Matt Williams received his first Washington Nationals jersey, no.9, as the 47-year-old former major league infielder was introduced to the nation's capital today as the new manager in a press conference from Nationals Park. The veteran of 17 MLB seasons as a player, who spent the last few years as a coach in Arizona, officially joined former D-Backs' scouting director and current Nats' President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo in D.C. today.
"It's an exciting, big day here in Washington Nationals land," Rizzo told reporters in his opening remarks. "The introduction of the Matt Williams era into Washington Nationals baseball."
Williams opened by thanking everyone for their support and the welcome they gave the new manager and his family. The sixth Nats' skipper started toldd reporters that he's had a long career and he believes that now it's time to give back.
"I bring passion to the game that I love," the new Nats' skipper explained when asked what kind of manager he is going to be. "This game has given me a lot and I need to return that. So, in whatever aspect of the game we find ourselves in, whether it's offense, defense, pitching, whatever, I am going to approach it with passion. I'm going to approach it with enthusiasm and a sense of work that I hope will make me a good manager and make us a good team."
"I do believe that you bring your glove every day," Williams told reporters. "And I do believe that with this club and with the incredible young men that we have on this club we have a chance to win if we can do things right. I think it's evident and everybody in this room and everybody that's watching on tv or listening knows that this is a very talented group of young men. So we're going to refine some things and we're going to take those next steps that we need to take to get to where we want to go."
Rizzo reiterated today that he's been following Williams since their days in Arizona. "Actually," the Nationals' GM said, "my interview process started I think back in 1999 when I first met Matt as a player with the Diamondbacks and like I said, from afar, was really watching how he conducted himself. He played on a talented team there in Arizona and there [were] a lot of veteran leaders on that team, but I recognized Matt Williams as a guy that led not only by example, but led vocally and by his performance on the field."
As for what the Nationals need to "refine" or change on the field? The new Nats' skipper said it's an interesting situation. "We look at this situation here -- Davey Johnson is a Hall of Fame manager in my book -- and this is not a situation where you come in and clearly something is broken and it needs to be fixed. This is unique in that Davey decided to go in a different direction, he wanted to get out of the dugout and do some other things and the position was open. So, it's not like you need to blow it up and start all over again. This is a very talented group of young men that play this game here. This is a great team that is on the brink of something really special."
"So, to be fixed?" Williams asked rhetorically. "I don't know. I can't say anything to be fixed. What I can say is there [are] some things that we can 'refine.' What that means is, I think we can play a little bit smarter baseball. I think we can use the tools that are given to us a little bit better, without going into specifics."
One change that will be made in an attempt to use the tools that are available is the addition of a new coach that Williams is bringing with him from Arizona. In addition to replacing Jim Lett as the bullpen coach with former National Matt LeCroy, Williams announced today that the Nationals will be adding now former D-Backs' Special Assistant to the GM and Major League Advance Scout Mark Weidemaier to the coaching staff.
"[Weidemaier] is coming from the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization," the Nats' new skipper said. "And he is a Defensive Coordination Advance Coach, which I believe is really important. I believe preparation is the most important part of this game. So, he will do the defensive coordination and be our advance coach."
Other than the addition of a new bullpen coach and defensive coordination/advance coach, Williams is bringing back the rest of the coaching staff. There aren't too many spots on the roster open. The starting lineup is pretty much set barring any moves that Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo makes this winter. The back of the rotation is a question mark. The bullpen and bench makeup will have to change. Williams was signed quickly this winter so he can have a say in any moves that are made. The Nats' new manager is looking forward to getting started.
"I am honored to be the Washington Nationals' manager," Williams said, "and I'm ready to go."
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