Matt Williams went from Manager of the Year to jettisoned ex-skipper of the Washington Nationals in the span of just a year.
That’s how disappointing last season was for the team that at this time last year was the unanimous World Series favorite, per Odds Shark.
Williams has since taken back his old job as third-base coach of the ambitious Arizona Diamondbacks. While he is finding a haven in returning to the team he won the 2001 World Series with as its third baseman, moving on from Washington wasn't easy.
“It was tough to hear,” Williams said of his firing. “You want to do as well as you possibly do. It is what it is. That’s the way I look at it. You have choices. You can wallow or move on. I decided to move on.”
But with a full offseason to digest the underachieving season in Washington, Williams is still a bit bothered the Nationals didn’t come close to contending, per James Wagner of the Washington Post:
There was opportunity for us and it didn’t happen. I say that for a reason: it was us. The manager is one part of the team but everybody had great desire. ... That desire, to get back to that point—whether it’s as the manager or the third base coach—to get back to a position to play in October and have a chance, that’s what burns inside me. I get a chance to do that under [Arizona manager] Chip [Hale] here, with this great staff, with these talented players and I’m excited about it.
The Nationals finished 83-79 in an average National League East and were eliminated from the playoffs with more than a week left in the season—even with NL MVP Bryce Harper on the roster.
They won 13 fewer games than in 2014, which was the NL’s second-largest drop-off to only the last-place Milwaukee Brewers, according to ESPN.com.
Their season was a marathon of disappointment, highlighted by Harper's clash with closer Jonathan Papelbon in an incident that shined a light on how frustrating the year had been, courtesy of MLB.com:
But Williams finds himself in a new clubhouse full of the similar ambition Washington has had in recent years.
The Diamondbacks have added aces Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to complement a lineup that last year scored the second-most runs in the NL with 720.
Even in a division that houses the rebuilt San Francisco Giants and three-time defending division champion Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks are expected to make a run at October.
“This place is special,” Williams said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (h/t Rodney Haas of ArizonaSports.com). “You can walk upstairs and you have World Series champions, a manager [Tony La Russa] who is the chief officer of baseball that has won the World Series and has been there and done it and you can pick brains and that’s a lot of fun.”
Perhaps a new start in familiar territory is what the former skipper needs.