ORLANDO — Matt Williams was a four-time All-Star as a Giant, a three-time Gold Glove winner and a serious MVP candidate on several occasions. He is used to high expectations as a player, and now he'll face them as a manager.
Williams, 48, is settling in as the leader of the Washington Nationals, setting spring training schedules, taking part in organizational meetings and meeting with his new players. It's a team that was expected to contend for a title last season. As Williams faces those expectations again, he knows that all eyes will be trained on the manager's office.
"I'm the new dude, yeah," Williams said. "All the pressure that comes along with (expectations) is good. We're embracing that and I'm excited about that."
The learning process has ramped up this week for Williams, who was chosen as the new Nationals manager in late October. Williams said the Nationals have had daily meetings about advances statistics and discussed implementing more defensive shifts. Williams, meeting with the media in Orlando, gave the impression that he will embrace the tactics that have swept dugouts in recent years, as young, former players have taken the roles previously held by men who had managed for decades.
"We give them a road map," he said, when asked about defensive shifts. "We have all the information in the world that we could possibly want. We want to give that to the staff, let the staff go crazy trying to figure all that out. And then provide something very simple to the players that they can follow or have as a road map going in and then let them play the game."
"We're not inventing the wheel, we're just shifting the focus a little bit."
Williams, who played 10 seasons for the Giants and seven more with the Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks, said he would love to pick the brain of former Nats manager Davey Johnson and has invited him to visit spring training. Johnson was never able to lead the revamped organization to a title, but the expectation in Washington is that Williams can be that guy. The Nationals have a loaded rotation, a lineup anchored by budding superstar Bryce Harper and a deep bullpen.
"I come to a situation that I think a lot of managers would love to come to, frankly," Williams said. "What I have to do is make sure that I put those guys in a position to succeed."