Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked about hiring Davey Lopes as the Nats' first base coach after Dusty Baker's introductory press conference in November. Lopes, 70, joined Baker's staff after five years in the same role with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2010-15). Rizzo spoke glowingly of the major league veteran and long-time coach, who'd also served as the Orioles, Padres and Phillies' first base coach (with a quick stop in Washington in 2006 as well).
"Davey, he's been a favorite of mine for years," Rizzo told reporters.
"As good of a baserunning coach as there is that I've ever been around. Several of our players have a real tie to him and he was a player favorite. When we announced that and told the players about that they were extremely happy also."
Bryce Harper was one of those players who was excited about Lopes join the Nationals and the possibility of running more this season than he has in the last two years.
"I think Davey is going to be a huge help for everybody on this team," he said earlier this week. "If he kind of taps me on the shoulder and says go, we'll see what happens from there."
"I wouldn't mind stealing a few bags this year," Harper added.
"But just looking forward to learning from him every single day, I think it's huge. He's a guy that has helped a lot of players get better at that aspect, so when we signed him I was thrilled. Texted [Jayson Werth] and said, 'Hey, I can't wait to work with this guy.' Definitely high praise from J-Dub about him."
Werth told reporters, as quoted by MASNSports.com's Mark Zuckerman, that Lopes was the "total package" and the "best baserunning coach in history":
"If you look at his stats on baserunning alone, he was a great baserunner. You can ask (Baker) about that, he knows. But the thing for me, looking at his numbers for his playing career, he stole 40-some bases when he was 40. It wasn't because he was fast, it was just his knowledge. That's him knowing things. That same stuff he knew later in his career that helped him steal all those bases is the same knowledge he's using as a coach to instill in his baserunners to give them the knowledge and also the confidence to steal that base."
The Nationals, as a team, got their first extended baserunning lesson from Lopes this afternoon in what was, according to reports from Viera, a 45-minute session with the veteran coach.
Baker was asked what it was that set his former teammate with the Dodgers apart from other first base coaches and why he was so highly-regarded as a baserunning guru?
"Well no.1, he was the best baserunner I played with," Baker said, "and no.2, he's energetic, he's a very cerebral -- the guy knows what he's talking about and he knows how to convey his message."
"He's a fun-loving guy, but he's a no-nonsense guy," Baker continued. "And Davey, you know, is the best. He sees things that other people don't see, different keys, he makes you aware and conscious of how to do it right and if you don't do it right, then he'll let you know you didn't do it right. Like I said, he was one of best baserunners I've played with. No, he is the best."
The Nationals, as a team, stole a total of 57 bases in 2015, the second-lowest total amongst National League teams, and were caught stealing 23 times... (though the New York Mets had the lest stolen bases in the NL and went to the World Series, so...").
Lopes stole more bases than the Nationals did last season three times in his sixteen major league seasons and was never caught stealing more than 18 times in a season.
Will he pass his knowledge on to the Nats and have them running more in 2016?