WASHINGTON – Thanks to the pandemic, this has been a terrible year financially for many companies and organizations throughout North America – and the world.
And those challenges have hit Major League Baseball and now the Nationals.
The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli reported on Thursday that the team plans to trim staff in scouting, baseball operations, and research and development.
That doesn’t include Mike Cubbage, a long-time assistant to general manager Mike Rizzo.
Cubbage, a former standout at the University of Virginia, confirmed later on Thursday to Federal Baseball he was retiring at the end of this month.
“It’s official. I told Mike Rizzo in September; I think it was when they were home against the Phillies” Sept. 21-23, Cubbage, 70, said from his home near Charlottesville.
Cubbage, who played and managed in the Major Leagues, said he wanted to give the Nats plenty of advance notice about his plans.
The big hit in that game was by Juan Soto with the bases loaded in the eighth inning against lefty Josh Hader, a hard-thrower from Millersville, Maryland.
“There were some patterns. His fastball was his bread-and-butter pitch,” Cubbage told this reporter in April. “If you made him throw his fastball down it was hittable.”
Cubbage was drafted out of Virginia in the second round in 1971 by the Washington Senators after playing in college in the Valley Baseball League, in which he is a member of the Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year.
He hit .258 in 703 games with 34 homers in his career.
Cubbage managed the Mets for seven games in 1991 and later became a scout for several other teams before joining the Nationals.
He got his first World Series ring in 1986 when he was a minor-league instructor in the farm system of the New York Mets.
He is cousins with Orange (Va.) High product Larry Haney, who made his MLB debut with the Orioles in 1966. Haney’s son, Chris, also went to Orange and broke into the majors in 1991 with the Montreal Expos — who became the Nationals in 2005.
Before The Athletic story broke Thursday, members of player development in the Nationals’ system spoke of the uncertainty in the minor league as a whole.
“We just have a lot of great people here and they have treated us very well. If something bad happens we will deal with it,” Matt LeCroy, quality control coordinator, and the Double-A manager in the Nationals’ system in 2019, said earlier this week.
Brad Holman, the Triple-A pitching coach at Fresno in 2019, was moved to pitching coordinator in player development before this season.
“As far as minor leagues moving forward, I have no clue,” Holman told Federal Baseball on Thursday.
“There are a lot of rumors flying around and I don’t want to add to those rumors. Who knows what is going to happen. Everything is so up in the air with this” virus.
Among the names mentioned in the story by The Athletic for having their contracts run out at the end of this month were Patrick Anderson and Terry Wetzel – who like Cubbage was a special assistant to Rizzo.
Anderson was the long-time manager of the low Single-A Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League.
He was slated to be the manager of short-season Auburn of the New-York Penn League this year.
Baseball America reported last year that the New York-Penn League will be cut as the contract between Major League Baseball and the minors ran out at the end of September.
“We are in a bit of wait and see,” Mark Scialabba, assistant general manager, player development, told Federal Baseball last week about the upcoming minor-league season.
“There is no special date” on the horizon for when there is clarity on the 2021 minor-league season, he said.