The third overall pick in the 1986 draft, Williams was originally taken as a shortstop but became one of the best slugging third basemen of all-time. Matt went to five All-Star games, won four Silver Slugger Awards and was awarded four Gold Gloves during his career. A four-time 100 RBI man, Williams was the thunder in the lineup for a number of years in the San Francisco Giants lineup.
Williams made his debut in 1987 with the Giants for Roger Craig’s first-place team. The Giants already had a young slugging third baseman in Kevin Mitchell so Matt spelled slick-fielding Jose Uribe at shortstop. Matt failed to get his batting average above .205 in both 1988 and 1989 but in 1990 he had his breakout year. Matt, who looked overmatched in his first three trials at the Major League level, flexed his muscles in 1990 by leading the National League with 122 RBI. He made his first All-Star team that season while also leading all third basemen in homeruns.
Converted full-time to third base–the Giants shifted Mitchell to left field–Matt flourished at the hot corner. He won his first Gold Glove in 1991 by fielding his position fifteen points higher than league average. He narrowly missed out on posting back-to-back 300 assists seasons. With the bat, Matt was just as powerful. He swatted 34 homers and drove in 98 runs. San Francisco as a team suffered through a power outage in 1992 as Matt’s numbers dipped mightily. However, he was the lone Giant to reach 20 long balls.
He bounced back nicely in 1993 by leading Major League third basemen in homeruns and RBI. A Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner, Williams teamed with Barry Bonds to give San Fran a devastating middle-of-the-order punch. The two sluggers combined for 84 homeruns and 233 RBI. His finest year came in the strike shortened 1994 campaign. Matt paced the NL with 43 homeruns. Awards came his way as Matt went to the All-Star Game, won another Gold Glove Award and also won the Silver Slugger Award for his position going away.
Off to his best year in 1995, Matt was derailed by injury. In 76 games, he hit .336 with 23 homeruns, 65 RBI and an amazing .647 slugging average. Although Matt suffered through an injury plagued ’95 season the Giants as a team were hit hard by the injury bug in 1996–Williams included. After two years of being henpecked by the injury bug, the Giants traded Matt to the Indians for slugging second baseman Jeff Kent, infielder Jose Vizcaino and relief man Julian Tavarez. The Giants made out like bandits since Matt played one lone season in Cleveland.
Matt’s lone year with the Tribe was a fruitful one. He led American League third basemen in homeruns and RBI. The Indians lineup boasted a trio of 100 RBI men in Williams, David Justice and Jim Thome. Those big bats carried the Indians into the postseason and on into the World Series where Matt excelled. In the ’97 Fall Classic, Matt hit .385 with 8 runs scored and an uncommon on-base percentage of .515. Despite Matt’s brilliant display, the Indians fell to the Marlins.
It was one year in one year out for Matt and the American League as the Indians traded him to the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks for third baseman Travis Fryman and left-handed setupman Tom Martin. With little protection in the expansion club’s lineup, Matt’s power numbers fell in ’98. The next year Arizona added outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley and Matt took off. He reached an all-time high with 142 RBI in 1999. With their newfound offense, the D-Backs went to the postseason in just their second year of existence. Matt hit .375 in a Division Series loss to the Mets.
The injury bug returned to the Williams residence in 2000 and he never again appeared in more than 106 games in any given season. Although he missed a heavy portion of the 2001 season to the disabled list, Matt was healthy in October and won his lone World Series ring with the D-Backs that year. Matt led all participants with seven Fall Classic RBI. A broken leg suffered in 2002 limited him and he couldn’t bounce back effectively in 2003, opting for retirement to close out his career.
G 1,866/R 997/H 1,878/2B 338/3B 35/HR 378/RBI 1,218/BB 469/SO 1,363/SB 53/BA .268/SA .489