Baker, Williams have special bond

Baker, Williams have special bond

PHOENIX -- During the offseason, while they were both still searching for jobs in baseball this season, Dusty Baker and Matt Williams spoke over the phone several times.

Baker wanted to check with his Williams before he called the Nationals about throwing his name into the running for their managerial opening -- something he said he would not have done had Williams felt like Baker was "stabbing him in the back." And Williams told Baker about an opportunity with the D-backs, one that Baker urged him to take in order to get back on his feet right away after his first managerial experience ended when Washington let him go after the 2015 season.

"He counseled me, too, and we counsel each other," Baker said in his office in the visitor's clubhouse at Chase Field on Tuesday. "Because I was going through some changes, too. I was trying to figure out why I couldn't get a job."

This three-game series between the Nationals and D-backs is the first time Williams, now Arizona's third-base coach, has matched up with Washington since he was fired.

In two years as the Nationals manager, Williams accumulated a record of 179-145, winning the National League East and winning the NL Manager of the Year Award in 2014. But the '15 season was a disappointment for the Nationals, who entered with heightened expectations before missing the postseason. Combine that with turmoil reportedly throughout the clubhouse and a dugout fight between NL MVP Bryce Harper and closer Jonathan Papelbon and the fallout resulted in Williams losing his job.

"You don't throw anything away. Each experience is unique, in and of itself," Williams said. "So, yeah, every time you go out on the field, there's something you can learn."

He added that he did not have any lingering thoughts about the job in Washington or how things ended.

"No. I'm proud to be part of this organization," he said. "As I've said many, many times, I respect everybody that puts on that opposing uniform over there. I respect them for their abilities and for their work ethic and for the way they go about it. So taking that forward is certainly a benefit for me."

Williams said he would like to manage again, if the opportunity presented itself.

But for now he is content in his role with the D-backs, where he has the chance to participate in parts of the game he enjoys, such as hitting grounders off a fungo bat and throwing batting practice. He played six seasons in Arizona from 2008-2003, and was a part of the World Series championship team in 2001. His home and family are here.

"I suggested that [Williams] take the job and get back on the field," Baker said. "When you get fired, especially in your first job and there's a very short tenure, your feelings are hurt. Or you feel kind of like a failure for whatever reason. These guys are human. ... It's not a very good feeling."

Baker and Williams have known each other since they were both members of the Giants in 1988. That was Baker's first year on the coaching staff, as the first-base coach. He became the hitting coach the next season and he was promoted to manager in 1993. Williams was just getting started with his career and credited Baker for teaching him how to be a big leaguer and called their friendship a "special bond."

"He's one of my -- you're not supposed to have favorites-- but he's one of my favorites," Baker said.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.