Nationals Baseball: Matt Williams

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Matt Williams

It's the Diamondback in the room. Matt Williams will be the new manager of the Nationals next year. So what do I think?


Ok, see you tomorrow!

Fine, fine. But let's start at the beginning. How do I feel about letting Davey Johnson go? Necessary, but it's pretty lousy it got to the point where it was necessary. Davey Johnson is one of those rare managers that actually seem to make teams better. Is he an expert on picking the right jobs at the right time? Perhaps. But it felt like there was something there seeing him manage, something that other guys didn't have. He also wasn't a cliche machine, which at least makes the manager interesting for us following the team on a daily basis.

Of course he didn't show that something special in 2013. It was obvious his interest level was not there. For that you have to blame Rizzo. Rizzo had decided before the season started that Davey was out. And Rizzo again, just like with Riggleman, wanted Davey to just coach and thank him for the kick on the ass that sends him through the door. Davey isn't the petulant macho man-child that Riggleman is so he didn't quit, but the idea that the organization is going to fire you no matter what certainly affected his actions (or more precisely inactions this year). Alienate one manager, shame on him. Alienate two managers, shame on Rizzo.

With Davey out the door someone had to be hired. What do we know about Matt Williams the manager? Nothing. He's never managed. After retiring he did some radio and TV work, and some various odd coaching jobs with the D-backs before getting hired by them as a base coach in 2010. But he never managed during this time. The thoughts are he will be a hard driving bad-ass but who knows? Did I mention he's never managed?

I can say I don't like the fact that he was hired mainly because Rizzo liked him. I'd have rather seen a minor league manager with a proven record of winning. But I'm also of the school of thought that the manager doesn't matter too much. He may cost a team at most a handful of games. Does that mean 1-2 games or 4-5, I'm not sure.  Either way there are usually a dozen other things you can point to that matter more. Still, for the Nats, ~3 games could be the difference between the division crown and the wild card, or the wild card and sitting home. That's where they find themselves. I can't say it doesn't matter at all. 

I don't care that he used steroids. He doesn't have to be a leader on PED morality to control the clubhouse.* The rules are different in 2014. That should be enough.

What I want to see is what happens in the first month. Can he set a decent line-up (does he put Span on top)? Can he really work a bullpen (does he use the non-closer in impt 6th or 7th inning spots)? Does he get bunting (does he limit it to P ABs or times the team needs/wants only one run)? He could show us some heartening traits, or he could show himself a fool that coaches like a dumb manager from the 1980s. Or more likely he could just coach like everyone else does nowadays. (Mostly like that dumb 80s manager, with a whiff of insight here and there.)

Really the only bad thing would be an early obvious inability to do the right thing. Bunting all the time. Overly rigid bullpen roles. No shifting at all. Span and Rendon leading off because they fit the classic mold. I wouldn't blame him, as a rookie manager, for these mistakes. Sometimes you have to learn on the job. But learning on the job would likely cost the Nats those ~3 games next year and leave them in a bad spot.

But again, just to hammer this home, who knows? Matt Williams is a blank slate. He could be great. He could be terrible. He'll likely be average. Average is usually good enough for a manager, especially if he has a very good team behind him. The Nats are likely to be a very good team, so Williams is likely to be good enough.

*FRobby smiled at talk of using greenies. Davey was part of the "hush-hush, we don't want to talk about it, Hank was there" Tom House Braves of the early 70s. I believe this was the first year in a while no member of the Nats minor league organization was punished for PEDs. Williams' history is nothing new.


Positively Half St. said...

Perhaps he will be a slightly less blank slate if the Red Sox win tonight and the off-season can finally begin. I doubt he will discuss many specifics of his philosophy (other than play the game the right way. Oy), but hopefully there will be hints.

Zimmerman11 said...

Harper is purposefully not commenting on the World Series because he knows we all hate the Cardinals as much/more than he hates the Red Sox :)

Anonymous said...

Hate is a strong word reserved only for the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. Kinda funny how I have no emotion what-so-ever towards the Mets. I am still very bitter about the Cards. So bitter in fact, that I am cheering for the Sox. It really has been a very sad season.

Anonymous said...

Hate is a strong word reserved only for the Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. Kinda funny how I have no emotion what-so-ever towards the Mets. I am still very bitter about the Cards. So bitter in fact, that I am cheering for the Sox. It really has been a very sad season.

blovy8 said...

