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Matt Williams: It’s Okay to ‘Talk About’ The Playoffs

by Chris Lingebach
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Jayson Werth walks back to the dugout after flying out to right field in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League in 2012. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Jayson Werth walks back to the dugout after flying out to right field in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Five of the National League in 2012. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Holden & Danny Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier
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WASHINGTON (CBSC) - Nationals’ manager Matt Williams, introduced to Washington, D.C. on Friday, has been successful at every level of his baseball career.

He’s a man who’s paved his own way with creating opportunities for himself, including one particular conversation he had with Mike Rizzo about how to become an MLB manager.

But now it’s time to assess what he brings to the table as a first-time big league skipper, and how he’ll mesh with a clubhouse that very much wanted bench coach Randy Knorr to take over as their fearless leader.

Williams, in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny, talked about how he made that transition from player to manager, and how he plans to get a talented Nationals club over the hump, back into the playoffs, and the importance of addressing the elephant in the room.

“It’s a challenge,” Williams said of the transition.

“At least I’ve got some experience there,” he said. “I’ve got something to reference. Listen, everybody’s gonna have some struggle, everybody’s gonna strike out and give up a homer, or make an error or run into an out, whatever it is. I’ve been that guy, dude. I’m that guy. So I understand it.”

“Now being a coach, you can’t do anything about it,” he continued. “Physically, you can’t get out on the field and play anymore, you can’t run from first to third or score on a base hit, or make a diving play or hit a homer. But I can talk about it with the guys and live it that way. There’s a little different intensity as a coach. Now it’s more analytical, it’s more thought process, it’s more game plan, all of those things, and I enjoy that part of it too. I’m good. My legs hurt too bad to even think about playing anymore.”

The Nats are still a relatively young but wounded bunch, looking for a resurgence in 2014. More than anything, the franchise would like to put its underwhelming 2013 season, as well a haunting 2012 playoff debut, in the rearview, and focus on the vibrant future that lies ahead.

“I want to bring a sense of being prepared, a sense of knowing that if we do things correctly, then we win. And we’ve seen that,” Williams said.

“All you have to do is look at the World Series to see all of those things unfold right in front of your eyes,” he went on. “The team that catches the ball wins. The team that kicks it around loses. Simple game. We need to prepare. We need to game plan. We need to make sure that our guys have an idea going into the season of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

“We need to talk about playoffs,” he explained. “That’s why we’re here. We need to talk about it. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to say that’s a goal. It’s okay to say ‘Jayson, I think you can really hit 35 homers.’ It’s okay to talk about Bryce Harper stealing 20 bases. It’s alright, because it’s part of a goal. Now, you have the goal. Now what do you do? How do you game plan to get there? That’s our job as coaches. We allow them to play. We do that part of it, and it works pretty well.”

In 2012, the Nationals didn’t want to talk about the playoffs after giving up 4 runs to blow a 2-run lead in the 9th inning of the NLDS. After seeing the Cardinals advance and their own opportunity to do so slip through their fingertips, they didn’t even want to think about the playoffs until spring training the following year.

Again, in 2013, they didn’t want to talk about the playoffs after plummeting to 5 games below .500, almost two weeks after the All-Star break. And by that point, trailing the NL East-leading Braves by 9 in the win column with 59 games to play, they couldn’t think about the playoffs.

If Washington was looking for a man who can hang on to a still-blossoming but tormented locker room – while carrying the momentum of a 34-20 record in the final two months of the 2013 season – who’s committed to winning the hard way by playing small ball – something Davey never did – and he’s able get the Nats to not only think, but talk about the playoffs, well then Washington may have just found its guy.

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