Results tagged ‘ Jayson Werth ’

Nationals Magazine preview: Jayson Werth; Speaker of the House

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The following is an excerpt from the April/May issue of Nationals Magazine. To read the full story, visit nationals.com/publications to find out how you can subscribe. The April/May issue of Nationals Magazine is on sale now, can be purchased at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park and is also available inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

by Mike Feigen

Three short seasons ago, Jayson Werth leaned on his experience as he adapted to a new organization. Today, the Nationals outfielder has become a fan favorite, the catalyst in a dynamic and talented lineup, and one of the most vocal leaders in a close-knit clubhouse.

Following the Nationals’ first full workout of Spring Training, Jayson Werth looked out from his locker at Space Coast Stadium as the throng of reporters huddled around him. He deftly answered questions with his trademark dry wit, commanding the tone of the session with a few well-timed jokes and several well-reasoned responses.

Cover-Mag1-webSuch is life for Jayson Werth in 2014, often a go-to spokesman for a team with worlds of talent and championship dreams to match. When the bearded 34-year-old says he’s optimistic about the upcoming season and points out how close last year’s club came to making a postseason run, it’s only natural for everyone to nod their heads along with him.

“The way we played in the second half last year coming down the stretch, there’s still some meat on the bone,” Werth says. “The season just wasn’t long enough. It’s something to build on going forward. We’re excited to get things going.”

As Werth looks forward to the promise of a new year, it’s easy to forget just how far he and the Nationals have come since he signed with the club on December 5, 2010. Year One of the Werth era brought a major leap forward for the entire organization, with an 80-81 record and third place finish in the National League East, then the highest placement in the division since the franchise moved to D.C. in 2005.

In spite of the team’s dramatic improvement, Werth’s up-and-down season did not live up to his own lofty standards, and he knew he could do more. At the time, he spoke at length about how he battled just to find his swing, even as his 2.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) would have ranked in the top three among qualified Nats hitters each of the previous three seasons.

What was less apparent, beneath the surface, was how his leadership had slowly begun to transform the Nationals into a group that expected to win by the end of 2011.

“(Last season is) water under the bridge now,” Werth told reporters upon reporting for camp before the 2012 season. “I don’t think it’s a fair assessment to judge my career or my time in Washington on last year. We’ve got lots of time to make good. We’re going in the right direction.”

Proven prophetic as the wins poured in throughout his second season with the Nationals, Werth wasn’t able to be as integral as he’d hoped, sidelined by a broken wrist for much of the summer. Even upon his return, when he slashed an excellent .312/.394/.441, he did so from the leadoff spot because his home run power had yet to fully return. Still, he continued to put the team first, setting the table for the rest of the offense while he healed.

Then, with one mighty swing on October 11, 2012, everything changed.

Cover-Mag1-webTo continue reading “Speaker of the House” on Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth, along with more great content from Nationals Magazine, please visit nationals.com/publications, or pick up a copy at the Main Clubhouse Team Store at Nationals Park, as well as inside Nationals Park on gamedays.

Opening Day highlights

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK — Early Monday morning, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams shrugged his shoulders and issued a platitude about his nervous energy. “Opening Day,” Williams said a few hours before his first game as a Major League manager. “If you can’t get excited about Opening Day, something’s wrong.”

But almost as soon as the game began, excitement likely gave way to anxiety and stress. The Nationals’ first game of the season contained enough drama to fill a week’s worth of games, and while the victory — a 9-7 win in 10 innings over the New York Mets — was sweet, the prospect of at least 161 more ahead was perhaps the day’s most intriguing thought.

Through photos and videos, here are some of the highlights from a beautiful first day of the season:

Adam LaRoche gets the Nationals on the board with this lofty two-run home run.

Anthony Rendon’s first big hit of the day was this RBI-double.

Denard Span was in the thick of things all day, including on this game-tying double.

Anthony Rendon then gave the Nationals their 10th-inning cushion with this big three-run shot.

Here’s how the first Curly W of the season went into the books.

Stephen Strasburg struck out 10 in six innings of work. 

Highlights from the Nationals’ 11-1 win over the Cardinals

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — On a sun-splashed afternoon at Space Coast Stadium, Stephen Strasburg went three strong innings, the Washington Nationals rapped out 15 hits, and they topped the St. Louis Cardinals 11-1.

Strasburg was pleased with his work for the day, feeling strong when his requisite three innings were up and happy with the adjustments he made after being a bit too fine with his pitches in the first inning.

“Got some good work in,” Strasburg said. “I felt a little too good in the bullpen and tried to paint from the first pitch on instead of starting out with a little bit bigger zone, and then working off of the middle of the plate. Made a good adjustment and didn’t really see any problems.”

As a staff, Nationals pitchers allowed just three hits on the day. Eleven different position players picked up a hit, four of them (Anthony Rendon, Wilson Ramos, Danny Espinosa and Tyler Moore) had multi-hit days, and eight different players knocked in at least one run.

Catch up on some of the highlights right here:

A NatsFest Thank You

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There were more than 8,400 Nationals fans who packed the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.

And because of them, it was an unforgettable day.

