With the Washington Nationals continuing to struggle at the plate, Nats' manager Davey Johnson was asked this weekend how his hitting coach was dealing with the situation and the pressure of an offense that continued to fail to produce. "How's Rick Eckstein taking it," a reporter asked, "And is he in trouble?"
"He's not in trouble with me," Johnson responded, "I think he's a great hitting coach and I believe in what he teaches. He's the best I've had, [best] hitting instructor. But he takes it harder than anybody. He works harder and he does more than anybody trying to help people. But, we're still young."
After 98 games, the Nationals, as a team have a .240/.300/.383 line, and it's worse against left-handers, who've held the Nats' hitters to a .212/.274/.347 line on the year. In spite of Johnson's comments, and in spite of his protests according to a report from a former Nats' executive, the team made the following announcement on Twitter and in a press release just moments ago:
The #Nationals today relieved Rick Eckstein of his duties & promoted Rick Schu (formerly min.-league hitting coordinator) to hitting coach.— Nationals PR (@NationalsPR) July 22, 2013
One-time Nationals' GM Jim Bowden wrote the following on Twitter after the decision was announced:
The Nationals have fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein....MGR Davey Johnson was not supportive of the decision according to sources— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 22, 2013
Schu was the Nationals' minor league hitting coordinator for the last four seasons, working, as the Nats' press release notes with Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Steve Lombardozzi and others in his time with the organization. He replaces Eckstein, the now-former Nationals' hitting coach who first took the job on October 24, 200 and was the longest-tenured hitting coach on the NL East.