In the third base coaching box and working with infielders, expect the process to be seamless. That’s because of the familiarity Matt Williams has with the Diamondbacks and a significant experience factor he brings to the table.
When third base coach Andy Green left the Chase Field coaching box and accepted an offer to manager the San Diego Padres, Williams, who was an integral part of the Diamondbacks’ 2001 World Series championship team and a member of the Arizona organization for 10 years (six as a player, four as a coach), became the logical choice to replace Green. After he was fired as manager of the Nationals last month, Williams said he fielded a number of calls to join other clubs. Though he likely could have landed in several locations, the call from manager Chip Hale and Dave Stewart, the team’s general manager, sealed the deal.
“I’m very familiar with the organization and coached several of the players currently on the team,” Williams said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “I’ve admired their ability, and now, I’m excited to do what I can to help Chip go where we want to go.”
Coming into this past season, Williams and the Nationals were all but penciled in win not only the National League East Division title but to capture the World Series. With high profiled players such as outfielder Bryce Harper, right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (who opted for 2016 free agency), outfielder Jayson Werth, right-handed pitcher Max Scherzer, right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg and infielder/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman, Williams’ Nats was supposed to cruise to victory. Instead, Washington finished with an 83-79 record and a distant seven games behind the division-leading New York Mets. As a result, Williams was let go and immediately, his name surfaced to replace Green.
“It’s not appropriate for me to comment on the Washington situation,” Williams said. “I would say injuries played a large part and I put all of the players I want to start for only two games out of the 162. The players and coaches gave everything they, had but we didn’t get to the ultimate prize.”
Taking over as the Diamondbacks third base coach, Williams assumes Green’s duties as infield coach. While Paul Goldschmidt returns in 2016 clutching his second Gold Glove and the Diamondbacks overall defense is considered one of the best on the game, Williams will work with Jake Lamb at third, Nick Ahmed at short and Chris Owings at second, to maximize their abilities.
As a principal solider in the Diamondbacks emphasis on sabermetrics, Williams is on-board with the importance of numbers. At the same time, he cautions about their use.
“I believe in the system, but you have to be committed,” Williams added. “If the information is used properly, we can be a better team. (Coach) Dave McKay does a great job with the outfielders and with the infielders positioned in the right spot, we’ll in the right spot to win.”
Once Williams was let out in Washington and Green left for Dan Diego, Hale immediately sought out the opinion of bench coach Glenn Sherlock, who, in turn, reached out to Luis Gonzalez, Williams’ teammate on the 2001 World Series team. All were convinced Williams would be an asset. The final affirmation was given by Goldschmidt, whom Hale contacted for an additional viewpoint. When Williams checked all the boxes, the offer was extended.
“Matt was the right guy for us,” Hale said later in the same conference call Thursday. “He has a great relationship with the players and he’s been through big situations.”
For his part, Williams said this is place he wants to be and responded immediately to the Diamondbacks offer. Like a kid in a candy store, Williams simply added, “I’m excited to be back and can’t wait for spring training.”
The Williams’ hiring was one of three Arizona coaching transactions Thursday. In addition bringing Williams back in Sedona Red, the Diamondbacks named Garvin Alston as their bullpen coach. Alston replaces Mel Stottlemyre, Jr., who resigned as bullpen coach. Stottlemyre is now the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners.
A resident of the Phoenix area for the past 17 years and a native of Mount Vernon, N. Y., Alston left the Oakland A’s as a minor league pitching instructor to move to the majors. The hiring also brings Alston closer to his family, His wife teaches at Mountain Pointe High School and his son, Garvin Alston, Jr., a left-hander, pitches for Arizona State University.
“I’m here to be (pitching coach Mike Butcher’s) right-hand man,” Alston said. “My aim is to have a great relationship with all the pitchers and do whatever it takes for us to win.”
In the third move, the Diamondbacks announced hitting coach Turner Ward left the team. With plans unknown, Ward was the Diamondbacks main hitting coach for the last three years and spent his last eight years in the Arizona organization.
“Turner was given a contract for next season but decided to not to accept the offer,’ Hale said. “It was an emotional decision and now we’re trying to find the perfect guy. At this point, we’re not close to replacing Turner.”
Hale indicted internal candidates include Diamondbacks assistant hitting coach Mark Grace, Greg Gross, the hitting coach at Triple-A Reno and Chris Cron, minor league hitting instructor. Hale pointed out the hour is getting late on finding a replacement for Ward and he would like the hiring process to be competed as soon as possible.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt has been named a 2015 Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award recipient for the National League. The award recognizes the players who were the best offensive producers at each position in both leagues as voted by Major League managers and coaches, Selections are based on a combination of offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, as well as the managers’ and coaches’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.
Goldschmidt, 28, is the first player in club history to win multiple Silver Slugger Awards. He also won the award in 2013. In 2015, set career highs this season in average (.321), on-base percentage (.435), slugging percentage (.570), stolen bases (21) and walks (118). He tied his career highs in runs scored (103) and hits (182).