We can’t say “Thank you” enough to those of you who were able to join us, and share in our excitement for the 2014 season.

Here is a small glimpse into the day that was, and with just 17 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report, hopefully this will warm your baseball-loving souls for just a little bit longer.

Enjoy!

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Gearing Up For NatsFest

Hello, everybody.

Nationals Principal Owner Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

One of the Washington Nationals’ Principal Owners,  Mark Lerner, right, along with President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo at NatsFest, 2013.

I hope everyone is dealing well with this cold and wintry week here in the Nation’s Capital. When it gets cold like this, I usually calculate the days remaining until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (21 days!). This week is a bit different as we are just hours away from NatsFest.

  • Just as a reminder, NatsFest is on Saturday, January 25, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. New venue. We hope you can join us. I am so excited to welcome Matt Williams and an impressive roster of players to DC. Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, et al. Come early, stay warm, talk baseball.
  • We are also expecting a special visit from arguably our most beloved Nationals alum, … Livan Hernandez. Livan, who threw the first pitch in the history of the Nationals, completed his 17-year big league career in 2012 with 178 wins, 44 of which came as a member of the Nationals. It will be fantastic to sit down and catch up with Livan.
  • Speaking of Livan, it will be fun to have another inaugural-season National in camp with us upon arrival in Viera. In case you missed it, we signed infielder Jamey Carroll earlier this month and he’ll be competing for a spot on Matt Williams’ bench. Jamey also played for the Expos, so he should have some interesting perspective on how far this organization has come as we enter our 10th season in Washington.
  • As we reach the late stages of the offseason, I think it is worth remembering that most of Mike Rizzo’s key moves came quite early: Doug Fister, Nate McLouth, Jerry Blevins. Mike and his crew are still hard at work searching for the right fits. Always looking to improve.
  • We recently signed four-year Player Development Contracts with both Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. Through the years, we have really valued our relationships with the Chiefs, Senators and their respective fan bases. There is a sense of organizational satisfaction in being able to establish roots in both Syracuse and Harrisburg.
  • I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Frank Ceresi, who passed away recently. For those that are not aware, Frank played an integral role in developing the art program that we collectively enjoy at Nationals Park. He was an enormous baseball/Nationals fan and he will be sorely missed.

I hope to see everyone on Saturday at NatsFest.

Mark

As Winter Meetings begin, an inside look back at the Jayson Werth signing

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by Amanda Comak

ORLANDO – Even now, three years later, the details are still fresh.

The quietly planned flight that Washington Nationals then-Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo took — along with Managing Principal Owner Ted Lerner, and Principal Owner Mark Lerner — from Florida to California that November day in 2010. The preparation that went into what they were headed to do. The pitch. The deliberations.

And reeling in the biggest free agent in the organization’s history, shocking the baseball world as it descended upon Orlando for that year’s Winter Meetings.

In Case You Missed It: Mike Rizzo On Jayson Werth

The Nationals introduced Jayson Werth at a press conference at Nationals Park, but the announcement of the deal, on the eve of the 2010 Winter Meetings, was one of the most talked about signings of that winter.

Since 2010, the Sunday of Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings usually brings about some reminiscing, particularly in the D.C. area. It seems everyone has a story about where they were when they heard the news that the Nationals had called a press conference to announce their seven-year, $126 million pact with Jayson Werth.

For some, it serves as a reminder of when things changed for the Nationals, when they entered “Phase Two” of their plan to construct a championship-caliber team. That part seems to have played out largely as they’d hoped. Two years later, the Nationals barreled through all comers to take the National League East Division title, and have been viewed as contenders ever since.

But even for signature Winter Meetings deals, like Werth’s, there’s often far more that comes before the bombshell drops.

“I think very few deals begin at the Winter Meetings and end at the Winter Meetings,” Rizzo said last week, as he and his staff prepared to head back to Orlando for this year’s gathering.

“There are many more cases where they start at the General Managers Meetings and end at the Winter Meetings. I think you lay foundations early in the offseason, and they either get announced at the Winter Meetings or the final decisions, after really going through the process, end at the Winter Meetings.”

Like Werth’s.

So as the Nationals get set for another Winter Meetings, let’s take an inside look back at how that deal went down.

The pitch

Shortly after the 2010 regular season came to an end, the Nationals honed their list of offseason targets. As Rizzo and his front office team began to put together a detailed plan for ownership of where they saw the team in one, three and five years, they surveyed the big-ticket free agents on the market.

There was third baseman Adrian Beltre, coming off an All-Star season in Boston, outfielder Carl Crawford, set to leave the Tampa Bay Rays, and Werth, who had just put together a career year.

Crawford didn’t fit for the Nationals, but Beltre and Werth intrigued them. At the GM Meetings, Rizzo met with agent Scott Boras, who represents both players. Rizzo expressed the team’s interest in both – and trying to sign both, at least for a short while, appeared to be a possibility. They planned to meet with both players at Boras’ offices in Los Angeles a few days later. They flew directly there after the Owners’ Meetings had wrapped.

