Williams ready to help Nats put poetry in motion
New skipper shows a grasp of the game that will lead to good things for new team
The first week of March is not typically a time for baseball awards. But excellence must be rewarded in a timely fashion.
So we're awarding the best managerial quote for February, Grapefruit League category, to Matt Williams, the new skipper of the Washington Nationals.
The topic at hand in a recent post-workout session between the manager and the media was how so much of baseball can be considered to consist of "unnatural" movements. The very act of throwing a baseball often falls into this classification, explaining why pitching arms are prone to injuries.
Williams offered a conclusion to this discussion by saying: "Nothing is natural in this game. But everything is poetic in this game."
Williams then chuckled at himself in self-deprecating fashion for producing this piece of insight. But what he had said was, of course, substantial on more than one level.
We all go for the most convenient descriptions in this business, so early references to Williams in his managerial career will frequently include his nickname, "the Big Marine."
This suggests a structured and regimented approach to the game, and it is not misleading. Much has already been made of the fact that Williams came to his first big league managing job with a plan that covered every minute of the 41 days of Spring Training. This is not a man who will come up short on the detail work that his job requires.
Still, "Nothing is natural in this game. But everything is poetic in this game." That demonstrates something else. That's a larger turn of mind, and a broader sense of what baseball is.
Many people don't get to the point of grasping that, or at least attempting to verbalize it in a cogent, concise kind of way. In this case, manager Williams deserves credit for both the attempt and the execution. There is a simple beauty to the grand old game. Finding baseball's poetic aspects is not a reach. It is a completely fair estimate.
This sort of ability on the part of a manager will not automatically put the Nationals back on top of the National League East. But it also won't hurt.
Nobody said you had to be a wordsmith to be a successful manager. The biggest single determining factor there might still be the quality of your pitching staff.
But a manager who can relate to a wide variety of baseball-playing human beings is already on his way to success. It is very early, but Matt Williams is already demonstrating a knowledge of the necessary structure of baseball, along with a sense of the game's poetry. That is already an impressive range.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.