventual offseason for the organization. 2015 saw preseason talk of a World Series title give way to an 81-78 record (at press time) and the face of the franchise, Bryce Harper, get choked in the dugout in the season’s penultimate home game by closer and trade deadline acquisition Jonathan Papelbon. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals skipper still going through growing pains

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams has had a rough go of it the past couple of days. He’s taking shots for his bullpen management and asking his No. 3 hitter to bunt in extra innings. In his second season now, these are things that he took criticism for in his rookie campaign as well.

Half Street Heart Attack does a good job laying out what happened, so I don’t need to go through it again.

But here’s the thing — Williams isn’t alone in this. It’s fairly typical for managers to develop these roles for the players, especially with regards to the bullpen.

Managers set their bullpens into certain roles for several reasons.

1) Players psychologically appreciate defined roles so they know what’s expected of them and when.

2) Organizationally, it helps when the players, coaches, manager and general manager all have a defined game plan.

3, and most importantly to this discussion) By giving the players set roles, it reduces the liability on the manager. If a player designated with a role fails in that capacity, it’s the player’s fault, or even the GM’s fault — not the manager’s.

The last point is very well illustrated by WIlliams’ own words:

In his first year as a big league manager, Williams has the luxury of calling on Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning.

When Rizzo traded Clippard, a two-time All-Star in the role and one of the most successful relief pitchers of the past four season in all of MLB, they opened a role for “Eighth Inning with a Lead Guy”. It’s a role he thrived in for the Nats, effectively making the game an eight inning contest — a second closer for the eighth inning, if you will.

Logically, it makes the most sense to fill his spot with the best available pitcher, or pitchers. The Nats currently don’t have a player with Clippard’s elite skills to fill that role by himself. Williams, thus far, has tried to pigeonhole Blake Treinen in that role, to varying degrees of success.

Treinen has very good skills, and one day could very well have the success Clippard had in the role, or even be trusted with the ninth inning if it proves that he has the constitution for it. This is the first season he’s been groomed as a one-inning reliever and while many former starters (like Clippard) take well to it, some others (Ross Detwiler) simply do not.

It’s easy for armchair managers to say “play the percentages” and mix-and-match at the back of the bullpen, giving the responsibility to the manager for coming up with the best possible matchup in any late-inning scenario.

So far, Williams has had scattershot success with the bullpen GM Mike Rizzo has supplied him with for the start of the season. Xavier Cedeno is no one’s idea of a lefty specialist (.252/.331/.351 career versus lefties). Matt Thornton has faced three batters all season. Aaron Barrett has barely pitched. Drew Storen went five days without pitching while others blew late or extra-inning leads.

It will be interesting to see going forward if Williams learns from his mistakes and takes on more responsibility to actually manage his bullpen based on game situations, instead of relying on autopilot and the set roles, allowing the players to bear the burden of success or failure in situations they may not be best suited for success.

Washington Nationals name Matt Williams as new skipper

The Washington Nationals formally announced the hiring of Matt Williams as the team’s new manager via press release Thursday morning.

Williams, 47, becomes the fifth manager of the team since relocating to the District in 2005.

“I could not be more pleased to welcome Matt Williams and his family to the Nationals and the Nation’s Capital,” Rizzo said in the press release. “In some ways, my interview with Matt began during our days together in Arizona, where his undeniable toughness, attention to detail and intensity established a foundation for a Diamondbacks expansion franchise that reached the postseason in its second season and won a World Series two years later.”

Via conference call with media, Rizzo added, “It was a very difficult decision. But Matt, we felt, possessed all the characteristics of a successful manager and a guy we  think can take us to the next level.”

Williams was known as an intense player, nicknamed “The Big Marine”, but he’s earned a reputation as a coach that’s tough but fair and is well respected among his former teammates and players on teams that he’s coached. Williams brings no full-time managerial experience to the job, but had a short stint managing Arizona’s Double-A team after former teammate Brett Butler suffered a stroke. He also skippered an Arizona Fall League team in 2012.

“I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this team,” Williams said in the press release. “It’s a wonderful group of guys and a great organization. I’m simply here to help take us to the next level.”

Williams is to be introduced in a press conference Friday at 2:00 pm ET at Nationals Park.

REPORT: Nats to hire Matt Williams as next manager

According to multiple reports surfacing Friday, the Washington Nationals are set to announce the hiring of Matt Williams, former MLB All-Star and Gold Glover, and current bench coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks, as their next manager. MLB discourages teams from making major announcements during the World Series, so a formal announcement and press conference won’t come until its conclusion at the earliest.

Williams, 47, was a third baseman for 17 major league seasons with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Arizona. He’s been with the D-backs as a coach for the past four seasons and was a broadcaster before then following his playing career. He managed in the Arizona Fall League last season, but beside that, he has no further managerial experience.

According to reports, the Nats also interviewed bench coach Randy Knorr, first base coach Trent Jewett, former big league catcher and Padres front office official Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays bench coach and long-time MLB coach DeMarlo Hale.

It’s mildly surprising, with the Nationals considered a contending club, that GM Mike Rizzo didn’t even interview an experienced manager.

According to The Washington Post, the team would like to keep Knorr with the club in some capacity.

Williams is widely respected by former teammates and D-backs players. He’s known for his intensity, but current players have praised him as being accessible.

It’s debatable how much influence managers have on today’s game. With so much emphasis on on-base skills and reluctance to give away outs, managers are required to do much less “button pushing” and are more motivators and gurus than tacticians in the modern game. Essentially, the modern manager is asked to be a facilitator, charged not with not getting in the way of the assembled talent. An ideal candidate is one with a strong knowledge of the game, but also a good rapport and motivational style with the modern athlete.

Obviously, Williams’ style is yet to be seen. If he manages like he played, he’ll bring a fiery, no-nonsense approach to the dugout. He was a slugger with good — but not great — on base skills and a terrific fielder, having won the Gold Glove four times and was a five-time All-Star.

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