The Nationals liked Beltre. Rizzo called their meeting with him “great.” But he didn’t fit perfectly, because acquiring him meant moving a Gold Glove third baseman – either Beltre or Ryan Zimmerman – to first.

Werth, on the other hand, would require no such shuffling. And if the attraction wasn’t mutual at the start, it had begun to feel that way by the meeting’s end.

“We really had a great meeting with Jayson,” Rizzo recalled.

The Nationals laid out for Werth the same plan Rizzo had put together for ownership. They showed him where they expected to be in one year, in three years, and in five years. They broke down future payrolls, told him about young Major Leaguers – like Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond – and how they expected them to develop in a few years, along with the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

“We showed him the future of what we were trying to do here,” Rizzo said. “I think we really sold him on the fact that we wanted him. We were going to make him the center of our franchise. A guy who would teach us how to win, give us a championship pedigree, and really pave the way for other big-time players to come to us. I think the way we mapped it out to him, the way we evaluated it, and the honestly with which we spoke to him (opened his eyes).”

Werth paid close attention.

Late in the 2013 season, Werth was moving a few things at his Virginia home and found some of the notes he’d made during the free agency process. What he’d written down about the Nationals still hit home.

“(I wrote that) we would be good toward the end of my contract,” Werth said.

The success had come sooner than he anticipated at that initial meeting, but the Nationals detailed, long-term plans had made an impact on him.

“I think (being as prepared as we were at that meeting), was one of the main reasons we got him,” Rizzo said. “He had a lot of options.”

The decision

After the meeting at Boras’ Los Angeles offices, Werth and Rizzo took a walk to chat about what the team had put in front of the outfielder. Rizzo spoke then in an unfiltered manner, unloading “both barrels,” honestly. He’d known Werth a long time, so he leveled with him.

“He could’ve easily gone to Boston,” Rizzo said of the Red Sox, who had also courted Werth. “I told him, ‘You can be one of the guys in Boston, or be one of the guys in Philly, or be the guy in Washington.’ I think I appealed to his competitiveness. I knew he was that type of guy.

“It was a risky route to go, but I thought it would appeal to him.”

But the Nationals had a decision of their own to make. They knew Werth was looking for a long-term deal, and, as Rizzo has acknowledged several times, they knew they may have to pay a premium in dollars and years – relative to the more established contenders – to get him.

In that vein, they came away from the meeting impressed as well.

Jayson Werth Game 4 Walk-offThe Lerners found Werth’s meticulous nature – his unique workout regimen, his nutritional awareness and specifications – to be a positive with regard to his ability to be productive over the life of a deal that could span as many as five, six or even seven years. Because Werth detailed for them the way he planned to continue to take care of himself in the future, “We felt as comfortable as we could be about giving a guy a long-term contract,” Rizzo said.

A seventh year, and a no-trade clause were the final sticking points.

“We discussed and deliberated over it,” Rizzo said. “I knew we were losing all ties (with Werth’s other suitors). That was it. The decision was: do we hold the line and negotiate this thing out? Or do we pay and get the player?  And we decided we needed this guy at this time in our franchise, for a bunch of reasons.

“(At the time, having just seen Adam Dunn head to free agency), we had no commitments whatsoever with payroll. We knew we’d have to be careful, we knew Zimmerman’s day was coming, and how many nine-figure players can you have on one roster? Where does it end? You’ve got to make some hard decisions. (But) we really felt the connection with Werth, not only because of the relationship that I had with him going in, but because he appealed to us as a guy who was thinking about, and preparing for, his career down the road. You could see he was really focused in on five, six, seven years down the road.”

No regrets 

When the Nationals unveiled Werth at a press conference at Nationals Park the following week, the man who has become such a part of their identity revealed a little bit about how much he’d bought into the process he was about to help expedite.

“I’ve always been a big fan of an underdog,” Werth said that day. “I’m coming to be a part of something much greater than you’ve seen in this city.”

Three seasons into his contract, Werth and his teammates have already seen a sliver of that success. And a deal that was maligned by some rival executives at the time may be viewed differently now.

Given the fact that he is coming off his age-34 season with the best OPS of his career (.931), and the rising prices on the free agent market, it’s not inconceivable that – if Werth were a free agent – he could be signed to something like a four-year, $72 million contract ($18 million average annual value) this offseason.

And while the overall value of his contract can’t be determined for a few more years, looking back right now, the Nationals have no regrets.

“If we get 130 games of the Jayson Werth we’ve seen the last two years, for the next two or three years — if he’s (offensively) the guy he should be, and plays good right field and leads us in the clubhouse — then he’s exactly what we wanted.

“But I’ll say this: I would do it again, at this point, knowing what we’ve got.”

District 9: Charlie Slowes

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At Curly W Live, we put our own spin on the traditional “10 Questions” format by asking nine questions to players, coaches, broadcasters, front office members, prospects and other Nationals personalities. This is a special “Week of Thanks” edition of District 9, featuring Nationals radio voice Charlie Slowes.

