Since the Washington Nationals to D.C. from Montreal in 2005, they’ve had five managers, including Matt Williams, and just one of them, Davey Johnson, had a record above .500. While Johnson certainly did great things with this team, expect Williams to do even better.
Probably the best quality that Johnson boasted was his personality. He was calm, cool and collected and didn’t let his emotions get the best of him. Johnson was also a relaxed manager than ran a relaxed ship. He didn’t let his players get too uptight, and he kept things loose in the clubhouse. For a team as young as the Nationals, you need that kind of a manager.
However, for any young team, you also need structure. For Williams, that’s one things he’s certainly bringing. Before Spring Training began, he already had Spring Training mapped out day-by-day, even minute-by-minute. At January’s Nats Fest, he said, “Day 1 through 41. It’s all there.”
Structure is a great thing, if done right. If you don’t let your players have any fun, then the structure becomes a burden and some they dread. However, Williams is allowing his players to have some fun. He’s held competitions at different positions to push his players, and all the reports out of Spring Training seem to point to his ball club being entertaining and having a blast.
Last year, there was the “World Series or Bust” mantra. This year, there hasn’t been a bold prediction for the season. While setting high goals and talking a big game is great, oftentimes it only leads to negative vibes from the fans and media if the season falls short. Williams has yet to proclaim any sort of lofty goal, so that’s certainly a positive.
Aside from the fun times at Spring Training, his overall plan for using this ball club will help get them to the next level. He wants to be aggressive on the base paths, something Johnson often wasn’t. You can expect Bryce Harper and Denard Span to be running when they get on base. Williams wants to move runners into scoring position because, well, he wants to score.
Last season, the Nationals struggled putting runs on the board and not much was really done to remedy that. Their strategy on the base paths was to move runners around by stringing hits together. However, when there is speed on first base like Span or Harper, turn it loose. Let the horses run. Get into the minds of the opposing pitcher. That will also help out the man at the plate.
What Davey Johnson did for the Nationals was incredible. He made a football town love baseball. Since 2005, the Nationals were not only the doormat of the NL East, but also Washington D.C. Johnson led a team of young guns to the top of the baseball world and gave baseball-fever to a city that lacked it. His mark on the Nationals organization will be felt for years to come.
However, it was certainly time to hand over the keys to the Cadillac to a new skipper. When Matt Williams was first hired, it was a move that seemed like a no-brainer for Mike Rizzo. Upon his arrival, Williams talked the talk. As the new skipper has shown down in Viera, Florida, he can walk the walk, too.
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