In his first Spring Training after having the "acting" prefix removed from his job title, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, in March of 2010, spoke to reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, about the changes he saw in the organization over his first year at the helm in the nation's capital.
"'The one thing that I'm most proud is,'" Rizzo told the WaPost reporter, "'this is certainly a professionally run spring training with professional guys. There's no circus atmosphere. There's no carnivals. It's baseball like in 29 other organizations."
The veteran players on the roster like Adam Kennedy, Adam Dunn and Pudge Rodriguez wouldn't have it any other way, Rizzo explained:
"'Pudge isn't going to stand for anybody clowning around. Neither is [Adam] Kennedy or [Adam] Dunn in their own quiet way. They're not going to stand for it. Like we did in Arizona -- [shoot], the manager didn't have to say a word. You screwed up, Matt Williams put you in a locker. And that was end of it. Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Jay Bell, Luis Gonzalez -- those were the guys who gave the fines, jump peoples' [rear], put a guy in a locker. That's what we're trying to get here -- the veteran presence.'"
Rizzo was clearly impressed with what he saw when he and Williams crossed paths in Arizona between 1998-2003 with both of them there from the start with the Diamondbacks.
Rizzo became the D-Backs' scouting director and remained in the role from 2000-2006 before he left for Washington, D.C. Williams played the final six years of his 17-year career in Arizona from 1998-2003, and helped the D-Backs win the World Series in 2001. Williams became a coach with the Diamondbacks in 2009, coaching first and then third. According to a report by FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal this afternoon, Williams too is now headed to the nation's capital, as the Nats' sixth manager since 2005.
If subsequent reports are accurate -- Mr. Rosenthal said the, "[t]iming of announcement [is] not known," -- the now-47-year-old Williams will be named as Davey Johnson's successor as soon as the World Series ends since MLB frowns upon major announcements being made during the Series...
So about stuffing people in lockers? D-Backs' outfielder Adam Eaton was asked this afternoon in an MLB Network Radio interview what he thought about the anecdote Rizzo shared about Williams' intensity. Was he really like that? That intense?:
"For sure," Eaton said. "I think all of us have grown up playing a sport and there's always that coach that you respected tremendously and then when you do mess up you're almost scared and very timid. I remember I ran through the stop sign, I think in July or August, I was safe at home but I still ran through the stop sign. And I just tiptoed up to him and was kind of like, 'Heh, I'm sorry. I didn't see it. My bad.' And he kind of just looked at me like he was going to kill me, rip my head off. But kind of cracked a smile and said, 'Good thing you were safe. That's all I have to say.'"
Eaton also said Williams "knows the game extremely well, inside and out," and was a coach who had, "very good relationships with his players." The D-Backs' coach managed several Nationals' prospects on the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League in 2012 and led the team to the AFL Championship Game. If/when he takes over on the bench in the nation's capital, it will be just the second managing gig of his second career in the game.
The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore wrote this afternoon that Rizzo, "wanted to hire Williams for months," and Williams, "blew away the Lerner family with his commanding presence in an interview." Williams was one of five candidates reported to have interviewed with the Nationals along with in-house candidates bench coach Randy Knorr and third base coach Trent Jewett, Padres' front office exec Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays' bench coach DeMarlo Hale. Knorr told reporters today, including the WaPost's Mr. Kilgore, that he would like to remain with the organization even though he apparently wasn't hired as the manager.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal's initial report said his sourcestold him the Nationals hoped Knorr would stay:
Sources: #Nationals plan to hire Matt Williams as manager with goal of keeping Randy Knorr as bench coach. Timing of announcement not known.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) October 25, 2013
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