With the Washington Nationals‘ hire of Matt Williams, the Nationals are following a league trend of hiring managers with little to no previous experience. As we have seen, this strategy has come up roses for most teams that have made the move, with the most prominent team to do so, the St. Louis Cardinals, currently in the World Series.
Williams was also the most prominent candidate from outside the Washington organization, and for a team that preaches stability and continuity it shouldn’t be long before Williams becomes synonymous with the Nationals organization. Of course, Washington has top in-house candidates as Randy Knorr, Washington’s bench coach, and Trent Jewett, Washington’s third base coach, both interviewed for the vacancy. Knorr was considered a front-runner as well because of the players’ profound respect for him as they openly lobbied for him on the final day of the season.
Knorr will not be the team’s next skipper, but Washington wants to bring him back as bench coach which seems likely to happen. Knorr has coached many of Washington’s current players in the minors and has also sat beside Davey Johnson for two years. Knorr has also alluded to having a similar no nonsense attitude that Williams’ old coaching staff with the Arizona Diamondbacks had. This no nonsense, “play the game the right way” attitude from Knorr was illustrated to a point where some scouts compared Knorr directly to Jim Leyland, who just retired as skipper of the Detroit Tigers.
Hiring Knorr as bench coach and Williams as manager could give Washington the best manager/bench coach combination in baseball. Williams comes from a coaching staff of grizzled veterans known for their toughness in Arizona, coaching alongside the likes of Kirk Gibson and Don Baylor. Williams saw in Arizona how players play the game the right way, grind out at-bats, and give 110 percent every night. Knorr, when he stood in for Johnson, pulled his pricey closer, Rafael Soriano, when he felt Soriano was not ready to pitch. He also called out his best young player, Bryce Harper, when he felt Harper was not running hard to first base on a ground out.
Harper, as we knew and now know further, had knee problems all season so much so that he recently had surgery to repair the bursa in his knee. The argument could also be made that Soriano was less than focused in non-save situations he was brought into as well. Regardless, Knorr calling out two prominent players on his team when he was just the bench coach is probably what players respect most about him and what will probably make another team take a chance on him as skipper one day.
Williams and Knorr could be the best manager and bench coach combination in baseball because of their similar coaching styles which could really help them mesh as both people and coaches. The two will both preach fundamentals and playing the game hard, which Washington really struggled with in 2013 and will need to drastically improve that aspect in 2014. Plus, Williams and Knorr would provide some coaching stability, as both are relatively young and will hold their positions for years to come.