Williams excited to be back with D-backs after tumultuous end in D.C.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Matt Williams knows about the weight of great expectations.
His Nationals team a year ago signed the top pitching free agent. Sound familiar?
The Nationals almost immediately after adding Max Scherzer were vaulted to the odd-on favorite to win the World Series. Similarly, the Diamondbacks this off-season gave right-hander Zack Greinke a record contract and quickly became a contender in the National League.
Whether because of injuries or inconsistent play — or, more likely, a combination of both — Williams’ Nationals fell well short of expectations and he was dismissed a year after he won the NL’s Manager of the Year award.
"Expectations are a wonderful thing," said Williams, back in a familiar role as D-backs third base coach, "as long as you embrace them.
Williams’ return was almost too obvious. He was let go Oct. 5. Andy Green, who coached third base and the D-backs infielders last season, was named Padres manager 2 1/5 weeks later. Less than two weeks after that Williams was back with the organization he helped lead to the 2001 Words Series title and with whom he coached for four seasons before he took the Nationals job.
"As soon as Andy got the (Padres) job, I knew in my heart Matt was the right guy for this job," Hale said.
Quickly landing on his feet helped Williams put the criticism of him for the Nationals’ demise and his exit from D.C. firmly behind him. He is focused on his role with the D-backs — though he hasn’t ruled out managing again one day.
"We have a wonderful group to work with," he said. "They’re energetic every day and they come to play and learn and win. It’s fun for me. It’s important that they want to further themselves and get better.
"I learned a lot (with the Nationals). I can take that with me to help be a better coach to the guys I work with now."
Expectations are a wonderful thing, as long as you embrace them.
-- Matt Williams
Williams doesn’t want to rehash much more about the end of his Nationals tenure, but he shares what he learned about this time a year.
"Understand the reason we’re in this position with these expectations is that we’re a pretty good team," he said.
In Williams, D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb understands the sort of mentor he has from whom to learn. Williams was a four-time Gold Glove winner during his 17-year Major League career.
"I was fired up when he got the job," Lamb said. "Being a third baseman, I was really excited to work with him."
One of Williams’ first moves this spring was to move Lamb a bit deeper from home plate.
"The importance for him is to be athletic," Williams said of Lamb. "He’s got such great athleticism that he can do some things that other guys may not be able to do. What I want to do is give him the opportunity to use that."
Williams enjoys this aspect of his position, of working with players to become better. Whether an opportunity to manage again presents itself or not, Williams is at peace back in Arizona.
"How knows? You never know when that opportunity may arise. But for right now I’m enjoying what I’m doing. For me, it’s motivation to come out and be as good a coach as I can be."