WASHINGTON -- Nationals manager Matt Williams faced off against his former skipper, Buck Showalter, Monday night as Washington opened a four-game, home-and-home set against the Orioles at Nationals Park.
Williams said Showalter -- who managed the D-backs from 1998 to 2000 while Williams was a member of the team -- taught him a great deal about the art of running a baseball game. The greatest lesson Williams learned during his time as a player in Arizona regarded Showalter's unwavering courage when it came to unorthodox decisions. And he pointed to one example that exemplified this rare and crucial trait.
The D-backs were facing the Giants in San Francisco on May 28, 1998. In the ninth inning, Arizona was on the field with a two-run lead, the bases loaded and slugger Barry Bonds at the plate. Showalter opted to walk Bonds on four pitches and bring home a run to cut the lead to one.
Showalter trusted that reliever Gregg Olson would retire the next batter even though his decision meant the D-backs could fall behind with just one single. Olson did his job and Arizona won the ballgame.
"It takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude to do something like that," Williams said. "What [Showalter] showed in that regard is that he had confidence in our pitching staff, he had confidence in our defense and he had confidence that that guy on the mound would get the next guy out."
Williams, a first-year manager, said there have been several times this season where a situation has developed on the field and he's recalled the approach Showalter used in a similar position more than a decade ago in Arizona.
"He was the most prepared manager I ever played for," Williams said. "This was back in a time when we didn't necessarily have the matchup sheets that showed what this particular guy is against that particular pitcher for his career. … But Buck always was prepared for any situation."