A lot of people say that Memorial Day is when you can stop saying “it’s too early” and that the results are finally significant. Some people say Mother’s Day, some a bit later than Memorial Day, but I think most people think of Memorial Day as the time of the season when who is good and who is bad can finally be known for real.
Joe Sheehan notes today, however, that Memorial Day is no longer significant for those purposes:
Just go back a year. None of the four AL teams that led their divisions on the morning of Memorial Day (the AL East featured a two-way tie) would go on to win them. Two would meet in the Coin Flip Game, two others would miss the postseason entirely. Two AL playoff teams were under .500 at the time, and the A’s were nowhere on anyone’s radar. Go back another year, and it’s much the same: half the teams leading divisions would win them, half wouldn’t. MLB has worked very hard over the past 20 years to build a system that allows for maximum mobility between seasons, and they’ve created one that also allows for substantial mobility within them.
Old habits are hard to quit, and I figure that people will still be calling Memorial Day some sort of bellwether for years to come, but the wild card and attendant expansion has killed that, kids.
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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”