Results tagged ‘ Matt Williams ’

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Hello from the Winter Meetings

Hello everyone,
I’m writing to you today from our team headquarters at the Manchester Grand Hyatt here in San Diego, where the Winter Meetings have been given a beautiful backdrop to heat up the hot stove.
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A view from inside our team suite at the 2014 Winter Meetings.

  • It’s been great to be back talking baseball with Nationals President of Baseball Operations & GM Mike Rizzo and his staff as we look forward to 2015 and focus on building our club for another 162-game — and beyond — challenge. That’s not to say that we’ve pushed 2014 out of our minds. I still haven’t recovered from the abrupt end to our season — but it has only served to fuel Mike, manager Matt Williams, and the rest of our organization to put together another great team so we can make another run at a World Series championship next season.
  • The task in front of Mike and his staff is not an easy one. As an organization, and with Mike at the helm, we’ve always taken the approach that we must focus on improving our ballclub for the immediate, and long-term, future. That’s never been more important than now, as we enter a new situation for our team with many of our young, talented players having reached the Major Leagues at the same time, and obviously now potentially reaching free agency at the same time. But the way Mike has built the organization the last several years, depth has been of extreme importance and that allows us to be in a position where building our team — for 2015 and beyond — can mean that anything can happen. That’s one thing I always love about the Winter Meetings in particular: the excitement, anticipation and buzz in the air. Everyone is curious to see what each team will do, and where free agents will land.
  • For us, the Winter Meetings are also a chance to get our entire baseball operations department together, and especially all of our professional scouts, for really the only time all year. It’s always so great to catch up, meet some of the new people that we’ve brought into the organization, and have so many wonderful baseball minds in the same room. Our front office staff has been working all year to prepare for this week, and it’s exciting when the ideas really start bouncing around the room.
  • I’d be remiss if I talked all about the excitement of this week without mentioning NatsFest this Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. We are so thrilled to be bringing NatsFest back into the District and back at the Convention Center.This is always one of my favorite events of the offseason. It’s always so wonderful to see all of our players after a few weeks apart, and of course to get a chance to interact with all of you, our great fans. I know, from all of the planning that has gone into it, that this will no doubt be our best NatsFest yet. From the new games and programs they’ve been prepping to the new space that we’ll be utilizing inside the convention center, I just can’t wait to get there on Saturday morning and to enjoy a full day of Nationals spirit with all of you.

I look forward to seeing you all soon and think NatsFest will be the perfect kickoff to the holiday season.

Mark

Winter Meetings 2014: Catching up with Matt Williams, Tommy Shields joins Minor League staff & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta BravesAs the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings head into their second day, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams will meet with the media this afternoon in San Diego. The National League Manager of the Year enters his second season at the helm looking to help the team improve on what was a very successful 2014 season.

Before Williams meets with the media, he spent a few minutes catching up on the year that was and more:

From where you were last year at this time, how do you reflect on how everything has gone?

I think it was a successful season for us. I think it was satisfying, yet unsatisfying at the same time because we weren’t the last ones standing — and that’s why we’re all here. So, a very positive step in the right direction and hopefully many more steps to come. 

Do you feel more focused or sure of what you’re looking for at these meetings than maybe you were in 2013? 

I think I’m a little more comfortable because I know everybody. Last year was a sort of “getting-to-know-you” process. This year, I’m a little more comfortable with our group and our fantastic group of scouts and front office folks. But I still have butterflies, like everybody else does, in anticipation of the upcoming season so I’m excited and looking forward to February.

What do you think your biggest accomplishment of the past year?

I just think the ability to understand our players, and help them, and put them in a position to succeed. We had a lot of guys who had great years and I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can point to — and ultimately my job is to put them in a position to succeed and do the best they can. If each individual can do that then we have a very good chance of succeeding as a team.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Just the opportunity to get back to the postseason. We want to play meaningful games in September and October. We had a little bit of a taste of it this year and we want to certainly get back there and see if we can go further this time.

What was your reaction to being named the 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year?

I’m extremely proud of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Award as well. It means to me that we have a fantastic organization and that everybody is on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can to have success and be a championship club. I’m proud to be able to go to New York in January and represent us and accept that award on behalf of our organization.

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The Nationals have added Tommy Shields to their Minor League staff, naming him co-field coordinator on Tuesday. Shields, a Fairfax, VA, native, joins Jeff Garber in that role.

Shields, who comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain. Shields earned the Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012.

He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1993.

