Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams is in his first year coaching the team.
His grade in the first half of the season: B+
So far, so good in Washington DC for the first year head coach. In the 2013 season, former manager Davey Johnson led the Nationals to a respectable 87-76 record. In the first half of the 2014 season, Williams has the Nationals bouncing between first and second place in the National League East, jockeying for the number one spot with the Atlanta Braves.
Williams had a productive playing career, making five all-star games and winning the World Series in 2001. His play has translated into coaching thus far.
The biggest challenge the manager has faced this year has been injuries. The team continued to play competitively despite key injuries to OF Bryce Harper and SP Gio Gonzalez. Williams’ Nationals rank first in the majors in terms of ERA and the batting order is supporting them. Since the team returned to DC, they have won the division only once in 2012. The Braves, as usual, are the team to beat in the NL East.
Williams has to keep the Nationals focused down the stretch if they want to make a playoff run. As of July 4th, the Nationals are 46-39 and sitting 1.5 games back from first place.
The other major challenge Williams has had to deal with is the drama created by DC sports media in reaction to players’ comments. For instance, the recent drama was due to Harper’s comments on the Nationals’ lineup situation. Williams is staying the course and going with the lineup he sees fit. That’s the right decision.
The team has all of the pieces to make a second half run against the Braves and Williams will do best by ignoring the drama and maintaining control of the team. Off the field drama only serves to get in the way. Williams should stick to what he’s doing and keep the on the field play as priority number one.