Nationals radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes

Nationals radio broadcaster Charlie Slowes

1. When you look back at 2013, what is your biggest takeaway?

The 2013 Nationals season proves that old baseball adage, “You never know!” I think everyone had those words “expect” and “anticipate” in their heads, with the thinking the Nationals would duplicate or surpass their 2012 regular season accomplishments.  Some of the experts had the Nats winning 105 games or more. But no two seasons are the same. You can’t predict injuries, fall-off in performance or different types of adversity. Things happen that you can’t predict. The Nationals late season run was how we all expected them to play all year, certainly leaving a lot of positives for next year. I think this team has overcome a lot and that the struggles of this year will benefit them going forward.

2. Describe your favorite on-the-field moment from the 2013 season.

I never have just one favorite moment. I always love Opening Day. I loved the opening ceremonies, the unveiling of the NL East Champion banner and the crowd was unbelievable. Then Bryce hit two home runs, Stephen Strasburg threw seven shutout innings and the Nats shut out the Marlins. Ryan Zimmerman’s three-homer game in Baltimore and ninth-career walk off homer against the Mets are on my list, and so is Denard Span’s diving, game-saving, game-ending catch against the Giants.

Slowes participated in the 2013 Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park.

Slowes participated in the 2013 Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park.

3. What was your favorite off-the-field moment?

My best off-the-field moments are often times interactions with other Nationals fans. The best day for that actually was on the field, getting to play in the Wounded Warrior Celebrity Softball Classic. Playing on the Nationals Park field with so many people staying for the game and cheering for us was a blast. It’s always an honor to be with and support those who serve and protect our country.

4. What did you learn about Jayson Werth during the 2013 season?

I learned that Jayson has the ability to lead a club, to put the team on his back and carry it when they needed it most. He said all the right things and never let this club stop fighting or give up. He has been a great teammate in the clubhouse.

5. Did you learn anything about Bryce Harper this year?

We’ve learned that at 20 years old (now 21), even though he is so impressive, I think we haven’t even scratched the surface where Bryce is concerned. He has a strong desire to play, succeed and win.

6. How do you view Davey Johnson’s legacy in D.C.?

His legacy will be attached to winning on the field, to getting the team to the postseason and helping to instill the confidence to play winning baseball, every day. He’s a Hall of Famer in my book.

7. What are your impressions of the Matt Williams hire?

I was very impressed with how Matt handled himself the day of his introductory press conference and his plans going forward. He is spending time getting to know his coaches and players, making for a smooth transition come Spring Training. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s ready for this. It will be interesting to see what might be different come spring and how he puts his stamp on this club.

Slowes opened Matt Williams' introductory press conference.

Slowes opened Matt Williams’ introductory press conference.

8. We’re about to enter our 10th season of Washington Nationals baseball here in our nation’s capital. What does that milestone mean to you?

I think 10 years means the Nationals now have a history to draw from and to refer back to. The Nationals are now a household name in Washington, providing a winning club on the field to root for with an established fan base. You see Nationals gear around the city now, no matter the time of year. The Nationals have also become an organization that has and will continue to give back to the community through the Dream Foundation and its initiatives. I am very excited to see the Youth Baseball Academy running at full speed very soon.

9. What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

First, I am thankful for the health of my family and good friends. It all starts there. Everything else is gravy on the turkey. I am also very fortunate in my role with the Nationals; being able to do something that I love with a great partner and for the great support received from the organization and of course, our listeners.

Ian Desmond Wins Second Straight Louisville Silver Slugger Award

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by Amanda Comak

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Ian Desmond joins Ryan Zimmerman as the only two players to earn two Louisville Silver Slugger Awards in a Nationals uniform.

Davey Johnson said it so often during the 2013 season, there became little point in even posing the question. In the former Washington Nationals manager’s mind, the best shortstop in the league was the one he got to write on his lineup card nearly every day. As the postseason awards begin to roll in this month, it appears the rest of the baseball world is starting to agree with Johnson.

Ian Desmond won his second consecutive Louisville Silver Slugger Award on Wednesday evening, honored again as the best-hitting shortstop in the National League.

“I play the game the way I do out of respect for the players who came before me,” Desmond said. “It’s an honor to be selected for the Silver Slugger, and it’s humbling to know that it’s voted on by National League managers and coaches.”

The Nationals’ star middle infielder beat out tough competition from Colorado Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitzki and Milwaukee Brewer Jean Segura to become just the second Nationals player to earn two Silver Slugger Awards. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman took home the honor in 2009 and 2010.

Desmond also joins Derek Jeter (5), Hanley Ramirez (2) and Troy Tulowitzki (2) as the only active shortstops to win multiple Silver Sluggers.

Desmond, who was also a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the second straight year, hit .280 this past season, carrying a .331 on-base percentage that was just below his career-best .335 mark from 2012, with a .453 slugging percentage.

He was the most consistent batter in the Nationals’ lineup throughout the year, often carrying them offensively in the early months.

Desmond, 28, clubbed 20 home runs and stole 21 bases this past season — his second campaign reaching the 20-20 benchmark that recognizes speed and power — and led all NL shortstops with 38 doubles. He also drove in 80 runs.

