Nov 12

Williams named National League Manager of the Year

Nationals manager Matt Williams, who in his first season guided an injury-riddled team to the National League’s best record and its second division title in three years, has been named the 2014 National League Manager of the Year.

Williams received 18 of 30 possible first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to finish 29 points ahead of last year’s winner, Clint Hurdle of Pittsburgh. The Giants’ Bruce Bochy, Mike Matheny of St. Louis and the Marlins’ Mike Redmond rounded out the field.

In Williams’ first year as a major league manager, Nationals finished 96-66 and won the NL East by 17 games, despite injuries that kept starters Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, and Wilson Ramos out for significant stretches. The team’s original starting lineup was disrupted in the opening game of the season when Ramos broke a bone in his hand and did not play together again until July 1, when Harper returned from a torn thumb ligament. The group was intact for just three weeks before Zimmerman tore his hamstring on July 22, an injury that kept him put of the lineup until late September.

While dealing with the injuries, the Nats struggled to find an offensive rhythm early in the season, but wound up running away with the division in a post All-Star Game surge. The Nats lagged behind Atlanta for the division lead for most of the spring, but gained ground in May. They traded first place with the Braves throughout June and early July before taking the division lead for good on July 21, the day before Zimmerman tore a hamstring in Colorado. On July 29, their lead was just a half game, but the Nats built a comfortable margin by winning 19 of their next 29 games, including a 10-game streak from Aug. 12- 21 that matched the longest of the year in the majors. They put away the division with a 19-8 September, winning 13 of the last 17, capped by Jordan Zimmermann’s Sept. 28 no-hitter against Miami.

According to mlb.com, Williams is the first rookie skipper to win the award since Joe Girardi in 2006 and the fourth overall. Dusty Baker won in 1993, his first year with San Francisco, when the Giants won 103 games but finished second in the NL West, and Hal Lanier was honored after leading Houston to the NL West title in 1986.

He is the second Nationals manager to be honored by the BBWAA, which instituted the award in 1983. Davey Johnson was named NL Manager of the Year in 2012 after leading Washington to the city’s first postseason appearance since 1933. Senators manager Ossie Bluege won The Sporting News manager of the year, for both major leagues, in 1945, when Washington finished second in the American League.

Williams is the third National to receive a major postseason award this year. Third baseman Anthony Rendon and shortstop Ian Desmond were honored last week with Silver Slugger Awards as the league’s top hitters at their respective positions.