Beltway Baseball: Who should be the Nats' manager?
Updated at 3:17 p.m.
The Nationals are ramping up their managerial search, interviewing multiple candidates for the job and making plans to meet with others in contention to replace Davey Johnson next season.
Mike Rizzo has already interviewed Matt Williams and Randy Knorr, sources familiar with the process confirmed, making the Diamondbacks third base coach and the Nationals bench coach the first known candidates to meet with Washington's general manager. Rizzo is expected to speak to several more potential managers, including former big-league catcher Brad Ausmus and Nationals third base coach Randy Knorr.
News of Williams and Knorr's interviews, first reported by the Washington Post, don't come as a surprise. Williams has been considered a strong candidate for the job for several months, given his background, aspirations to manage and close ties to Rizzo. Knorr has been the strongest in-house candidate all along.
Williams, 47, has been a member of the Diamondbacks' coaching staff the last four seasons and previously managed in the Arizona Fall League. An intense competitor during his playing days with the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks, he was a popular clubhouse leader for the 2001 Arizona club that won the World Series and employed Rizzo as scouting director.
Those who know Williams — who hit 378 homers, won four Gold Glove awards and made five All-Star teams — say he has mellowed some in retirement but remains popular for his straightforward approach and endearing loyalty to those who play for him.
Knorr remains the favored choice of Nationals players, who almost universally gave public support for the 44-year-old at season's end. Johnson's bench coach the last two years, the former catcher has been either a minor-league manager or major-league coach for the Nationals since 2005.
Ausmus, who currently works for the Padres as a special assistant, has yet to formally interview with the Nationals but has been granted permission to speak to Rizzo, a source familiar with the process confirmed. A veteran of 18 seasons behind the plate with the Padres, Tigers, Astros and Dodgers, he retired in 2010 and last year managed the Israeli national team during qualifying for the World Baseball Classic.
It's unclear whether Jewett has interviewed yet, but the Nationals' current third base coach and former manager in both Washington and Pittsburgh's farm systems, has been an expected candidate from the start of the process.
The Nationals aren't expected to hire their new manager for at least two more weeks. Major League Baseball prefers that clubs don't make major news during the postseason, so the hiring likely won't come until after the World Series.