Looking back on his second season as the Washington Nationals' skipper, after Sunday afternoon's loss in New York in what will end up being his final game as the Nationals' manager, Matt Williams talked about the ups and downs of what was a tumultuous, injury-filled, and ultimately disappointing campaign.
"The whole experience for me is I'm proud of the guys for fighting," Williams said. "I'm proud of them for the way they went about it.
"We had some things that went sideways in that we had a whole bunch of injuries and not much you can do about that except adjust and move on."
"There's going to be many days to evaluate that and think about that, right now I'm proud of them, I'm proud of the way they fought."
Less than twenty-four hours after the Nationals finished their 83-79 season, Williams was relieved of his duties as the Nationals' manager.
"We delivered the message to Matt like we deliver everything," GM Mike Rizzo told reporters in a conference call this afternoon.
"It was face-to-face, man-to-man in his office early this morning. Matt took it as a professional. He was very thankful of the opportunity to manage this baseball team. He also was thankful of me to show enough faith in him to give him his first managerial job. He’s obviously very, very disappointed in the result and the outcome this year. But it was a very serious discussion, but a very professional result happened. We parted wishing him good luck and success moving forward."
The Nationals will be moving forward quickly as well, according to Rizzo, who said today that the search for the next manager would begin immediately.
"It will start this afternoon here in the front office and continue painstakingly until we have a manager under contract that we think is going to bring us a World Series championship in 2016 and beyond," Rizzo said.
What will the Nationals be looking for this time around, after hiring a manager with little managerial experience outside of a stint in the Arizona Fall League and a brief run as a fill-in at the minor league level?
"As we go through the laundry list of things that we look for in our manager and a perfect leader of the ballclub on the field, leadership qualities, knowledge of the game, Xs and Os, are all important," Rizzo said.
"The communication in the clubhouse, communication within the coaching staff is vital. Experience is always helpful, it always adds a layer of expertise to anybody's resume.
"We feel that where we're at in our timetable in our time frame of winning a championship, we certainly would lean towards someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major league level, but again, we're going to be open-minded and look for the best candidate we can that allows us to win a championship here in the very near future."
"We’re gonna bring in a group of people with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences, and diverse skill sets," Rizzo explained when asked about the process this time, just two years after they settled on Williams when they searched for Davey Johnson's successor.
"I think that’s something that we did not do last time. Last time, we brought in managing candidates with little or no managerial experience. I think that we’ll have a greater pool of manager candidates this year, stemming from very experienced to limited experience and really go through a process that gets to know the manager personally first, and then professionally and what he does on the field."
Rizzo also added that some of the candidates that were considered for the job last time around could be considered this time.
"I think that we’re going to expand the pool and, like I said, we will readjust several candidates that we had that we interviewed last time. We’re gonna keep an open mind on them."
Randy Knorr, the Nats' bench coach, who was dismissed along with Williams and all of the Nationals' coaches this morning, was considered a candidate before the job went to Williams, and Rizzo said he will be considered again.
"We're going to really dive into the manager pool and the candidates for our new manager immediately," Rizzo said.
"We're going to let those details come out as we see fit. We don't see any reason right now to give out a litany of major league managing candidates. Randy has been a source for this organization for many, many years, he's managed in the minor leagues, has a great rapport not only with the front office but with a lot of the players in the clubhouse, and would be a great candidate for anybody's managerial job, including our own."
Letting Williams and the coaches go was difficult, Rizzo said, but some of them could be back in other roles within the organization.
"It's very tough to let anybody go that you're close to and you work with as much as I have with these people," he said.
"We have not offered a renewal of a contract for any of our coaching staff, that's not to say that some of the coaches will not be back if the new manager decides that they are people that he would like to have on the staff, but also doesn't restrict us from hiring them in different capacities in and around our minor league system. We've offered several jobs to several of our former major league coaches in our system.
"We love all these guys, they've been with us for years and years and they've done a great job with the organization throughout their time here and we certainly hope that a handful of these guys take us up on the opportunity to work with us in a different capacity."