According to reports, the Washington Nationals have their man in Matt Williams. Reports came down yesterday that they are preparing to hire Williams, but the time of the announcement is not known, though it will probably come after the World Series ends with the news breaking on a travel day for the World Series teams.
As I mentioned yesterday, the hire comes with a twist, though a seemingly minor one compared to the fact that Williams is a minority owner in the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team he was third base coach on. Washington would like to hire Williams and try to keep bench coach Randy Knorr in the same capacity.
The word seems to be that Knorr will stay so Washington will have a safety blanket in Knorr, and someone who may mirror Williams’ managerial style. Williams comes from Kirk Gibson in Arizona, whose coaching staff was made up of tough, no-nonsense guys that preach grinding and playing the game the right way. This could could work out nicely for the Nationals, a team that struggled to hold runners on and played very sloppy defense at times.
With their hiring of Williams, Washington follows suit with a trend that has been sweeping the league. Gone are the days of the big name, “superstar” managers a la Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog. The manager is now much more of a reflection of the front office, working harmoniously with the GM in terms of decision-making with the roster.
There are many more teams now willing to hire a manager with little to no experience because of their personality and ability to connect with players on a personal level, rather than being taskmasters and whipping players into shape.
Mike Matheny, currently managing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, had no previous managing experience prior to being hired before the 2012 season began, and all he has done is go 185-139 in his first two seasons as a skipper. Though his team struggled this season, Robin Ventura won 85 games in his first season at the helm with the Chicago White Sox, and is another example of this.
Obviously, Matheny had a much better roster to work with than Ventura did, but both are good examples of the trend the league is following: hire a manager that can connect with players via personality, and be able to stay out of the way and let their players be themselves.
The trend Washington is following has proven to be a mildly successful one based on team rosters and injuries, and it is definitely one worth following. Plus, Washington got their man, which always makes things better.