Washington Nationals' President Stan Kasten Expects "A Breakthrough Year" In 2010.

Given the chance to select his own coaching staff, former DC Manager Manny Acta, in the winter of 2006, reached back into his past, bringing Rick Aponte and Tim Tolman, (both of whom he knew from his days as a player and coach in the Astros' organization), in as his bullpen and third base coaches, respectively; with Jerry Morales, (who'd stood across the field from Acta when the two were in Montreal, Morales at first and Acta at third as original Nationals' Manager Frank Robinson's coaches), coming in as Acta's own first base coach, and Robinson's Hitting Coach, Mitchell Page, Pitching Coach, Randy St. Claire, and former Braves' Bench Coach Pat Corrales, an employee of DC team President Stan Kasten from the time both spent in Atlanta, filling out his first staff. 

(cont. w/ the Riggleman Era and Beyond...)

The second staff was "seemingly" selected for Manny Acta. After the Nationals finished 73-89 in Acta's first season, he retained his coaching staff, (with Lenny Harris replacing Mitchell Page), but then the Nationals finished 59-102 finish in 2008, and most of the coaches (with the exception of Acta and St. Claire) were fired, with Mr. Bowden, Acta, assistant general managers Mike Rizzo and Bob Boone and team President Stan Kasten deciding to work together to select a new set of coaches for the '09 campaign. The DC brain trust finally settled on Jim Riggleman, as the bench coach, Marquis Grissom, as the first base coach, Rick Eckstein (who had ties to Bowden consultant Davey Johnson and was already in the organization), as the hitting coach and Pat Listach, (who MLB.com's Bill Ladson reported came to Bowden via Lou Piniella), as the first base coach, Randy Knorr, as the bullpen coach, and the Saint, Randy St. Claire defying odds to remain in his position...

Jim Bowden resigned before the season started. Mike Rizzo replaced him on an interim basis. St. Claire would lose his job in June. Steve McCatty was called up from Syracuse to replace him. Acta, of course, was fired in July. Riggleman replaced Acta, leading DC to a 33-42 record, and after the season, when he was promoted from interim manager status to full-time Skipper, he was given the opportunity to name his own coaching staff. Riggleman chose to bring Eckstein, McCatty and Listach back, (Grissom chose to return to his baseball academy, and Knorr and Corrales were reassigned) and then the new manager reached into his own past to tab John McLaren, who'd hired Riggleman as his bench coach with the Mariners in 2008, as his own right hand man on the bench in DC, with Jim Lett, (who, according to the Nationals' press release on the hiring, "...served as Dodgers' bullpen coach from 2001-04, where he worked alongside Riggleman," on Jim Tracy's staff), hired as Riggleman's bullpen coach and Dan Radison, who worked with Riggleman in his two previous managing gigs with the Padres and Cubs getting another job as his first base coach for the Nationals...

Riggleman told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as recounted in an article entitled, "Nationals' coaching staff in place", that, "'Basically, in no particular order, they bring professionalism, experience and knowledge. They bring some great attributes,' Riggleman said about McLaren, Lett and Radison...":

 "...I think they will be great additions. They have a lot of years of Major League experience, as well as Minor League experience. All three of them have done so many different things. They give us a well-rounded staff."

Will the Riggleman regime be able to finally turn things around for the Nationals. Team President Stan Kasten apparently thinks so, as he told USA Today sports writer Seth Livingstone, when interviewed for an article entitled, "Organizational report: Nats' young talent provides hope", that, in his opinion, there is reason for hope that fans of the nation's capital's favorite team might not have to endure another 100-loss 5th place finish: 

"'We expect next year to be a breakthrough year for us,' Kasten says. 'We still need pieces, and we're going to go out there and get them, whether by trade or by free agency...

"'...I haven't at all conceded 2010 (to others in the National League East),' says Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves. 'I expect to be competitive in 2010. I've already been with a franchise that went from worst to first (1990-91 Braves), so I know it's doable.'"

Is it possible? Will Riggleman and his coaches finally turn things around? Worst to first? Impossible right...only...9? Nine teams have done it? And, according to an article by MLB.com's Tom Singer entitled, "Worst to first: Rays pursuing history":

"...every one of them since 1991. Here's yet another motivation for closing the deal: Five of the precedents, hardly wilting in the ensuing postseason heat, wound up in the World Series."

Let's not get ahead of ourselves though...why not figure out who's going to play short in 2010 and then move on from there...oh, and, uh, Pat Corrales is back as a special consultant to the DC GM...

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