Jim Leyland’s retirement earlier today as Tigers manager resonated throughout the baseball world, but the surprise announcement shouldn’t significantly affect the Nationals’ ongoing search for a new skipper.
Leyland’s departure does create another high-profile and attractive opening for managerial candidates, leaving five positions now available: the Nationals, Tigers, Reds, Cubs and Mariners. But the only candidate who might be up for the job both in Detroit and Washington is ex-catcher Brad Ausmus, who appears to be a second-tier choice for the Nationals anyway.
Ausmus, who currently works in the Padres front office, has been granted permission to interview with the Nationals. A Tigers catcher in 1996 and from 1999-2000, Ausmus figures to be among the candidates to replace Leyland in Detroit.
The two frontrunners for the Nationals, though, appear to remain current bench coach Randy Knorr and Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams. Each interviewed with general manager Mike Rizzo in the last two weeks, according to sources familiar with the process.
Rizzo is expected to make a decision shortly after the World Series, which begins Wednesday and concludes no later than Oct. 31.
There briefly was a scenario in which today’s Leyland news could have taken Williams out of the mix for the Nats’ job: If former Tigers great Kirk Gibson left Arizona to replace Leyland, and Williams was then promoted to replace Gibson. But Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told the Arizona Republic that Gibson isn’t leaving, which keeps Williams in the running for the Nationals’ job.
One other development today could bear watching: Don Mattingly, in his season wrap-up news conference, suggested he may not return to the Dodgers even though his contract automatically vested for next season after his club beat the Braves in the NLDS. If, by some chance, Mattingly were to leave L.A., he almost certainly would become a strong candidate for the Nationals’ job.
Rizzo was interested in Mattingly following the 2009 season, but the latter declined to be interviewed, sensing he was likely to succeed Joe Torre in Los Angeles within the next few years.