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Rizzo will “lean” toward new manager with experience

Oct 5, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT

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In searching for Matt Williams’ replacement, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo intends to place a significant emphasis on candidates with prior experience, particularly in the big leagues.

“Experience is always helpful,” Rizzo said during a conference call Monday afternoon to announce Williams’ firing. “It always adds a layer of expertise to anybody’s resume. We feel that where we’re at in our timetable of winning a championship, we certainly would lean toward someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major-league level. But … we’re going to be open-minded and look for the best candidate that we can that allows us to win a championship here in the very near future.”

This plan comes in stark contrast to the Nationals’ last managerial search, two years ago. Seeking a replacement for the 70-year-old Davey Johnson, Rizzo interviewed at least six candidates, none with prior major-league managerial experience: Randy Knorr, Trent Jewett, Brad Ausmus, DeMarlo Hale, Dave Martinez and Williams.

That won’t be the case this time around, with Rizzo conceding that Williams’ inexperience — he had only managed brief stints in the Arizona Fall League and at Class AA — proved detrimental this season.

There are only a handful of available former big-league managers right now, headlined by Bud Black, Ron Gardenhire and Dusty Baker. All three are likely to be considered by the Nationals; Baker expressed interest in the job two years ago but never formally interviewed. Former Astros manager Bo Porter, a popular member of the Nationals’ staff from 2011-12, is also available, as are former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

Prior major-league managing experience, though, is not a prerequisite for the job, Rizzo insisted, with time spent managing in the minor leagues a valuable trait as well. And significant experience on a major-league coaching staff, particularly as bench coach, also would be seen as a plus for a potential candidate.

That would open the door for the likes of Ron Wotus (longtime Giants bench coach), Martinez (Joe Maddon’s second-hand man with both the Rays and Cubs), Hale (who has managed at Class AAA and been on three big-league coaching staffs) and Wally Backman (long-time minor-league manager, currently with the Mets’ Class AAA affiliate).

“We’re going to bring in a group of people with diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and diverse skill sets,” Rizzo said. “I think that’s something we did not do last time. Last time we brought in managing candidates with little or no managerial experience. I think that we’ll have a greater pool of manager candidates this year, stemming from very experienced to limited experience, and really go through a process that gets to know the manager personally at first and then professionally and what he does on the field.”

The biggest-name potential candidate is one of the biggest names in baseball history: Cal Ripken Jr. The Hall of Famer spoke to Rizzo about the job two years ago, though he has always loomed as a fringe contender for positions like this, never shooting down the possibility but never diving headfirst into the mix. And given Ripken’s lack of any prior coaching experience at the professional level, he wouldn’t appear to fit Rizzo’s preferred criteria at the moment.

There does remain one in-house candidate in Knorr. Though the Nationals’ bench coach of the last four seasons and a member of the organization since the franchise called Montreal home was told Monday he was not having his contract renewed, Rizzo left open the door for a reunion. Knorr will be considered for the managerial position, and if he doesn’t get it could still remain on either the new manager’s big-league staff or in another position within the organization.

“Randy has been a source for this organization for many, many years,” Rizzo said. “He’s managed in the minor leagues. He’s got a great rapport, not only with the front office but with the players in the clubhouse. He would be a great candidate for anybody’s managerial job. … We have not ruled out Randy Knorr as a guy that we would talk about for the job this year.”

  1. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 5, 2015 at 2:45 PM

    Emphatic NO to both Dusty and Cal. Please… no…

    • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:02 PM

      Agree completely.

    • jfmii - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:13 PM

      What’s wrong with Dusty, other than age?

      • virginiascopist - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:26 PM

        I don’t know for a fact, but I heard he has a reputation of ruining pitchers, as in over-using them. I also believe he has had some health problems in the past and is somewhere north of 70 years old.

    • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:06 PM

      Totally with you.

  2. Candide - Oct 5, 2015 at 2:51 PM


    Does the fact that Rizzo fired EVERYONE suggest that maybe he already has someone lined up, along with a coaching staff? It’s not like he hasn’t had time to think about things and make some phone calls.


    • chaz11963 - Oct 5, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      I would think the new manager could choose to bring back any of those who were let go today.

    • natsguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:04 PM

      I imagine after his last 2 “beauts” of decisions Rizzo is on a fairly short leash. Ownership is going to want a lot of input this time around. Riggleman is probably laughing.

      • Doc - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:40 PM

        ‘.Ownership is going to want a lot of input….’ Really? How do you know that?

      • natsguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        If you had a GM who hand picked a manager who was a disaster and traded for a closer who assaulted the Face of your franchise you might want a lot of input before major decision 3.

      • natsguy - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:57 PM

        Hey Doc

        I have a brain and use logic.

      • jfmii - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:14 PM

        You saying Davey was a bad hire?

      • Dave - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:48 PM

        Riggleman quit. Why would he be laughing?

        Years later, we are still laughing at HIM.

