Matt Williams was hired by the Washington Nationals to succeed Davey Johnson, making the five-time All-Star third baseman the first Major League Baseball manager directly linked to the sport’s steroid era.
Williams, 47, spent the past four seasons on Kirk Gibson’s coaching staff in Arizona, including the past three as third-base coach. Johnson retired at age 70 after 2 1/2 years leading the Nationals.
“I feel privileged and honored to be a part of this team,” Williams said in a statement. “It’s a wonderful group of guys and a great organization. I’m simply here to help take us to the next level.”
Williams played in the majors for 17 seasons and hit 359 of his 378 career home runs as a third baseman, the third-most in MLB history at the position behind Mike Schmidt and Chipper Jones. In addition to his All-Star selections, he won four Gold Glove awards for his defense, captured a World Series title with Arizona and finished second in voting for the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1994, when he hit 43 homers.
Williams, who retired as a player in 2003, was among more than 80 players identified as having connections to performance-enhancing drugs in the 2007 report produced by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2007 that Williams five years earlier had bought $11,600 worth of human growth hormone, steroids and other drugs from an anti-aging clinic in Florida. Williams told the newspaper at the time that a doctor advised him to try HGH as he sought to recover from an preseason ankle injury.
Williams takes over a team that missed the postseason with a 86-76 record, 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Washington, with young players such as pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper, had a 98-64 record in 2012 and made the playoffs for the first time since moving from Montreal in 2005.
“Matt has a wealth of knowledge and experience as a former player and coach,” Nationals owner Ted Lerner said. “But what most impresses us is his ability to understand and ably communicate situations and strategies in a disciplined, forthright manner. We think he is the right leader for a Washington Nationals team ready to compete for a World Series championship.”
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