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The MLB PR Directors announced their annual Winter Meetings auction on Monday, with a litany of incredible, unique experiences up for bid with all of the proceeds going toward LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit.

The charity, which was the personal cause of Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow, who passed away in February at age 36 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, works to change outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, and support.

The Nationals have two great experiences up for auction this year: lunch with Matt Williams and his coaching staff inside the Nationals’ clubhouse one day this upcoming season, and a grounds crew experience. You can bid on these, and many other great items here. And all of the donations will go to a fantastic cause, and in Monica’s memory.

Nationals announce return of entire coaching staff

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by Amanda Comak

On the heels of Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams taking home the 2014 BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, the Nationals announced Wednesday morning that they will welcome back all of their coaches from the 2014 staff.

In keeping bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator/advance coach Mark Weidemaier in the fold for 2015, Williams will have stability and continuity on his staff as he enters his second year at the helm.

McCatty, the longest-tenured member of the Nationals’ Major League staff, returns for his seventh season. Knorr returns for his fourth season as the Nationals’ bench coach, and sixth year on the staff, while Tarasco and Schu will begin their third seasons on the coaching staff. Henley, LeCroy and Weidemaier will all be back for their second campaigns.

Six of the Nationals’ seven coaches had experience coaching in Washington’s system before earning their Major League assignments, making the Nationals’ an exceptionally “homegrown” staff.

This marks the first time since 2007-2008 that the Nationals have returned their entire coaching staff in successive seasons.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams named 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year

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by Amanda Comak

After leading the Washington Nationals to their second National League East title in the last three years, Nationals manager Matt Williams was named the 2014 National League Manager of the Year Tuesday night by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Williams received a total 109 points, including 18 first-place votes. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle finished second in the voting, and San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was third.

Williams, who joins Davey Johnson to become the second manager in Nationals history to earn this honor, had an exceptionally successful rookie season in the dugout as he led the Nationals to an NL-best 96 victories and the division title.

“On behalf of the Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, I want to offer heartfelt congratulations to Matt on this well-deserved award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “His first year in the dugout was excellent, and it was a pleasure to watch him grow throughout. He is a respected leader, and the steady hand that navigated our team through many challenges this season.

“What we accomplished this season would not have been possible without the right man at the helm. That was Matt this season, and we’re all looking forward to 2015.”

National League Division Series Game OneSince the inception of the award in 1983, Williams is just the fourth first-year manager ever to win it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Hal Lanier (Houston Astros, 1986), Dusty Baker (San Francisco Giants, 1993), and Joe Girardi (Florida Marlins, 2006).

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by this award,” Williams said. “This was a very special year for us, and I am proud of what we accomplished in my first season at the helm. For me, as a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game. Clint and Bruce are certainly that.

“While this is an incredible acknowledgement by the writers, I know we have bigger goals to accomplish in Washington and I look forward to the challenge that the 2015 season will bring.”

The Nationals, though besieged by injuries, won their division by the largest margin (17.0 games) of any in the Major Leagues under Williams’ watch. Over the course of the season, the Nationals saw 948 total games missed due to stints on the Disabled List, with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span – all key players — accounting for 284 of those games.

While the Nationals withstood that barrage, Williams’ guided them toward steady improvement as the season progressed.

After playing to a .500 record (27-27) through the season’s first two months, the Nationals were at least four games over the .500 mark in each remaining month of the season, finishing 69-39 from June through September. That stretch included a 19-10 month of August that featured a 10-game winning streak from Aug. 12-21, the longest winning streak in the National League this season.

On Sept. 16, the Nationals clinched their second National League East Division title, and they finished the regular season with a 96-66 record.

Williams, 48, was named the fifth field manager in Nationals history on Oct. 31, 2013. The five-time All-Star third baseman was also voted by his managerial peers as the 2014 Sporting News Manager of the Year.

Nationals visit DC Public Libraries

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The Washington Nationals are honored to sponsor the DC Public Library’s Summer Reading program. And as part of that sponsorship, Denard Span, Drew Storen, Scott Hairston and Matt Williams were at local libraries on Saturday morning to read to kids.

The Nationals are honored to be a part of this program, and Span, Storen, Hairston and Williams were thrilled to participate. Here are a few photos from the events:

Running Men: A Nationals coaching staff routine

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by Amanda Comak

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Nationals Manager Matt Williams, left, and third base coach Bobby Henley at the tail end of one of their runs this season.

Inside the visitors’ clubhouse at AT&T Park, the music blared. High-fives and fist bumps were exchanged all over the room. Positive energy pumped through the locker stalls.

