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.