Mike Rizzo introduces Matt Williams as Nats' new manager
The Nationals introduced their fifth manager in team history on Friday afternoon at Nats Park, hosting a question and answer session with general manager Mike Rizzo and the newest member of the organization, Matt Williams.
Rizzo and Williams held court for over half an hour, taking questions from the media on why the latter was the right guy for the job and what type of manager he will be. Williams joins the Nationals with no experience managing a major league club.
Williams arrived in Washington in time to go looking at schools with his daughter Madison, take her trick-or-treating on Capitol Hill and have dinner with the Lerner family and the team’s other owners. He then had a long day meeting with fans and members of the organization on Friday, all before talking to the media for much of the afternoon.
Williams described his style as a manager as “aggressive.” He wants to take chances and joked he was criticized by fans in Arizona for being too quick with the trigger as a third base coach.
“We’re going to try to take advantage of the situation that presents itself to us,” he said. “If a guy’s slow to the plate, we’re going to run. We want to put guys in motion and hit-and-run. We want to do some things that are maybe outside the box in getting a guy in from third base. Certainly, that’s a process.”
Williams also preached defense, saying he took pride in it as a player. He, in fact, is bringing in his own guy from the Diamondbacks organization to help the Nats out in that aspect. Mark Weidemaier will now become the team’s defensive coordination advance coach, according to Williams.
Washington will also bring former Nats catcher Matt LeCroy in as bullpen coach. He will replace Jim Lett who was with the organization since 2010.
Rizzo has known Williams for over a decade as they were both in the Diamondbacks organization, and one thing that has always stood out to him is his passion for baseball. Williams chose to come back to the game after accomplishing plenty already as a player and explained why on Friday.
“The game drove me back. It’s the greatest game on earth,” he said. “The game’s given me everything I have in this world. It gave me family, it gave me pride and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. It gave me heartache sometimes. It gave me a world championship ring I get to put on my finger.”
Williams also acknowledged bench coach Randy Knorr who was in attendance sitting alongside Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond and Tanner Roark in the front row. Knorr interviewed for the job but was picked over by Rizzo and the Nats. Some of players, including those in the room, voiced their preference for Knorr as a candidate towards the end of the season.
Williams is happy to have Knorr sticking around and hopes they can work together to get the Nationals where they want to go.
“It can be a very difficult dynamic because Randy’s certainly popular among the players. We have seen that they have given him their support during this process,” Williams said.
“I can’t claim to know them or know this team as much as Randy does. So I’m going to lean on him. He’s been kind enough to say ‘lean on me.’ I believe in this franchise, I believe in this team, I believe in our chances and I want to be here. He doesn’t have to be here. In our conversations he said he did and I trust that and I love that fact.”
Werth, one of the leaders in the Nationals clubhouse, gave his stamp of approval after the press conference. He noted the lack of experience and thinks Knorr being around can help.
“You got a guy that played a long time. I feel like the only way to really learn this game is to play it. He qualifies there for sure,” Werth said.
“The character that he has and displayed today and displayed in his playing career, I don’t think the X and Os are going to be a problem. And like he said, he’s got Randy right behind him. When you got a guy like that and you don’t rely on him, it can be a bigger burden than if you do. I think the two of those guys at the helm is going to be great. Keeping all the coaches is going to help add to the character of the club and the chemistry and ultimately the winning. So I think we’re on the right track.”
Williams stood up and posed for pictures before taking questions wearing his new Nationals jersey. He will don No. 9, the same number he played with in San Francisco, Cleveland and Arizona. But he won’t actually be the first Washington manager to wear that number and have the name ‘Williams’ on the back. The first would be Ted Williams who coached the Senators from 1969-71.
Rizzo updates Strasburg, Harper & LaRoche injuries
Last week the Nationals announced Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche all had successful offseason surgeries to fix various ailments they were dealing with late in the year. Strasburg had bone chips removed from his elbow, Harper had a bursa sac in his left knee debrided and repaired, and LaRoche also had loose bodies removed from his throwing arm.
On Friday Rizzo had some information on how they have been doing since.
“LaRoche, Harper, Stras They’re all doing well,” Rizzo said. “They’re all back at home rehabbing with physical therapists and they all should be ready by Spring Training. Stras’ bone chips we found out right after the season, we gave him the MRI and found it… there were several small floating bodies in Stras’ elbow.