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Williams' managerial style has many influences

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- One name picking up steam for the two remaining managerial vacancies has been Diamondbacks third-base coach Matt Williams, who is also the manager of the Arizona Fall League's Salt River Rafters.

Williams, 46, a former slugging third baseman and Gold Glove Award winner, reportedly is being courted by the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies. It is interesting that the prospects those clubs have placed in the AFL are with Williams' Rafters.

Williams has made it no secret that he wants to use his current assignment to unlock the door.

During his 17-year career in the Major Leagues, Williams played for five managers -- Roger Craig and Dusty Baker in San Francisco, Mike Hargrove in Cleveland and Buck Showalter and Bob Brenly with the D-backs.

So what kind of manager will Williams be? He plans to take a bit from each of his managers.

• Craig: "He had a pitching background. He would manage based on his gut feeling," Williams said.

• Baker: "Dusty was my mentor. He's the one who taught me how to be a big league baseball player. I try to take the ability to communicate with the players from him. If you tell them the truth, what you're thinking, they can respond."

• Hargrove: "He was a master at getting guys in the lineup. We had Richie Sexson, Brian Giles, Sean Casey ... he was a master at making sure they were getting enough at-bats, even in the American League. And have them be prepared for the next time they were going to play. Everybody was fresh, their timing was good."

• Showalter: "Buck was the most prepared manager I've ever played for. He knew who was going to hit against that guy coming out of the bullpen three games in advance."

• Brenly: "My ex-teammate [with the Giants]. His expertise, in my opinion, was knowing his players well enough to know that, 'We don't need a bunch of rules and regulations, we need you guys to do what you do.' We had a bunch of veteran guys, old guys, really [in 2001, the World Series championship year].

"The beauty of it was, he didn't try [to force anything]. He knew what made his guys tick. Along with Bob Melvin [then the bench coach, now Oakland manager], who also was a very integral part of that. They could see a guy getting tired and act accordingly."

Over the years, Williams has heard about so-and-so being a "players' manager."

How would he classify that?

"The objective is to put your players in a situation where they're comfortable, so they can succeed," Williams said. "You have to know what a particular player does best and put him in the spot to do that.

"It's also being accessible to your guys. You have to be stern ... the way I look at it is, it's like your family members. It's like, 'I can kick you in the butt as long as I love on you, too.' It's OK. It's part of the job to be stern. It's part of the job to have rules and guidelines that everybody needs to follow."

Williams relies on gut instincts. But you also have to look at numbers and strike a balance, if possible.

"You can be overwhelmed by numbers sometimes," Williams said.

He also knows that the manager can be a lightning rod for criticism.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Williams said. "It's not just that you won or lost. People are thinking about it, what moves were or weren't made. They are more educated. I have to be educated, try to make an educated decision, and then live with it."

And Williams realizes he will have to live with the umpires, even when they don't always agree.

"When I played, I was thrown out of a couple of games," he said. "To effectively communicate with umpires ... they're no different than anybody else, in that if you come at 'em, everybody gets defensive. [What] I would be interested [in knowing] when I go out to question something is what they saw, what they thought. That puts the discussion in a conversational mode.

"Now, in the course of a game, and the adrenaline is flowing and it is 2-1 in the eighth inning ... 'I think you blew the call.' You know, it can get exciting ... sometimes your team needs a little fire. But generally, if you're coming out and making [the umpires] defensive, you're asking for trouble."

Is Williams ready to manage in the Major Leagues? He believes he is, and judging from other clubs' interest, his first opportunity could come soon.

"I'd love to get a group of men with a common purpose and see what we could do," he said.

Don Ketchum is a contributor to
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