On Saturday evening, I told everyone to stick a fork in the Washington Nationals. I knew that someone had to be held responsible for how disappointing the Nationals have been this season, but the Nationals don’t have the luxury of firing their manager Davey Johnson. He’s in his last season, he’s regarded as a legend in the game; he’s going out on his own terms.
But someone, someone had to be fired for this. You can’t fire the players, and no one wants Adam LaRoche. Today, the Nationals fired their hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
The most interesting nugget in the read is that Davey Johnson asked General Manager Mike Rizzo to fire him instead.
Johnson had been a staunch supporter of Eckstein, who had been the Nationals coach since 2009. “If you want to fire the hitting coach, you might as well fire me right with him,” Johnson said in mind-June. Even Saturday night, Johnson called Eckstein “the best hitting instructor” he had ever worked with.
Unfortunately for Johnson, the data does not support his statement. The Nationals are scoring 3.69 runs per game and have a team on-base percentage of .296 under Eckstein. Most Washington Nationals fans I know thought Eckstein sucked. There’s not a ton of argument against this. Bryce Harper looks like he’s regressed as a hitter.
Even if Eckstein was fine as a coach, you have to fire someone in an attempt to save your season. I believe this is the type of move that can spark a group of flat, lifeless players. If this doesn’t work, the Nationals are about out of options. They’ve lost out on Matt Garza, there isn’t a plethora of offensive help out there to be had, and even then the Nationals don’t really have a spot to plug anyone in.
Moves like this remind you that baseball is a business and that in this business if a team that was supposed to contend for a World Series performs this badly in the other direction, heads will roll. You just have to wonder how long it is until a guy like Rizzo (who is a mafia-looking figure to being with) gets whacked.