His .784 OPS ranked second to only Tulowitzki among shortstops, but Desmond, who appeared in 158 of the Nationals’ 162 games, had 143 more plate appearances than the Rockies’ shortstop and played in 32 more games. Desmond also led all MLB shortstops with 61 extra-base hits.

A mainstay in the Nationals lineup and one of few regulars to go injury-free throughout the year, Desmond proved his breakout 2012 season was no fluke and continued to establish himself among the best in the game at his position.

Right fielder Jayson Werth had a strong case for earning one of the outfield awards, hitting .318 with a .398 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage in 129 games. His .931 OPS was the best mark of his career, and Werth hit 25 home runs, 24 doubles and knocked in 82 runs in 2013.

Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds, and Michael Cuddyer of the Colorado Rockies were the NL outfielders who took home the honors.

“Last year, it was really cool to be able to share in the excitement with my teammates when [Adam LaRoche and Stephen Strasburg] won theirs as well,” Desmond said. “I was shocked to see that Jayson didn’t get it, but respect how tough the decision process is with so many great outfielders.”

The Louisville Silver Slugger Awards, which were announced Wednesday night on MLBNetwork, are based on the regular-season performances of players and voted on by managers and coaches in each league.

Thank You From The Lerner Family

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Dear Nationals Fans:

Thank you for making our home yours, for bringing NATITUDE to Nationals Park day in and day out, for making this our third straight year of increased attendance, and for establishing the Nation’s Capital as one of the greatest baseball cities in America.

On the field, we saw many first-rate performances this year and expect to spend the offseason getting even better. We are very excited about our new manager Matt Williams. Not only does he bring an impressive wealth of knowledge and on-field experience to the Nationals dugout, but we think he is the right leader for a team that’s ready to compete for a World Series championship. Matt will partner with President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo in the offseason to make sure our squad is ready for the 2014 campaign. While Mike and his scouts may fine-tune the roster in the next few months, we believe we are already very close to competing for a World Series title as we stand today.

In 2013, the Nationals young pitching staff tossed more innings, produced one of the National League’s winningest pitchers in Jordan Zimmermann, and continued to demonstrate that with starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Zimmermann, our pitching corps represents one of the most formidable in the game. Veteran Jayson Werth returned midseason from a hamstring injury to become one of the most dominant hitters in baseball. Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche continued to show leadership, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Denard Span had an amazing 29-game hitting streak and an error-free year in the field. And young players like Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon made significant statements, in the field and at the plate, that they can be mainstays in the Major Leagues for years to come.

And Nats fans were there to see it all. Our April opener drew the largest regular season crowd in Nationals Park history, while our average attendance improved from even last season’s playoff year, and our broadcast and radio ratings were the highest yet. We are truly seeing our hometown become an ardent baseball city.

In the community, the team and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation were proud to help open the doors for the long-awaited Washington Nationals Diabetes Care Complex at Children’s National Medical Center, and we anticipate hosting our first student athletes on the fields at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy next Spring. We expect both of these initiatives to have a significant and positive impact on our community for generations to come.

The entire Nationals family is inspired by the intense passion for Major League Baseball and the team that’s growing in the capital area. We believe NATITUDE has made our town an even better community. We look forward to an exciting offseason, and plan to introduce everyone to Matt Williams and show off our talented roster at NatsFest in January. Spring Training won’t be far behind.

Thank you for your support – we believe Opening Day 2014 will be the grandest ever. You won’t want to miss it.

Sincerely,

Theodore N. Lerner Mark D. Lerner Edward L. Cohen Robert K. Tanenbaum
Annette M. Lerner Judy Lenkin Lerner Debra Lerner Cohen Marla Lerner Tanenbaum

Matt Williams Press Conference Transcript

On Friday, November 1, 2013, the Washington Nationals officially introduced Matt Williams as the club’s fifth manager since the team arrived in The District. The following is a transcript of the press conference featuring Williams and President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo.

Mike Rizzo introduces new Nationals Manager Matt Williams.

Mike Rizzo introduces new Nationals Manager Matt Williams.

Opening statements:

Mike Rizzo

Thanks for coming, everybody, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. It’s an exciting, big day here in Washington Nationals land, the introduction of the Matt Williams era into Washington Nationals baseball. We are extremely pleased to have Matt at the helm. I’d like to thank the players and Randy Knorr for coming in today and showing their support. We feel like we’ve got the right man at the right time here in Washington, D.C. He’s a man that brings passion and intensity to the game, but also brings a communication style of eloquence and intelligence. We think he’s got the full package. I’ve known the man for a long time and watched him from afar for a while and then up close and personal for a while. He’s a man that – we’d like to emulate his demeanor and attitude on the field and his leadership qualities in the clubhouse. So, without further ado, our new manager, Matt Williams.

Matt Williams

Thank you, Mike.

First and foremost, I want to express how grateful (my wife) Erika and (daughter) Madison and I are for everybody’s support in welcoming us here, it’s been quite an experience.

I’d like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Lerner and the entire Lerner family for welcoming us into their family. I spent a little bit of time with them and these people have passion for this game, passion for this city and passion for this team. They want to win as badly as anybody, and I am certainly on board with that, as I know Mike is.

