Matt Williams was all over the place on Friday. Williams was in the nation's capital and Nationals Park for his introduction as Washington's new manager. After signing his new deal, he met with the D.C. press corps.
A few hours later he was on the MLB Network and MLB Network Radio where he talked to hosts Jeff Joyce and Kevin Kennedy on Inside Pitch about his new gig after four years as a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As the 47-year-old veteran of 17 MLB seasons as a player explained it, the conversation which led to today's introduction started a few years back when he asked current Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo for advice when he got into coaching since his goal was to one day manage in the majors. He and Rizzo had a shared past from Williams' playing days, when the Nats' GM was the D-Backs' scouting director.
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) November 1, 2013
"I had spoken to [Rizzo] a couple years ago about my desire to manage at some point," Williams explained, "and asked him as a friend what I should do, so he mentioned to me that I should get as much experience as I can in doing that. So, I couldn't do it at the big league level so I tried to do it at the [Arizona] Fall League last year and then he called me after the season when they were looking at potential managers and said, 'I'd like to talk some baseball with you and bring you in and talk to the Lerner family and see what may be there.' So I said, 'Great.' And he called for permission from the Diamondbacks and I came in and talked a little while and it ended up with today."
When the Nats' General Manager was asked on Thursday afternoon in an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier what he took out of the time Williams spent in the AFL where he led a team featuring some Nats' prospect to the championship game, Rizzo said simply, "I took out of it that it was managerial experience."
"He ran the ballclub," Rizzo continued. "He made the moves. He controlled the bullpen and made the X's and O's that a manager has to make. He also had a stint in Double-A filling in for Brett Butler [in 2007] for several months at the Double-A level. Like I said, there [are] a lot different roads to the manager's seat in the big leagues."
While admitting that Williams' road was "unique", Rizzo said he thought the former 1st Round pick was prepared and ready for the challenge.
"I told him my philosophy and what I want to do and the Nationals and the organization seemed to like it," Williams said in discussing the interview process on MLB Network Radio, "so here we are and we're ready to go."
"One of the biggest things for me," Williams explained when asked to break down his aggressive, defense-first philosophy, "is we need to be able to defend the other teams. And that's important for me. And I think it's important for any team. You look at the World Series and the teams that kicked the ball around lost those games and that translates to the playoffs and the season and even to Spring Training."
"So the bottom line for me personally is [that] I want to have a group of guys, group of men, who go out there and defend every single day," the Nats' new skipper said. "With the team that is put together here, if we can do that, we've got a chance to win. We've got a legitimate chance to keep our starters in the game longer. To use our bullpen effectively. We have a quick-strike offense that can put multiple runs up at any time, and if we hang close to teams and defend and play good defense behind our staff, we've got a chance."
In order to help with the defense, Williams, who won four Gold Gloves during his playing days, brought now-former Arizona Diamondbacks' Special Assistant to the GM and Major League Advance Scout Mark Weidemaier to the Nationals, where he'll be the Nats' Defensive Coordination/Advance Coach.
Weidemaier, Williams said, "... has studied the game from sitting in the stands in a scouting perspective on all the teams that we're going to play. So he has a vast knowledge, a huge database of information that he's compiled for himself and for the teams that he's worked for and he will lend great knowledge to that defensive coordination of the way we want to go about doing this."
As for what he might do differently on the offensive end, Williams told the MLB Network Radio hosts that he thought the Nationals might be a little more aggressive on the basepaths under his guidance.
"I think that we've got some other tools here that the guys have that we can do some things with," Williams said. "We can be a little more aggressive on the basepaths, I think. Maybe put some more guys in motion, maybe use the hit-and-run a little bit, maybe do a number of things that would allow us to push a few more runs across and get a little more aggressive. So all those combined I think will kind of present themselves as we get going, but intially those are my thoughts."
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