A long west coast trip had gotten off to a terrific start for the Washington Nationals with five wins in their first six games, including three straight against the San Francisco Giants — who came into the series playing better than any team in the National League.

Inside the manager’s office, Matt Williams smiled, and then groaned. Mere hours separated the Nationals from their next game, a 12:45 p.m. start locally, and then the next city on the trip beckoned.

“We have to run tomorrow,” Williams said late that night, massaging his left calf. “We’re killing ourselves.”

The “we” to which the Nationals’ manager referred was the coaching staff. And the runs, between 30-40 minutes or three to four miles of torture, well, they’ve become quite a routine among the Nationals’ coaches.

“It’s entirely superstitious,” Williams said in early July. “If we take a day off and we don’t win, then we definitely have to run the next day. If we run and we play like we did (in a 13-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on July 5), then we have to run the exact same route.”

Williams, who used to run with the Diamondbacks coaching staff in previous years, brought the daily runs to the Nationals when he took over as manager. They’re all named, and folks of all fitness levels are welcome. They won’t leave any man behind, Williams said, but “we keep it sane, too.”

In D.C., they have three main runs: The River Run, featuring views of the Anacostia and the Potomac Rivers, the Capitol Run, which is up to and around the Capitol Building, and the Power Run, a jaunt to the Capitol Building, by the Supreme Court and past the Library of Congress.

It’s not hard to see how that one got its name.

“That’s the power of our country, right there,” Williams said.

But the road trips provide opportunities for other routes. Williams ticks them off with obvious enjoyment.

Attachment-1In San Francisco, they have the Embarcadero Run. In San Diego, it’s the Midway Run or the Airport Run (“Depending on how we’re feeling,” the manager explains). In Philadelphia, they leave from the hotel and do the Rocky Run. In Miami, the South Beach Run. St. Louis features the Arch Run, and in Milwaukee, from Miller Park, it’s the Graveyard Run. The list goes on. And everywhere the Nationals visit, they’ll have at least one running route to tour.

Williams, while the most enthusiastic about the runs, said the coaches have mostly jumped on board. It’s a time for them to build camaraderie and bond, while also (hopefully) bettering their own health.  Williams singled out third base coach Bobby Henley as one who has really taken to the runs and improved. Plus, there’s the aforementioned superstitions.

“They don’t gripe,” Williams said, smiling. “I hear little snippets, but no griping. Secretly I think they like it.”

But do they really?

“I absolutely hate ‘em,” said bench coach Randy Knorr. “But I go.”

Highlights from the Nationals comeback win in Arizona

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“What we were (Monday night) is how we’ve been all year. We’re resilient. We keep fighting.” — Kevin Frandsen

“We just don’t stop. There’s no reason to stop, just keeping going. Just because you’re down doesn’t mean the game is over. Just keep going.” — Danny Espinosa

Nationals Game Notes — May 12 at Arizona Diamondbacks

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Game #38: Washington Nationals (19-18) at Arizona Diamondbacks (15-25) | 6:40 p.m. PT; 9:40 p.m. ET | Chase Field
Pitching Match-Ups: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-1, 2.92 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (1-2, 3.44 ERA)
Washington Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in four career starts (all quality starts) against the Diamondbacks. In his two losses to Arizona, Zimmermann did not receive any runs of offensive support while pitching in the game. Zimmermann (2nd round) and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter (15th round) are both products of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
Radio: 106.7 FM / 1500 AM, also on nationals.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv)
TV: The game will be televised on MASN2
Live Statsnationals.com

Of note:

Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams is returning to Chase Field for the first time as a visitor after spending the final six seasons of his career with the Diamondbacks and serving the organization from there as an executive, minority owner, broadcaster and, finally, a coach on Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson‘s staff for the last four seasons.

“It’s odd,” Williams said of making his return to Arizona and coming over to the visitors’ side. “But that’s part of it. I signed up for this.”

The Diamondbacks still use Williams’ likeness during their home games, as he is one of their “Racing Legends” (akin to the Presidents Race at Nationals Park) that runs each game.

Here are tonight’s game notes, courtesy of the Washington Nationals PR department. Enjoy!

Bryce Harper comes through surgery on left thumb

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by Amanda Comak

HOUSTON —  Bryce Harper underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. The Washington Nationals outfielder is expected to begin his rehab immediately.

040913-348 bryce harperHarper, who injured his thumb sliding into the third base bag on Friday night, visited the Cleveland Clinic on Monday for a second opinion. It was determined there that surgery was the best option for the 21-year-old slugger.

