Name: Matthew Derrick Williams
DOB: November 28, 1965
From: Bishop, California
Position: Manager Position during playing career: Third Base
With the Nats since: November 1, 2013
Just who is this guy?: Matt Williams is the new skipper for the Nationals this season, but before his coaching (1st base and 3rd base coach for the Diamondbacks in 2010 and 2011) and managerial days, he was a third baseman with the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Williams made his Major League debut on April 11, 1987 going 1-3, singling in his third at-bat of the game off of Los Angeles Dodgers great Orel Hershiser. He played in 84 games that year, batting a measly .188, hit eight home runs and drove in 21 RBIs. The prime of Williams’ career came during the ’90s. During that decade, he never hit fewer than 20 home runs or drove in fewer than 65 runs. From 1990 – 1999, Williams hit 300 home runs, drove in 960 runs and batted .278/.326/.508. He was also a 41 WAR player during that span.
During 10 postseason series Williams batted .247.319/.389 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. He was clutch in his career during three World Series appearances, batting .279/.338/.456 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Fun postseason fact about Williams: He was the first player in MLB history to hit a home run with three different teams during the World Series.
In terms of accolades, Williams has quite the collection of trophies and awards. Four Gold Gloves for his defense at third base (1991, 1993, 1994 and 1997); Four Silver Slugger awards (1990, 1993, 1994 and 1997); Five All-Star games during his career and was the starting NL third baseman in both 1994 and 1999. Williams was a part of the 2001 World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks squad, which just so happened to include current Nationals GM Mike Rizzo as the D’Backs scouting director.
What happened in 2013: Williams served as the third base coach for the Diamondbacks, with 2013 being his third consecutive season at that position. The Diamondbacks finished the season with an even 81-81 record, good for second best in the NL West (though not the playoffs). The Diamondbacks shortcomings likely had to do with injuries down the stretch as they lost steam towards the end of the season. During a span of 62 days, from May 17 – July 21, the Diamondbacks were in first place in the NL East, yet managed to finish 11-games behind the Dodgers and miss the playoffs.
What’s expected in 2014?: The 2014 season will mark the first time that Williams has managed a team at the big league level. During the 2012 Arizona Fall League, Williams was the manager of the Salt River Rafters and the team won the East Division title.. He also managed the Double-A Mobile BayBears of the Southern League, going 17-15 during his five-week stint as the replacement manager.
So. a manager with very little experience and no experience at all in the big leagues; how will that work in terms of being successful with the ultimate goal of winning the World Series? Well, in my opinion, it really comes down to two different things – preparation and the fact that Williams has a somewhat recent background as a player.
Williams knows how to relate to the players on the team because he’s been in their situation before. That knowledge will be extremely helpful when dealing with younger players such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. If he can be an even better role model as a manager, like he was as a player, Williams will be successful during his managerial career.
You can only prepare yourself so much, but in the case of Matt Williams, the preparation that he has done thus far, even in Spring Training, ought to help immensely once the season rolls around.Williams lack of experience will be a lightning rod for judgment for fans and the media alike, especially given the contrast with a veteran manager like Davey Johnson. Put at the helm of a ball club with so much young talent, dashed expectations from 2013, the best record in all of baseball in 2012 and his first year in charge – no pressure, right?
Matt Williams knows the game of baseball inside and out. He knows what is expected of him and of the Nationals this season. The Nats ought to be an all-around better team because of him as their skipper.
If It All Goes Right: The Nationals, under the managerial leadership of Matt Williams, will turn back into the team from 2012 and not only make the playoffs, but win the World Series, all in Williams’ first season as manager. They will end the season with 102 wins and 60 losses and play very well in all aspects with very few injuries. Williams’ leadership, mixed with the sheer athleticism and talent of the players, will bode well together for many seasons to come. Williams talent as a manager will be seen by fans, higher-ups and the media, instantly becoming a fan favorite.
If It All Goes Wrong: There won’t be a trip to the World Series for the Nationals in 2014. However, they will still make the playoffs and finish the season in first place in the NL East. They just won’t have the World Series rings to show off. Simple enough.