At the end of the regular season, Steve McCatty was relieved of his duties as the Washington Nationals' Pitching Coach after seven years on the job (2009-2015) in the nation's capital.
McCatty, 61, and the rest of Matt Williams' staff were informed that they weren't having their contracts renewed after a disappointing season in D.C. which ended with Williams too being let go after his second season on the bench.
McCatty, a Michigan native, served as Detroit's pitching coach in 2002 and interviewed for the Tigers' opening this winter, though the job eventually went to Rich Dubee.
He talked in an MLB Network Radio interview this morning about his time with the Nationals, starting with the fact that now-former Nats' righty Jordan Zimmermann ended up signing a 5-year/$110M deal with the Tigers this weekend.
"I sent him a text message -- because I interviewed with Detroit -- I said, obviously I did a better job talking about him than I did myself," McCatty joked.
"I knew there was interest. Jordan's got great stuff. He's a great competitor. He's a quiet guy, so that's why it seems like he's a little bit harder to get to know or people don't know that much about him, because he just likes kind of laying in the weeds, but he goes out, takes the ball every five or six days and pitches."
Zimmermann finished his seventh season in the Nationals' rotation with a 3.66 ERA (up from 2.66 in 2014 and 3.32 career), a 3.75 FIP (up from 2.68 in '14 and 3.40 career), 1.74 walks per nine (up from 1.31 BB/9 in '14) and 7.32 strikeouts per nine (down from 8.20 in '14, but close to his 7.43 K/9 career mark) in 201 ⅔ innings over which he was worth 3.0 fWAR (down from 3.3, 3.7 and 5.3 fWAR in the previous three seasons).
McCatty was asked if it was a downward trend or just a case of the Nationals struggling as a whole?
"I think it was more just the way the season played out," he said. "I know he had a lot of stress on himself, trying to be -- in his mind -- the first guy with Tommy John surgery to come back and make $100M. I know somebody else was real close, somebody with St. Louis, but that's what he wanted to do. When you're becoming a free agent, you tend to go out there and you put a little more stress on yourself, you just can't relax as much and every outing is really critical when you're talking about numbers like that, so I think he did a little bit of that. There was a lot of pressure on him. But I also think it was just, let me say, it was a little bit of a down-year for him, his ERA was up a little higher. Health-wise, it was the same old Jordan. He had the little knots that he would get in his neck, but he went out and took the ball. We were a little bit of a different fielding team last year too than what we'd [been] in the past, so there were a lot of things playing on his mind that the numbers just weren't bad by any stretch, they were good, but not what everybody was used to, I guess."
Zimmermann was allowed to become a free agent this winter, and unless 2009 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg is signed to an extension before the end of the 2016 campaign, he too will get to test the market.
McCatty was asked if he was surprised where the now-27-year-old right-hander is in his development?
"Well it's hard to say that he's right where he's supposed to be just from the fact that he has such tremendous stuff, but there's a level that you have to learn at and he was set back with the Tommy John surgery and then he's had some other things that have sidelined him a little bit, but going into the year, I keep telling everybody, starting this season, he had a career [3.02] ERA in the big leagues. I'm not a former general manager, but you'd probably be happy looking at a guy coming on the free agent market with an ERA like that.
"So his numbers have always been outstanding, but the hype behind him was just unreal as to what he should be able to do. This year we expected, I expected, this was going to be a 25-win season for him, and he had a couple of injuries, but I just think the hype on him was so unfair that no matter what he does -- if he were to win 25 games, someone is going to come out and start saying, 'Well, he should have won 30,' and this and that. So I can't say he's right where he should be, because, yeah, he could have a few more wins. But other than that his numbers are really pretty good."
As for what he and Matt Williams' staff leave behind and Dusty Baker is inheriting?
"It's a good team," McCatty said. "It's a talented team, but there's some different personalities there, not that they're bad guys, but I've played with Dusty, I've known Dusty for a long time, and he being the veteran manager, a player's manager so to speak, he'll be able to talk to guys. Dusty likes to talk. He likes to have relationships with everybody, so Dusty is really good about that kind of stuff.
So I don't think that that's going to be a real problem for him. He's getting a real good pitching staff still. I know they're probably going to make some changes in the bullpen. They've got to fill in now for [Ian Desmond] at short and make some moves that way, but he's still getting a pretty good ballclub."
McCatty was also asked what's next for him?
"Sitting here. Always waiting and trying to find a job, hoping some way to get back in the game right now," he said.
"I know there's been a lot of changes, but once you lose a job, it's kind of tough to get another one back in the major leagues, and it didn't work out with Detroit, would have been great, but still just hoping that there's something out there that somebody will find me useful in some way to come back and help a little bit."