The Washington Nationals selected former All-Star third baseman Matt Williams to replace Davey Johnson as the team’s new manager. Williams has waited a while to be given a managing gig, and if he manages like he played the game, the Nats should be in great shape.
But the decision is a bit curious, since Washington may have been better off bringing in a manager with actual managing experience.
It seems to be the new trend for teams to hire managers without managing experience at any level. Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, Mike Redmond, Ryne Sandberg, Bryan Price, Brad Ausmus, Kirk Gibson, Walt Weiss, Don Mattingly, Bud Black, Bo Porter, Mike Scioscia and Ron Washington were all hired to their position without any sort of professional managing experience.
Now, Williams joins that list, and he’d have to be pretty encouraged, since many of these managers have experienced success. This group has a combined four World Series appearances and four Manager of the Year awards, and Sandberg, Price and Ausmus will be entering their first season in 2014. Four of the five managerial hires this offseason were first-timers.
But still, the Nationals have a mostly veteran roster, and their previous manager, Davey Johnson, had tons of experience. Sure there are some young guns like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, but the team will basically be built around Gio Gonzalez, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span.
Williams can’t establish a dictatorial regime, because the veteran players would certainly not take him seriously. Instead, he’d be wise to place his confidence in a player like Zimmerman -- a fellow third baseman with a potent bat -- to help with the adjustment.
As far as available managers out there with experience, it likely would have been difficult to convince any of them to take the Nats’ job. Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Tony La Russa, etc., all seem content with their lives after baseball.
Plus, these old-school managers likely wanted nothing to do with having to deal with the young, stubborn Harper. They probably saw what Johnson had to put up with and simply said, “No thanks!”
So since a veteran manager likely wasn’t an option, Williams rose to the forefront. Just because he has no experience doesn’t mean he hasn’t been involved with the game of baseball since he retired from playing. He spent the past three years with the Arizona Diamondbacks as the team’s bench coach.
Everyone knows that the Nationals extremely underachieved in 2013. The talent on the roster heading into last season easily has baseball analysts picking the Nats to represent the NL in the World Series.
But things didn’t work out, and now it’s up to a rookie manager to try to change the culture.
Williams can be that guy, but again, based on the makeup of the roster and given the team’s lofty expectations, a veteran skipper could have made more sense.
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