First-year manager Matt Williams guided the Washington Nationals to a 17-game triumph in the National League East in 2014. It was a major turnaround for the talent-laden squad and was enough to earn the longtime third baseman National League Manager of the Year honors.

Major League Baseball passed along word of Williams’ honor:

Scott Miller of Bleacher Report passed along the final voting:

John Canzano of The Oregonian weighed in on Williams winning the honor:

In 2013, the Nationals were a popular World Series pick out of the NL. Instead, they finished with 86 wins, 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves and out of the playoffs. Two-time Manager of the Year Davey Johnson (1997, 2012) announced his retirement after the campaign.

Instead of going with another proven skipper, Washington opted to give Williams his first crack at leading a team from the dugout.

The Nats proceeded to post the best record in the National League at 96-66. The question for voters was whether it was simply the players realizing their potential or Williams’ leadership that made the difference.

Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post provided comments from veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche, who praised his manager’s efforts:

It’s hard to say when you’re in the middle of it, but he was huge. He had a great combination of knowing when to get fired up and keeping that mentality of when he was a player, and knowing when to come in and drop a joke and knowing when somebody needed a break and when to lighten the mood. He’s been huge for us. He had the respect of the guys in spring training because of what he did as a player, and I think he’s earned the respect as a manager and leader of this team. That says a lot.

On the flip side, Williams benefited from a strong lineup thanks in large part to a breakout season from Anthony Rendon, who slashed .287/.351/.473 to go with 21 home runs and 17 stolen bases. Getting more than 30 starts from both Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann also played a huge role.

The roster clearly featured enough talent; he just had to push the right buttons. For the most part, he did exactly that, which is impressive for a rookie manager.

Now, he’s being rewarded for it. Along with the BBWAA award, he previously won Sporting News‘ NL Manager of the Year Award.

The role isn’t going to get any easier for Williams. He did a terrific job of stepping right in to make the Nationals contenders. Now, the task is keeping them there on an annual basis and eventually winning a championship.

Expectations are only going to increase. The team won almost 100 games despite only middling production from Bryce Harper. If he takes that next step, which is fully expected as one of the league’s most promising young players, the sky’s truly the limit for Washington.

Williams has to make sure the team keeps moving forward. It’s normally easier for a manager to get his message across at the outset. But with each passing season, it takes a little more effort since players have heard it before.

Winning the Manager of the Year Award caps a successful first season at the helm for Williams. There’s plenty of work on the horizon, however, so he’s probably already thinking about 2015.

In the American League, Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles took home the managerial honor, per MASN:

The O’s won 96 games en route to the AL East title and a trip to the American League Championship Series this season, and they return a strong core to make another postseason push in 2015.


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