It’s not often that you get players to support somebody they don’t really know. So I’d like to thank Tanner (Roark), Ian (Desmond) and Jayson (Werth) for taking time out of their day to be here to experience this with me and I look forward to working with all of them.

There’s a special guy that flew in that was also a candidate for this job. Randy Knorr took the time and got here today to be a part of this. We’re going to spend some time together, for sure. He is going to be someone that I lean on certainly in the beginning and throughout this coming season and hopefully many seasons in the future to make this a winning club. So Randy, thank you for being here, I appreciate it very much. (Randy’s) going to come out and see me next week and we’ll start going on this thing. We can’t wait to get started. Thank you all for being here. I am honored to be the Washington Nationals Manager and I’m ready to go, so thank you very much.

Members of the D.C. media got a chance to meet Matt Williams Friday afternoon.

Members of the D.C. media got a chance to meet Matt Williams Friday afternoon.

Q&A with the D.C. Media:

Matt Williams on why he is the best fit for the Nationals and what kind of manager he expects to be.

I was asked that question in the interview: why you? I think the simple answer for me is that I bring passion to the game that I love. This game has given me a lot and I need to return that. In whatever aspect of the game we find ourselves in, whether it’s offense, defense, pitching, 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 make us a good team.

What kind of manager will I be? I think it will be fluid. I do believe that you bring your glove every day. And I do believe that with this club, and with the incredible young men we have on this club, we have a chance to win if we can do things right. I think it’s evident. Everybody in this room and everybody that’s watching on TV or listening knows this is a very talented group of young men. We’re going to refine some things and we’re going to take those next steps that we need to take to get to where we want to go.

Mike Rizzo on the intangibles that made Matt Williams the right fit for this ballclub.

My interview process started in 1999 when I first met Matt as a player with the Diamondbacks. From afar, I really was watching how he conducted himself. He played on a talented team there in Arizona and there were a lot of veteran leaders on that team. I recognized Matt Williams as a guy that led not only by example, but led vocally and by his performance on the field. He was always prepared as a player and was always a guy that would lead by example. He was more impressed by the name on front of the jersey than on the back. I think that’s the way he approached his work. As time went on, I recognized him as the Arizona Fall League manager. Several of our players loved playing for him and I watched the way he handled pitching staffs and bullpens. And then as a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he really showed the backing he has of his players. The way they were prepared and the way that they got after it.

Matt Williams on when he first thought of managing as a possible career choice.

When I retired, I took some time off. I did the front office thing. I thought it would be nice to be in the front office, on that side of the game. If you know me, I don’t like suits very much. I didn’t like that part of it as much as I thought I would. I became a broadcaster and did some color work for TV and radio. I enjoyed that, but it still wasn’t fulfilling enough for me so I decided to get back on the field.

I was invited to Spring Training by Bob Melvin, the Diamondbacks Manager at that time, and started doing some work with the infielders and doing some work with the rest of the guys and really got the itch back. At that point, I thought, “I’ve played this game my whole life and it’s given me everything I have in my life.”

So at this point I needed to get to where I want to get to ultimately becoming a manager. At that point, I started thinking about it. It’s been an evolution. I’ve done a number of different jobs. The thing that I’ve come to conclude in this whole thing is that if you communicate and you can have a plan, then I think you’re ahead of the game. I hope to impart some of that here and help us on our way to win a championship.

Matt Williams on knowing the job was open since last year and when he started to seriously consider it.

I had a job to do as the Diamondbacks third base coach so I didn’t think about it very much. I knew there would be a possibility. Ultimately, it’s not up to me to decide. I was thankful and grateful to get the call from Mike that he wanted to talk a little baseball with me. During the season, and for the last year, it wasn’t up to me to decide if I wanted to interview or not, it was up to them.

Matt Williams on what needs fixing on this team.

What needs to be fixed? Davey Johnson is a Hall of Fame manager in my book. This is not a situation where you come in and clearly something is broken and needs to be fixed. This is unique, in that Davey decided to go in a different direction – get out of the dugout, do some other things – and the position was open. It’s not like you need to blow it up and start all over again. This is a very talented group of young men that play this game here. This is a great team on the brink of something really special. So, to be fixed? I don’t know, I can’t say anything needs to be fixed. I can say there are some things to refine. I think we can play smarter baseball, I think we can use the tools that are given to us a little better, without going into specifics. I know that one of the things that Ian told me this morning when we first met was, “I’d like to work a little bit harder.” I’m all for that man, let’s go. I think we can take all of those things and become a better baseball team. I’m here to guide that. They’re here to do it. They’re excited about doing it. So is everybody sitting in this room. I hope to be a part of that and guide that in the right direction.

Williams inherits a talented Nationals squad that averaged 92 wins over the past two seasons.

Williams inherits a talented Nationals squad that averaged 92 wins over the past two seasons.

Matt Williams on if he’s talked to Wilson Ramos lately, given an altercation between the two following a home run from a few years ago.

Thanks for that question, I appreciate it (laughs). There’s another guy that’s in this room who was involved in that altercation as well.

