clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who's Picking The Washington Nationals' Coaches This Time?

In MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Acta selects his coaching staff", from November 21, 2006, the new Nationals' Manager says that he reached back into his past to choose some of those who would help him manage his first Major League team, telling Mr. Ladson:

"'It's a good mix of experienced people who are going to help me a great deal,' Acta said. 'We'll also have people who had a lot to do with my baseball career. These are people I had targeted a long time. I said if I ever had my shot, they would be a big help to me.'"

The two coaches that Acta had personal history with early in his career were Tim Tolman, who would be the Nationals' Third Base Coach and Rick Aponte, who became DC's Bullpen Coach, both of whom had come in contact with a young Acta in the Astros' organization, and had a profound effect on his professional development, with the Nationals' Manager telling MLB.com's Bill Ladson in the same article, that Rick Aponte, (who, Mr. Ladson writes, "...discovered Acta as a player in the Dominican Republic,") :

"'...taught me how to behave, how to act,' Acta said. 'He taught about being patient. He told me to work hard. He had so much to do with me as a person. He is like a father or an older brother to me.'"

Jerry Morales returned to the First Base Coach position he had held with Montreal a few years earlier, when Acta had coached third for the Expos, and Acta also retained Mitchell Page, who was one of two holdovers, along with Pitching Coach Randy St. Claire, of the Frank Robinson regime which had finished out the Montreal Years of the franchise and come along to oversee the first seasons in DC. 

The final coaching position was filled from outside the organization with Acta pulling Bench Coach Pat Corrales out of the Atlanta Braves' organization, where he'd worked for new Nationals' and former Braves' team President Stan Kasten as Bobby Cox's right-hand man for the previous 17 seasons. Corrales was excited, he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, because:

"'The Nationals have the same type of team when I started with the Braves [in 1989]. The Braves had a couple of young kids. We were able to build around them and build something that lasted for a long time.'"

The Nationals' new young Manager had surrounded himself with a wealth of baseball experience, as DC GM Jim Bowden told Washington Times in an 11/26/06 article entitled, "Acta Hires Staff of Veteran Coaches:

"'It's very important to have experience. With experience comes wisdom,' general manager Jim Bowden said."

Well all that wisdom is gone now. Mitchell Page left for personal reasons a while back, replaced by MLB's All-Time Pinch Hit Leader Lenny Harris, who was fired immediately after the '08 season, along with Tolman, Aponte, Morales and Corrales, with only "Teflon Randy" St. Claire and Acta retaining their positions with the Nationals. And this time around the decisions on the coaching staff will not be Acta's alone...

According to MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Nats begin search for new coaches", the decision will be a group one this time with everyone in DC getting involved:

"According to a baseball source, Acta, general manager Jim Bowden, assistant general managers Mike Rizzo and Bob Boone and team president Stan Kasten will be part of the decision-making process."

Of course it was another anonymous "baseball source" referred to as a "team official" in this case, who was quoted in a Chico Harlan post at the Washington Post's "Nationals Joural" entitled, "Change, in several forms", that angered Mr. Acta before the end of the season firings, when they were anonymously quoted calling Acta's assembled staff the, "...worst in baseball." Acta responded in Bill Ladson's article, "Nationals plan to alter coaching staff", with Mr. Ladson writing that:

"Acta pointed out that nobody on the coaching staff was criticized when Washington had a 73-89 record last year."

...and then Mr. Acta addressed the press corps himself, stating, as quoted by Mr. Ladson: 

"It's very easy for some of you [members of the media] to hide behind guys named sources, think tank, an opposing scout, a National League top executive and an official. I don't believe most of those comments, because any one of you guys can hide behind any of those guys. It's an old trick."

Some of the dismissed coaches seem to agree with Acta's thinking that they were not solely to blame for the Nationals' struggles this season, with Tim Tolman and Lenny Harris both talking to Washington Times' sports writer Mark Zuckerman's for a "Chatter: A Nationals Blog" post entitled, "Coaches' reaction, season wrap-up", in which Mr. Tolman is quoted, reasoning:

"'Baseball's not fair. It's been this way for 100 years. When a team struggles, there's going to be changes, and most of those teams will change their coaching staffs or their managers. That's just baseball.'"

Mr. Harris is a little more blunt in his assessment of the problems the Nationals had this past season, telling Mr. Zuckerman:

"'I had a wonderful time. There's nothing to point fingers about anything. This is what we had to work with, so we had to deal with it.'"

The only name being mentioned in any of the recent articles as having been given serious consideration thus far is former Columbus Clippers' Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein, who joined DC late in the season and was praised at the time by DC GM Jim Bowden in another article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson at the Nationals' official site entitled, "Eckstein joins Nats' coaching staff", in which Mr. Bowden says:

"'Rick brings a lot to the table. There a reason why Davey Johnson picked him to be one of his coaches on the Olympic team, because he is that good,' Bowden said. 'We have been very impressed in all aspects of his work ethic -- whether he is teaching hitting or whether he is doing infield. He is just a baseball rat, who loves the game. He is highly intelligent and well-respected by the players.'"

So if Eckstein ends up as the hitting coach, Randy St. Claire's the Pitching Coach, then Acta still needs a Bench Coach, which is the one job you'd think he'd have the most say in deciding, and First and Third are still open, so while the Nationals are going after that mythical "power-hitting first baseman" and a front-end starter? (What they didn't say that?), they'll also be looking to fill two more coaching positions before Spring Training gets underway in March. Departing Bench Coach Pat Corrales thinks the Nationals will be alright though, as he tells Washington Times writer Mark Zuckerman, again in Mr. Zuckerman's article, "Coaches' reaction, season wrap-up":

"...I think they've got a fine young manager in Manny Acta, and this organization is geared right now, I understand, to deal with the kids. If they go that way, it's a good direction.' 'It's not a good experience when you lose. We did some good things, a lot of bad things. Hopefully they'll learn from their mistakes.'"

(ed. note - "All the Lenny Harris-Haters have to be happy. No more blaming Tim Tolman for getting runners thrown out at home. I guess Jesus Flores won't be getting any more sage advice from Pat Corrales, but Rick Eckstein is supposedly responsible for helping Ryan Langerhans find his swing, and putting Kory Casto back on the organization's radar...and I'm sure there are some former Reds' coaches out there the GM Jim Bowden can bring in...What Barry Larkin already said, "No"? There have to be others, right?"