“We got a little message from Bryce about getting back to (batting practice) post-surgery, so it went fine,” manager Matt Williams said before the Nationals played the Astros on Tuesday night.

“We’ll have to see how long that takes. We expect him to heal fast. He’s young and, given his history, he’s healed pretty fast. We’re optimistic about it but unsure at this point how long exactly it will take.”

The injury adds to the talented list of walking wounded currently on the Nationals’ roster as Harper joins Ryan Zimmerman (finger), Wilson Ramos (hand), Doug Fister (lat) and Scott Hairston (oblique) on the Disabled List – though all are progressing well in their individual returns to the active roster.

Harper was batting .289 with a .352 on-base percentage and .422 slugging percentage at the time of his injury, but it appeared he was just starting to find his groove. In his last 62 at-bats, Harper is hitting .339 with a .406 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage.

“It hurts a lot,” Williams said of losing Harper for a significant amount of time. “He’s a fantastic player and we’ll certainly miss him but we’ve got to step up and play well. At this point he’s going to be out for an extended period and we’ll just have to play and win our games.”

With Harper out, the work the Nationals did to overhaul their bench in the offseason will be brought to the forefront.

Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, Tyler Moore and — when he returns from the DL — Hairston, will likely share the responsibilities of filling that spot in left field.

McLouth, who posted a .258 average, .351 on-base percentage and .459 slugging percentage in 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles, hit his first home run of the season on Sunday.

Mike Rizzo talks injuries, roster moves & more

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by Amanda Comak

ATLANTA — Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo met with the media before this afternoon’s game at Turner Field to discuss a litany of topics that have arisen in the season’s first two weeks.

Here’s some of what Rizzo discussed, from injuries to roster moves and the growing rivalry with the Atlanta Braves.

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsOn how he feels the team is positioned after losing Doug Fister, Wilson Ramos, Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman to early injuries: 

“We feel as good as we can with the glut of injuries that we’ve had to key players. We’re talking about your middle-of-the-lineup bats. But we prepared for it this offseason with the acquisitions of (catcher Jose Lobaton) and key guys like (Kevin Frandsen) and (Nate McLouth). We still feel good about the roster.”

On if he feels the Nationals are just not catching any breaks early, with regard to injuries:

“No, nobody cares. The rest of the league doesn’t care. We’re just trying to work our way through it. We’ve got a game every day. That’s the one thing about baseball. The everydayness of it is really what separates the sport. That’s why we have 40-man rosters, that’s why we have Minor League systems.

“Injuries happen and you have to prepare for them. We think we’re well-prepared and well-positioned to handle them. We’ve got games to play and games to win.”

On how Denard Span is doing after being placed on the 7-day DL Saturday with a concussion:

“We’re going to have the doctor re-examine him tomorrow in Miami. He’s going to do some physical activities, and then we’ll take it from there.”

On Ryan Zimmerman’s prognosis after fracturing his right thumb on Saturday night:

“It’s a clean fracture. I saw the X-rays and I talked to the doctor. He’s going to see a hand specialist (at the Cleveland Clinic) on Monday. We’ll get a diagnosis and make our plans from there.”

On infielder Zach Walters, who was called up to replace Zimmerman on the roster

“He’s capable of playing (second base, third base and shortstop). His natural position is shortstop. He’s got the skillset to play shortstop. He’s going to play all the different positions, and being a switch hitter off the bench with power helps us.”

On Doug Fister’s rehab from a strained lat muscle:

“Doug’s involved in his (throwing) program. He’ll progress to another bullpen (on Monday), throwing all this pitches, and he’ll take the next step depending on how it goes.”

On his opinions of the job manager Matt Williams has done in the season’s first 11 games: 

“It’s the same game he’s always watched. Putting the lineups together, running the game in his mind (it’s not unfamiliar to him). Besides the newness of instant replay, it’s baseball as usual.

“He’s got a great support system around him with the coaches. It’s baseball 24/7 with Matt and the rest of them. They’re constantly in the clubhouse talking baseball. It’s a great dynamic and it’s enjoyable to see.”

On his evaluations of Danny Espinosa thus far this season as he bounces back from 2013: 

“We’re glad we drafted him and developed him. We’ve always valued him as a really good Major League player. It’s time for him and for other players on the team to show (what they can do).”

On how he views the Nationals’ games against the Braves: 

“(I’ve seen) great games. They’ve come on the winning side of it more often than we like, but we feel confident against this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We respect them, we respect the organization, but we don’t fear them . We think we’re the better team and we think at the end of the day we’re going to come out on top.”

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