I haven’t spoken to Wilson since. But I can tell you this – on any given day, in any given city, at any given time, something like that can happen. I love that Jayson Werth stood up in the opposing dugout and yelled at me, because that means that he competes. I love the fact that Wilson Ramos was upset that a couple of their guys got hit and took exception. I love that fact. Does it mean I don’t like the man? No. That’s competition; that’s baseball; that’s the way we play the game. Just because Jayson’s yelling at me doesn’t mean he doesn’t like me. He plays for the other team. Now, I’m fortunate and I’m pleased that I’m on his team – and we’re going to have a lot of fun.

Matt Williams on if he views his lack of managerial experience as a challenge, and if so, how he plans on overcoming that.

I think there are a lot of different challenges as a manager and frankly as a bench coach, as Randy will attest. There are different things that present themselves every day. We saw it in Game 3 of the World Series ending on an obstruction play. We’ve never seen that. Those challenges, things like that in the course of the game present themselves. I don’t have 20 years of experience. I can’t claim that I do. But I do know I have a bench coach and a group of coaches that know these players and have experience and have had success. I hope to learn from them, I hope that they’ll learn from me, and I hope, collectively, we can go in the right direction here. It’s a really good team. I’m proud to be a part of it, proud to have them as fellow coaches, and I’m itching to go.

Matt Williams on if he plans to bring the whole coaching staff back.

It is our plan, with one exception. We’re going to make a change in the bullpen, and we’re going to add another coach, so we will have seven coaches. That will be Mark Weidemaier. He’s coming from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He is a defensive coordination advance coach, which I believe is really important. I believe preparation is the most important part of this game. He will do the defensive coordination and be our advance coach.

Matt Williams on how his former managers ingratiated themselves in the clubhouse, and how that experience will guide him.

It’s important to understand the player-manager dynamic. These guys go through 162 games during the regular season and 30-plus games of Spring Training. They’re training all year round in hopes that they get to the postseason and get to experience what the Cardinals and Red Sox got to experience. It’s very close to that here. It’s close. My job coming in is to make sure everybody’s prepared, and we need to make sure everybody’s healthy. It’s a new challenge – a new Spring Training, a new city, all of those things for me – but my job is to take care of these guys. I cherish that relationship. I protect these guys. I am the guy that they can come to, and hopefully Ian (Desmond) can come to me and say, “I’m having trouble with my backhand, let’s work on it.” Great, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Jayson can go, “I’m having trouble doing this. Or I’m not driving the ball like I want to.” Here’s a thought. We want to drive a run in, “OK, let’s talk about it.”

I think the fact that I played gives me a little bit of authority, or knowledge, that I’ve been there, I’ve been that guy. I’ve struck out with the bases loaded; I’ve gotten the game-winning hit.  All of those things. I’m here to help them, as is our coaching staff. They’re going to play and they’re going to play well. We’re here to try to guide that and help them reach their capabilities, certainly. And eventually to be Hall of Fame players and be World Champions.

Matt Williams on what it means to have the support of Randy Knorr in attendance at today’s press conference.

As far as Randy goes, it can be a very difficult dynamic. Randy is certainly popular among the players – we’ve seen that they have given him their support during this process. I can’t claim to know them or know this team as much as Randy does, so I’m going to lean on him. And he’s been kind enough to say, “Lean on me, I believe in this franchise, I believe in this team, I believe in our chances and I want to be here.” He doesn’t have to be here. In our conversations, I trust that and I love that fact. I’m going to lean on him heavily. He knows the organization, he knows the game. He is a full-blown managerial candidate, just like all of us (who interviewed); otherwise Mike wouldn’t have interviewed him. He’s probably the biggest part of this staff in getting to know the players moving forward for me.

Matt Williams on his reputation as an aggressive third base coach in Arizona, and if he similarly envisions himself as an aggressive manager.

That’s funny, because I think a couple years ago, I led the league in getting guys thrown out at the plate. Which is good, I think! Now, the fans of Arizona may think differently, and I’ve heard those fans from time to time, but I think if you apply pressure, you have the advantage. That comes in many different forms. I think you can apply pressure defensively. I think if you’re in a bases loaded situation with nobody out, I think you actually can have the advantage defensively. That may be a weird way of thinking, but that’s the way I think. I will be aggressive. My natural tendency is to go. We saw that (when I was) coaching third. So I will rely on Randy to help me with that and the rest of the coaching staff to help me with that. I want to steal second base, I want to hit and run, I want to go first-to-third. Those are important to me. I think we’ve seen that if we can score that extra run, we can be really special. So yes, aggressiveness is key.

Matt Williams on the importance of defensive positioning shifts and scouting.

There’s so much information that is given to us these days and we can find it everywhere. Tendencies – this guy will throw this pitch in this count 25 percent of the time. It’s all out there for us to use as we choose to use it. The philosophy that Kirk, myself, Alan Trammell, Don Baylor and those guys in Arizona put together was, we can do all the shifts we want and play tendencies all we want, but we have to understand what our pitchers are going to throw. How are our pitchers going to attack opposing hitters and what can we do accordingly? Leading the league in fielding percentage is key. We had two guys on the field that won Gold Gloves this last year. That proof is in the pudding in that they are fantastic athletes. But we helped them be in the right spot. We helped them be in a position to make a defensive play that helped us save a run or won us a game. I think that is most important for us.

