When the Washington Nationals introduced Matt Williams on Friday, it was pretty safe to say that nobody knew what to expect when he answered questions. When he did start to answer questions though, the new skipper showed Nationals fans they should be nothing more than absolutely thrilled that he is going to be guiding their team in 2014 and beyond.
Williams showed fans and reporters alike he is a stereotypical Mike Rizzo hire: confident but not overly cocky, comfortable enough with himself that he knows he isn’t perfect but that he is still the man in charge in the dugout. He comes from outside of the organization, but he knows that he is going to need to take the time to connect with his players and coaches on a personal as well as a professional level.
The fact that Williams also was able to specifically name players like Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth speaks volumes about what he doing so well in his tenure’s infancy.
We are in an era of the “player’s manager”: the manager who connects with his players on a personal level, protects them and let’s them police themselves. The manager has also pretty much become a reflection of the front office, where in the past the manager was often bigger than the team, with the likes of Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog and Earl Weaver patrolling dugouts.
With the emergence of Moneyball and sabermetrics, that is no longer the case, as front offices tend to look for a manager they can work in harmony with so that they can all achieve the same goal of winning a title. The Nationals have that guy in Williams.
He alluded to being open to the new statistics in baseball so much so that they will be adding a seventh coach specifically in charge of defensive alignments based on hitter tendencies. Williams does not want to bog down his players with too many numbers, and adding this coach will help that.
He will also heavily rely on his incumbent bench coach Randy Knorr in getting to know his players and connecting with them, as well as being a messenger from the players to the manager’s office.
Williams seems ready to work and focus on some of Washington’s problems in 2013, which were mostly defensive. He also seems to want to be much more aggressive than his predecessor was, wanting to play a lot like Bryce Harper tends to: taking the initiative to steal bases, going first to third, etc.. That aggressiveness and focus may be just the key for the Nationals.
Does Matt Williams have any managerial experience? No. Does he have the right attitude? Absolutely, Nationals fans should be nothing short of thrilled that he is going to be filling out the team’s lineup card for hopefully years to come.