Nationals introduce Williams as manager
New skipper ready to bring passion, aggressive style to Washington
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals introduced Matt Williams to the media on Friday afternoon. Williams, who is the sixth manager in team history, replaces Davey Johnson, who retired after the 2013 season.
"I bring passion to the game that I love," Williams said at the news conference. "This game has given me a lot, and I need to return that. In whatever aspect of the game we find ourselves -- whether offense, defense, pitching, whatever -- I'm 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 us a good team."
Williams will wear uniform No. 9, the same number he wore as a player with the Giants, Indians and D-backs.
"We feel that we've got the right man at the right time here in Washington D.C.," said Nats general manager Mike Rizzo. "He's a man that brings passion and intensity to the game, but [he will] also bring a communication style of eloquence and intelligence. We think he's got the full package."
In the last few days, Williams was able to get familiar with his new surroundings. He went trick-or-treating with his daughter, Madison, on Capitol Hill on Thursday. Williams also had dinner with the Lerner family and Rizzo recently.
"It's been crazy, and I'm anxious to get started and go from there," Williams said.
Rizzo and Williams, who was the D-backs' third-base coach the past four seasons, worked together in 2001, when Arizona won the World Series with Williams as the everyday third baseman and Rizzo as its scouting director. Williams' only experience as a manager was in the Arizona Fall League in 2012, when he guided the Salt River Rafters to the league finals.
Bench coach Randy Knorr, outfielder Jayson Werth, shortstop Ian Desmond and right-hander Tanner Roark attended the news conference. Williams announced that he and Knorr are going to meet next week in Arizona and strategize about the 2014 season. Through Knorr, Williams will have an idea of what the players are like on and off the field.
"We have a chance to win if we can do things right," Williams said. "I think it's evident with everybody in this room … that this is a very talented group of young men. So we are going to refine some things, we are going to take those next steps that we need to take."
Williams says he expects to be an aggressive manager. For example, if the catcher is slow at the plate, the Nationals are expected to run. Williams also wants to put players in motion to hit and run.
"We can make a tweak here or there that allows us to get an extra run per game or cut down a run per game. The stats don't lie," Williams said. "If we can score one more and cut the one, we have a really good chance. That's the objective. It's fluid sometimes. There is no one game plan that you can go with, but on an everyday basis, we try to accomplish those goals. The game will present itself to us. We'll try to take advantage of it."
One person who wasn't at the news conference was catcher Wilson Ramos, who got into an altercation with Williams on June 5, 2011, in Arizona. Ramos hit a three-run homer off right-hander Aaron Heilman. Ramos took his time rounding the bases, and Williams, then Arizona's third-base coach, yelled at Ramos. Werth took umbrage at what Williams was saying across the field and got into a verbal exchange with Williams.
Almost three years later, Williams is now pleased that he will manage Ramos and Werth in 2014.
"I haven't spoken to Wilson since [the incident], but I will tell you this: On any given day and any given city and any given time, something like that could happen," Williams said. "I love the fact that Jayson Werth stood up in the opposing dugout and yelled at me, because that means he competes. I love the fact that Wilson Ramos was upset that a couple of their guys got hit and he took exception, and I love that fact.
"Does it mean I don't like that man? No. That's competition and that's baseball, and that's the way we played the game. So just because Jayson is yelling at me doesn't mean he doesn't like me. He plays for the other team. Now I'm fortunate and pleased that I'm on his team, and we are going to have a lot of fun."
Williams has already put his stamp on the team, hiring Mark Weidemaier from the D-backs to serve as a defensive coordinator and advance coach. He will be an extra coach in the dugout, and he will create the advance defensive reports.
"I believe preparation is the most important part of this game," Williams said. "He will do the defensive coordination and be our advance coach."
Rizzo added Friday that Williams separated himself leading up to his hiring.
"Knowing his personality, his leadership skills and then in the interview process, really getting to know the intellect in how he got his message across was really impressive to me," Rizzo said.
Williams was one of the best third basemen in the 1990s, best known for his days with the Giants and D-backs. He was a five-time All-Star, won four Gold Gloves and led the National League in home runs in 1994.
During his playing days, he called Dusty Baker his mentor. Williams played for Baker in the early 1990s in San Francisco.
"I spent hours and hours in the cage with him," Williams said of Baker. "He taught me how to become a professional hitter. He continues to be a great friend of mind. We talk often. In that respect, I try to take a little from Dusty in that he is the ultimate player's manager. He communicates so well with the players that -- you hear it all the time -- they run through the wall for Dusty. He speaks to them as men on the same level.
"I value Jayson Werth's opinion. That's the kind of relationship that I want to have with this club, with these guys. They can come to me with anything. I can go to them with anything. It's a conversation between men."