Nationals' Manager Search: Is Matt Williams Emerging As Leading Candidate?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Washington Nationals' bench coach Randy Knorr and Arizona Diamondbacks' third base coach Matt Williams have been rumored to be the top in-house and outside candidates for the Nats' managerial opening. Here's a quick wrap-up of the latest rumors...

Matt Williams managed the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League in 2012. Asked about making the transition from player to coach to manager, the then-46-year-old veteran of 17 major league seasons as a player, who is currently employed as the Arizona D-Backs' third base coach, told MLB.com's Don Ketchum that he tries to remember just how difficult a game it is:

"'I've been that dude who struck out with the bases loaded. I've been the guy who ... made three errors in a game and cost our team the win. I've also been the guy who sent the guy home [as the third-base coach] when I shouldn't have. I've been that guy. I constantly try to remind myself of that.

"'This game is so unique, it's hard to explain to people what the mindset is. I use the analogy all the time, and I think it's true and it's valuable -- in this game, perfection is unattainable, but the pursuit of perfection is imperative.'"

Williams, who has shared history with Washington Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo from the time the two spent in the Diamondbacks' organization from 1998-2003 when Williams was a player and Rizzo the scouting director, managed Nationals' prospects like Aaron Barrett, Paul Demny, Brian Goodwin and Anthony Rendon in the AFL last season. Rendon told reporters, including MLB.com's Bill Ladson, that he was impressed with Williams' work as a manager:

"'He is a great manager, from what I saw. He's more of a players' guy,' Rendon said. 'At the same time, he knows when to get on people. He doesn't raise his voice, but he gets his point through.

"'I think he was more of a hands-on guy. It wasn't too long ago that he was [playing]. He gave us a feel on what to anticipate, what to expect while we are playing out there. That's what I really enjoyed about it.'"

According to separate reports today, the Nationals were as impressed as Rendon after Williams interviewed for the Nats' job opening on the bench recently.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reported this week that Williams did, in fact, interview for the job. ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote this morning on Twitter that an evaluator told him they believe Williams is the front-runner to become the Nationals' sixth skipper:

MLB.com's Bill Ladson too wrote today that he's hearing Williams is on top of the list of prospective candidates:

"A baseball source who is familiar with Rizzo's thinking believes Williams is on top of the Nats' managerial list, followed by Randy Knorr and Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who has not interviewed for the position. Nationals third-base coach Trent Jewett is also a candidate."

Dave Martinez's name is a new one in this discussion. Martinez, 49, who played 16 seasons in the majors, has served as the Tampa Bay Rays' bench coach since 2008 and he recently interviewed for the the opening on the bench with the Chicago Cubs, though as Mr. Ladson noted, he has not interviewed for the Nationals' gig.

Nats' bench coach Randy Knorr, third base coach Trent Jewett, San Diego Padres' front office exec Brad Ausmus and Matt Williams are the names that have been mentioned thus far as potential candidates to replace Davey Johnson on the bench in the nation's capital.

No word yet on whether or not Cal Ripken, whose name has come up repeatedly, will actually interview for the job. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore wrote this afternoon that one name that's been mentioned can probably be crossed off the list:

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