October 7, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams addresses media in a press conference before game four of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
After leading the Washington Nationals to their second NL East title in the last three years, rookie manager Matt Williams has been named the 2014 NL Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Williams becomes the second manager in Nationals history to win the award, with Davey Johnson receiving the honor in 2012 after leading the Nationals to their first division title.
Williams earns the award after leading the Nationals to a NL-best 96-66 record and their second playoff appearance in team history. The first-year manager beat out Pittsburg Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy for the honor, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes.
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While Hurdle and Bochy each led their teams to great seasons and Bochy led the Giants to another World Series championship, nobody was more deserving of the award than Williams.
Williams overcame plenty of adversity as he led the Nationals back to the postseason. The team suffered from injuries to its best players all season long and rarely played at full-strength. Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper – arguably the team’s best hitters – all missed significant time on the disabled list.
The Nationals also entered the 2014 season with the same monumental expectations that crippled the team in 2013.
Williams also faced his fair share of drama in 2014, culminating in an awkward lecture to the team’s press corps following incorrect speculation that Williams was considering sending Harper to the minors.
Nevertheless, Williams kept the Nationals in contention all season long. And when he finally got the team he expected to have on the field all season long, the Nationals ran away with the division title, beating the Atlanta Braves by a whopping 17 games.
Granted, Williams inherited a very talented team and arguably the best pitching staff in baseball. But the team that was supposed to breeze to the playoffs was not at full-strength until late in the season and Williams is a big reason why the Nationals were still able to achieve their goal of winning the division in 2014.
While Williams’s inexperience showed with some questionable decisions during the team’s disastrous demise at the hands of the Giants in the NLDS, his managing of the ball club improved dramatically over the course of the season and the experience he gained in his first year as manager will undoubtedly help him going forward.
The expectations will be even higher for the Nationals next season and pundits and fans alike agree that the pressure will be high for the Nationals to win the World Series in 2015, given that they could lose several key players to free agency next winter.
The 2015 season may very well be the Nationals’ best chance to bring the Commisioner’s Trophy back to the nation’s capital. But with the experience and success that he gained in 2014, there’s no one I’d rather have manning the ship than manager Matt Williams.