Anyone who doubts who is in charge of the Washington Nationals need only look at President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo. He, by all media accounts, hired the man he wanted from day one, Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach and hottest manager candidate in all of MLB Matt Williams.
Many will recall that the Nationals players made it known that they wanted former manager Davey Johnson‘s bench coach Randy Knorr to replace his retiring boss. Knorr will likely be back, but it will be as the highly paid bench coach for the newly hired Williams.
Rizzo likes Williams to manage the Nationals, and he feels that the former All-Star third baseman is just what the Nationals need to get them back to the playoffs and beyond. Williams’ style is tough but fair as both a player and then as a coach. There are plenty of former teammates as well as present Diamondbacks players, management and fans in Arizona that love and respect Williams.
For Rizzo this decision will determine whether the Nationals will fulfill the expectation of being a perennial playoff team or wind up a franchise defined by the Stephen Strasburg shutdown in 2012 and missed opportunities in 2013. There is little doubt that Rizzo is a winner, and he has the trust of the Nationals players and ownership.
In these new days of first time managers, Knorr will remain with the Nationals as a bench coach, so if you do the math, now the Nationals have both Williams and Knorr in the dugout. The days of a new manager cleaning house and bringing in all his own coaches as standard operating procedure are gone, particularly for a rookie manager. I’d be surprised if much of the Nationals coaching staff doesn’t stay intact, which will help Williams.
Williams takes over a team that most people in baseball feel should return to the MLB Playoffs, challenge for both the NL East title and a place in the World Series. That is a tall order for a rookie skipper, but his boss Rizzo will make sure he has the players needed to get there; the rest is up to Williams.