Since before Spring Training, there have been rumors that the Washington Nationals successor to Davey Johnson could be someone from outside the organization, and the early reports handicapped Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams as the front-runner. Williams worked with GM Mike Rizzo in Arizona towards the end of his career, when Rizzo was the Scouting Director for Arizona, and at 47, is just the right age to provide some stability to a job that has not been stable since the team’s move to Washington. Of course, Washington also had some solid in house candidates with Randy Knorr leading the pack and being compared to Jim Leyland and having the respect of the clubhouse.
Earlier today, those rumors about Williams became a reality; with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeting that Washington was prepared to name Williams their next manager. The Nationals’ managerial search has gone on pretty quietly, as does most of Washington’s business, with Rizzo being MLB‘s ninja executive, since nobody seems to know the team’s next move until they make, though this move was one that was predicted. Williams was a guy Rizzo loves and worked with in the past, and we have seen that Rizzo has a proficiency for getting “his guy,” regardless of how long it takes him, see David DeJesus.
The move seems to come with a twist, however, as Rosenthal also put in the same tweet that Washington wants to try and hire Williams and keep Knorr as the team’s bench coach. This is a twist because, obviously, when a new manager comes in, they want to bring some of their guys with them. These other coaches are usually close friends and confidants to the manager, and match his planned managing style. What will be interesting to see is if keeping Knorr is going to be a requirement for Williams to take the reigns. Also, it could also be a matter of if Knorr wants to stay he can.
Keeping Knorr brings some continuity to the perceived stability Williams will provide. Knorr knows the players, sat beside Davey Johnson for two seasons, and has the clubhouse’s respect. Plus, it gives Rizzo a safety blanket if, for whatever reason, Williams does not work out as skipper, though many believe Williams will be a very good manager.
This is a hire many could say they saw coming, but what will be interesting to watch will be how badly Williams wants the job, and how flexible he will be with this first task that has been presented to him, since much more rides on this decision than meets the eye.