That being said, one of the reasons I wanted to bring Mark Weidemaier on board was that he’s an expert at that. He’s been an advance scout. He created our defensive advance reports with Arizona. He has scouted both leagues. He spent 175 of the 180 days of the season in a hotel room on the road. He knows what he’s doing. I think that will help us be a better team. We understand that there’s a very fine line between (averaging) 2.5 runs or 3.5 or 4.5 runs. I do understand also, that if we can cut one (run) down during some point of that game, we have a better chance of winning with the type of club we’ve got. That’s important. That’s going to be our focus as a coaching staff, and we’ll let the players know certainly that we expect that to be a focus of theirs moving forward.

Williams signed his contract earlier in the day Friday, officially making him the fifth manager in Nationals history.

Williams signed his contract earlier in the day Friday, officially making him the fifth manager in Nationals history.

Matt Williams on how he knew so much about the Nationals organization going into his interview.

I do have access to the internet (laughs). It’s out there for everybody. But I do know some of the guys because I got to manage them last year (in the Arizona Fall League).. I’m going to get a chance to hang with Randy in Arizona next week and get a little more information. I don’t know everything, but I know this team and this organization has done a fantastic job of scouting. Second, the player development side of this club probably doesn’t get enough credit. They develop these guys to be big league baseball players at the highest level, to become All-Star players. That’s important. The team being put together by Mike and Bryan (Minniti) and everybody at the big league level is phenomenal.

I do have some (first-hand) information, certainly. I was with Adam LaRoche in Arizona. I managed Anthony (Rendon), albeit him being a third baseman at the time. We’ll get a chance to go out and see Matty Skole – we had him last year in the (Arizona) Fall League – and Brian Goodwin. I haven’t seen the younger pitchers as much, but I’ll get a chance to see all of those guys and talk about all of those guys with Randy and get further in tune. There are 25 guys here at the Major League level, but there’s 250 men here that make up this club and make up this organization. We need to make sure we’re accountable for all of them moving forward.

Matt Williams on which of the managers he’s played for influenced him the most, and why.

I think I take a little bit from all of them. Dusty Baker is my mentor. He was my hitting instructor early on with San Francisco and later became the manager. I spent hours and hours in the cage with him. He taught me how to be a professional hitter and he continues to be a great friend of mine. We talk often. In that respect, I try to take from Dusty that he’s the ultimate players’ manager. He communicates so well with the players. You hear it all the time that they’d run through a wall for Dusty. That’s because he understands them and speaks to them as men on the same level. I value Jayson Werth’s opinion on something. That’s the kind of relationship I want to have with this club, with these guys. They can come to me with anything and I can go to them with anything, and it’s a conversation between men.

Buck Showalter was probably the most prepared manager I’ve ever played for. Three hours watching the game and everything that leads up to the game, and then another three hours in his office with the door closed watching the game all over again and sleeping at the ballpark at night. (He was) very prepared. I don’t know if I can do that, but I have to take some of that and make sure that on any given day, I’m prepared for what we may face during the game. Again, I have fantastic coaches that I’ll be able to lean on in that regard and say, “Randy, what do you think here?” But I have to be ultimately prepared for what I may face.

I played for Bob Brenly in our championship season in Arizona. He had a really veteran-laden club with guys that knew what they were doing. Frankly, (there were) a lot of guys at the end of their careers who were just trying to make it through and win a World Championship. I learned from Bob that sometimes it’s nice to take the reins off, especially with veteran guys, and allow them to lead that clubhouse. We have some veteran players on this team that have the ability and the willingness to lead this group of men. We need to allow them to do that. (We need to) give everybody a game plan and all of those things that come with it, but allow the veterans on this team to lead. Ultimately, the younger guys will fall in line because those are their peers. Those are the guys I lean on as mentors, and as examples, and try to take a little bit from each one of them.

Matt Williams on using analytics and advanced metrics.

It’s interesting how this is all a part of the game now. It used to be that we’d go out and throw some balls against the soft toss net behind the cage, take some swings, take some grounders and get ready for the game. Spring Training was, “Hey, let’s run through these three bunt plays and we’ll call it a day, then let’s go whack some balls and make sure that we’re ready for tomorrow.” It’s gotten a little more complicated these days.

I want to use all of it, but I want to use all of it in the right way. I want to get an example of what somebody is going to throw Ian on 2-0. Not necessarily how many sliders he throws him, but what he’s going to throw him 2-0, what’s he going to throw him 3-1, so he’s got an idea of what that guy is going to do if he gets ahead in the count. Or, what’s he going to go to if he’s trying to get him out when he’s behind in the count. We can have paralysis by analysis sometimes, so it’s our job as coaches to take all that information in, filter it, and give the guys what they need as opposed to trying to bog them down with too much information. So, I want to use all of it, but I want to present them with the right information on an everyday basis to make them as good as they can be.

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