Back to last post, there's a rumor about Trumbo being available, do the Nats give up pitching for that guy?

DezoPenguin said...

Trumbo? Young, hits for power, sub-.300 career OBP, can't field a lick. Sounds like someone the Mariners would want, but I'll pass, thanks. Might be a good DH if he learns a little patience at the plate.

Eamon Redmond said...

Harper - long time listener, first time caller - I always thought that it was Davey's decision to leave after this year, not that he was forced out. Where did I miss that?

Donald said...

It's tough judging managers by how they manage a game. Clearly, some just do dumb things consistently, but for the most part, there's a 'book' that almost anyone can follow and even when it goes wrong, they can't be blamed too much. The challenge is that we like our managers to mix things up and take a chance now and again. But that's really just luck when they do that. If it works, we think they are geniuses. When it doesn't, we think they are idiots.

Really, the more important feature of a manager, which is what Davey was usually very good at is getting the most out of his players -- motivating them; not over-working them; putting them in the best spots to succeed. That's the area I'm most hopeful with this new guy.

Anonymous said...

Well at this point I think we are out of Diamondbacks that Rizzo can bring to DC.

If it works out, then we have a manager for the next decade. If it doesn't then we may squander the best World Series chance for the next decade.

Harper said...

1/2St>0 - possibly. We'll see. Someone should definitely pose the shift question as that's a hot topic and might give us a clue.

z11 - there's a world series going on? I thought we cancelled that again.

blovy8/Dezo - Trumbo is actually a passable 1B, just not an OF. He'd make an ideal bench bat but the 30+ homer power means someone will let him start even though he actually isn't very helpful to his team (LaRoche was as impactful on his offense with 14 fewer homers). Personally I wouldn't want him as a starter. There's a cliff he's driving toward and I don't want to be the Thelma to his Louise when he goes flying off (and he's at the age where it can start to happen)

Eamon - last year we assumed that Davey's one year deal rolling into a consultant gig again was tacit agreement that he was retiring. He said several times prior to the new deal that he wasn't sure he'd come back for 2013. Turns out though, in Davey's mind he's always on a 1-2 year plan. All the time he was saying "it's my last year managing the Nats" he was coyly not adding "because that's what they want". He let it be known a couple time at points in the season that he'd be up for managing somewhere else in 2014 if the right opportunity came along.

Anon - Mark Grace will get here by Rizzo's end. There is no greater love than redasses love for Mark Grace. Mark my words.

Froggy said...

Gomez over Span for GG in CF?

12 Assists for Gomez verses 5 for Span. So, is it really is about offense or do 7 more assists matter? I wonder how many runs Gomez' 5 errors led to?

They should invent a new statistic: Potential Outfield Assists (POA) so actual Assists can be compared to something. (or does that already exist and I'm the only one who doesn't know about it...) In otherwords, how many times do runners advance on a FB out, turning singles into doubles etc. Because I doubt Gomez' 12 assists were throwing guys out at home.

blovy8 said...

The defensive systems actually like Trumbo's defense better than his reputation, he grades out as an average left fielder. I ask because Trumbo is certainly a win-now type hitter, and is just now getting to arbitration, so he'll have the team control Rizzo always wants. The main thing that's worrisome is his K rate trending up, but he'll have a manageable contract if he's used as fourth OF/platoon 1B and not actually needed as much against tough RH. Maybe you get his age 28 through 30 seasons and dump him if his arbitration price is too high, but as a fungible piece, he would be easy to re-trade if needs change and his power numbers remain good. I guess the Padres are putting something together anyway.

Span is a very good fielder, but Gomez is excellent. He actually played center over Span when they came up with the Twins.

It'll be interesting to see what Williams does for bench coach, whether it's a mentor, a teammate, or Knorr.

blovy8 said...

I love how Rizzo is always called a dick for just following through with what he says he's going to do.

Harper said...

Froggy - Gold Glove arguments don't move me unless egregious (Palmiero playing 28 games of likely below average D being about the only one)

I bet there is something like what you say incoporated into some stat. I'll take a look.

blovy8 - wouldn't cry if the Nats got Trumbo but I don't like him (I'm wary about big K guys switching leagues after seeing Dunn crash) so giving up anything for him bothers me.

On Rizzo, what if what he says he's going to do is be a dick?