      • rabbit433 - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:59 AM

        That’s right Dave……Riggleman is a quitter.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:06 PM

      That may be taking it too far, but I continue to believe it means he’ll go for an experienced manager who will be allowed to hire (insist upon hiring) his entire staff. It also suggests that he (Mike Rizzo) had lost confidence in the folks he had kept around (e.g., Steve McCatty). And given the way ALL components of the team played, that’s a reasonable conclusion.

    • NatsNut - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      No, I don’t think so. I think Rizzo might feel chastened enough to be very thorough this time.

    • Section 222 - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:59 PM

      Rizzo may have ideas on who will be the next manager, but I doubt he has someone lined up or that that’s the reason he fired the whole staff. I think he might have decided that keeping virtually the whole staff when MW was hired was a mistake, or he casts some blame on the staff for the performance of the team this year. Or, and this may be the most likely reason, he thinks that a new manager will want to/should be able to bring in his own staff if he wants.

      Nothing prevents Rizzo/the new skipper from rehiring some of these guys, if they are still available. (I think Tarasco is a particularly good guy to have in the fold given the work he has done with the outfielders. And Lucroy is a fan favorite dating back to Frank Robinson crying over having to leave him in the game to be stolen on at will.) McCatty has run his course. And so, probably, has Randy Knorr, sad to say. (Knorr should have been in MW’s face about Pap not going back out after his attempted murder of Bryce.) Sendly? I’m not sure, what do you think?

      • Prndcsportfan - Oct 5, 2015 at 8:05 PM

        I agree. Don’t forget this coaching staff was a common denominator on both “bust” seasons other than many of the players. The team was due for a change. Now changes the whole coaching staff if they don’t improve in next couple of years a roster cleanup may be in order.

      • janebeard - Oct 5, 2015 at 9:10 PM

        I also thought that Randy should have gotten in Matt’s face about Pap. That he (or SOMEONE) didn’t tells me that Matt wasn’t open to bad news. And that Randy (or SOMEONE) wouldn’t give him essential bad news is concerning.

        I thought McCatty was terrific with our guys. Maybe he gets invited back. We could always see Tarasco giving signs to the outfield from the dugout; he seemed on the ball.

        Matt Lucroy. I will never forget that night of Frank talking about him. Made me love Frank two times more,

  3. Travis - Oct 5, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    Randy Knorr is a guy who has been with this organization for a very long time who the players absolutely love playing for. I think he would definitely be the top choice in my mind

  4. JayB - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    Terry Francona can opt out of his current job…… Back up the truck with Uncle Ted’s loose change….it would be worth it

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      FWIW, Mike Scoscia has an opt-out, as well.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:33 PM

        In which case Jose Guillen might opine that it would be a garbage truck. 🙂

      • JayB - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:39 PM

        too soon 1a

      • jd - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:40 PM

        I don’t think you want Scoscia. Jerry DiPoto is still removing the knives he put in his back. Of all the names mentioned I think I like the idea of Dave Martinez best.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:46 PM

        too soon? i would bet half the fans don’t remember that incident

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:48 PM

        FTR, I didn’t say I wanted Scoscia, Just throwing it out there.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:16 AM

        ftr, I wasn’t calling anyone garbage, but rather making a (would-be) humorous allusion to Guillen’s voiced opinion on Scoscia after the pine-tar incident. (I know you got that sec3, but perhaps not everyone did.)

    • Prndcsportfan - Oct 5, 2015 at 8:08 PM

      Great suggestion. I was wondering what veteran coaches were “available” just like Maddon did to take the Cubs job.

    • NatsNut - Oct 6, 2015 at 6:13 AM

      Count me in for #teamFrancona. I can’t put my finger on a solid reason why, just a good feeling about the guy.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 6, 2015 at 7:30 AM

        Reader’s Digest version: Father was a major league player. Son was drafted by the Expos in first round. Contact hitter whose career was affected by injuries. Managed in the minors and experienced success. Did not do well as Phillies manager back in the day, but had big success with Red Sox, at least until #chicken and beer time came. Has had success managing the Indians. Good record as postseason manager.

      • NatsNut - Oct 6, 2015 at 8:31 AM

        Thanks for feeding me my reasons for wanting him, 1a. 😀

      • NatsNut - Oct 6, 2015 at 8:33 AM

        And don’t forget that Francona is bald, as good a reason as any.

  5. Steady Eddie - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    Anything less than a clean slate would tell any prospective manager that they don’t have a free hand, and would further raise questions for candidates about what other authorities are being or will come to be held away from them.

    Bottom line is that they need to do this to maximize their chances of getting the best they realistically can.

    From the coaching staff’s perspective, this is fairer than leaving them in limbo that they may or may not be canned at any point down the road and at least gives them more time to find something else. As well as the possibility that someone like Knorr might get called back by a new manager for continuity’s sake — but that has to be the new guy’s call.

    • fpa4356 - Oct 5, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      Those are all very good points.

      • Candide - Oct 5, 2015 at 4:24 PM

        Yeah, but my conspiracy theory is more fun. 😈

  6. Nats Fan Zee - Oct 5, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    Worth the read in retrospect:

  7. veejh - Oct 5, 2015 at 6:36 PM

    Wotus…..has been with a winning team in multiple WS winning seasons….under Bochy’s decision making….I like this.





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