Former Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman and coach Matt Williams was named manager of the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Bob Baum, an Associated Press writer based in Phoenix who covers the Diamondbacks, remembers Williams as a player for Arizona.
“I covered him since he was a player in his first year,” Baum said. “He is a classic old-school baseball type guy. He is very straightforward. I like that he was always straightforward with us, no baloney.
“He is exceedingly honest and to the point. As a player, he was the leader of that team. He didn’t like showboating, that really gets to him. A team guy, for sure.”
Baum said Williams’ lack of managerial experience should not hinder his ability to be a good coach, but he does say the hire is an interesting choice for a contender like the Nationals.
“He had no managerial experience, except for the Arizona Fall League. But he has always aimed for this,” Baum said. “He has been an integral part of coaching staff. Some find him kind of gruff, but I kind of liked his honesty. He is a classic baseball guy in every sense of the word. I like him as a person. He didn’t know me very well. He has a very dry sense of humor.”
Nationals minor league pitcher Aaron Barrett talked about how Williams was “one of the best managers (he had) ever played for” and that he was a “players’ coach” last season with the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.
Baum said Williams’ years as a player will help him as a manager. Williams hit a National League-best 43 home runs in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
“He has been in baseball a long time with all of his years as a player,” Baum said. “He was a great defensive third baseman, even in his final seasons. He hit a lot of home runs. He always talked about how he was kind of glad his home run chase was cut off because of the strike-shortened season because he saw the way the media treated Barry Bonds.”
Baum said Williams has also learned to deal with the media since his days as a player.
“It will be interesting to see how he deals with the media.” Baum said. “He didn’t like dealing with media as a player, but he has gotten softer in his years as a coach. A lot of people thought Kirk Gibson would be fiery as a manager because of the way he was as a player. But Gibson turned out to be calm in the dugout and with the media. He has got that personality that I think fits well for a manager’s job.”
Baum said Williams was fearless as a third base coach, but that might have been more of a team strategy.
“He has leadership qualities, for sure, and was a very aggressive third base coach,” Baum said. “Now I don’t know if that was him or if that was the style they wanted to play.
“He is great with the players, a solid guy. He is an intense guy. He does not like it when you go against the unwritten rules of baseball like admiring home runs. I always admired him as a true professional.”