WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Sometimes we learn in life, falling short of a lofty goal has a way of working itself out for the better.
The Washington Nationals are trying to prove that theory by hiring Matt Williams as the fifth manager in team history. Williams is coming off a four-year stint as a base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks and although not Cal Ripken Jr. on the field, the third baseman was quite accomplished with five all-star appearances.
Had the franchise met Davey Johnson's expectations, or hell, even made the playoffs in 2013, the Matt Williams hire would not have happened. Mike Rizzo would've kept the managing style the same care free approach as Johnson. Randy Knorr or Trent Jewett would've been promoted in-house, to keep the continuity and growth on track. Or Ripken would've been the choice.
But the Nationals slammed into a brick wall in 2013, and hiring from within would've left debris and shrapnel from the old era still scattered around the aura of the locker room. And Ripken was automatically ruled out because Washington hasn't proved they can handle the immense pressure and expectations he would unquestionably come with. Close to a dozen Nationals players voiced their support for Knorr to become manager. The players wanted someone they were comfortable with.
Instead, they're going to get somebody who will push them to their limits. And as Ian Desmond told Williams moments before Friday's introductory press conference, "I'd like to work a little bit harder." Williams' response? "I am all for that, man. Let's go."
There won't need to be players only meetings under the Matt Williams Nationals era. The 47-year-old has been known to throw a trashcan or two to stir up a clubhouse, a tactic I'd argue the Nats desperately needed at points during last season's often epic disaster.
Williams will entrench himself in his new ball club. And he's well trained for this position. His mentor is Dusty Baker, who he may lean in as a voice from a-far in 2014. Williams learned preparation from Buck Showlater, and how to properly manage veterans from Bob Brenly. Intense, tight-lipped, a hands on instructor and a wealth of current baseball knowledge, Williams in a sense, is the anti-Davey Johnson. Williams has a plan, which he reiterated more than once, will stress defense and base running. This kind of structure is really what the Nats need.
Gone are the stories of Stephen Strasburg getting ointment on his private parts. Gone are the days where a Nationals manager won't try and solve a problem proactively. As bad as it is for my job in the media, the Nationals business will be strictly handled inside the clubhouse. As much as we all loved Davey Johnson -- you could argue he's D.C.'s most beloved coach since Joe Gibbs -- it was unrealistic to expect Johnson to know players around the MLB. Mike Rizzo wanted to get Rafael Soriano? Sure why not, probably thought Johnson. Williams brings a close rapport with Rizzo from their days together in Arizona and will certainly have a stronger voice when it comes to how the roster shapes out.
Becoming the butt of jokes around the baseball hurt. Watching the playoffs from the couch stung even worse. Even tough 86 wins were produced, the 2013 washout of a campaign is what brings Matt Williams to town. And I don't think the Washington Nationals could have made a better hire.