Davey Martinez endorsed the job Jim Hickey did in his fist year as the Washington Nationals’ pitching coach at the end of the 2021 campaign, a disappointing season for the club which finished in fifth place in the NL East. Hickey, Martinez said, “... has been great. Hickey’s voice has been heard. He does a great job of communicating with pitchers day in and day out.”
“I can’t wait for him to get these guys with him for another year and continue to work with them,” he added.
So that sounded like an announcement that Hickey would be back?
“Hickey will be back, yeah,” Martinez said, confirming as clearly as possible that the two of them would continue their working relationship after coaching together in Tampa Bay and Chicago before the manager brought Hickey on as the pitching coach in D.C. shortly after signing a multi-year extension last winter.
Asked about the rest of the Nationals’ staff, Martinez told reporters in a Zoom call during the final series of the regular season that he and Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo would meet to discuss the plan going forward.
“We’re going to sit down, Rizzo and I are going to sit down, and talk about all these things Monday. We got meetings going on this week, so we’re going to hone in on everything.”
Apparently, Martinez and Rizzo decided to make some changes to the manager’s coaching staff.
NEWS on the Nationals' coaching staff: Bobby Henley and Randy Knorr will not be on the major league staff in 2022, but will remain in the organization in player development, according to a person familiar with the matter. All other coaches have been given opportunities to return.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) October 10, 2021
Henley, 48, has been a part of the organization since the team moved to D.C. in 2005, after he served as a manager in Montreal’s system before the franchise relocated to the nation’s capital. He served as the third base coach under Matt Williams, Dusty Baker, and Martinez, with a season (2020) as the first base coach before he moved back across the field for the 2021 campaign.
Knorr, 52, was a manager in the minors with the Nationals. He’s served as a bench coach for the Nationals under Williams and Baker, and Martinez named him his first base coach for the 2021 season last winter.
In a follow-up report, Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty wrote that all the remaining coaches on Martinez’s staff, bench coach Tim Bogar, Hickey, bullpen coach Henry Blanco, hitting coach Kevin Long, and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, “... have been extended opportunities to return in their current positions.”
The one question mark, the WaPost writer suggests, is Long, who, “multiple people with knowledge of his situation,” said, “... is open to returning again, though he will consider other opportunities in the coming weeks,” after he looked around for a longer-term deal over the winter last year before returning on a one-year deal.
Long explained how that process played out this past spring.
“There were discussions going on and we were talking about — my contract had expired,” he said, “and I haven’t had less than a three-year deal in a long, long time, so that’s what I was looking for, and those weren’t out there, and it wasn’t something that I had to make a decision about. It really wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was one that, I thought that was going to be available, and with COVID and the pandemic, it certainly affected that, but I’m very grateful that I’m here, and happy that I’m back with the Nationals, and it’s business.”
Long said then that returning to D.C. was his first choice all along.
“I’ve built some relationships here and gotten close to a lot of guys,” he said, “... and again, we won a World Series with pretty much the nucleus of this club, so very comfortable in D.C., I’m very comfortable with the Nationals’ organization, and I couldn’t be happier that I’m back.”
Will Long be on board for the next stage of the reboot, with a different nucleus in D.C. next season? Where will the Nationals turn to fill the holes that Henley and Knorr filled?
As the WaPost’s Dougherty noted in his story on the changes to the coaching staff, these are only the latest moves for the Nationals this winter:
“In mid-September, the Nationals fired four minor league coaches: outfield and base-running coordinator Gary Thurman, Class AA hitting coach Brian Rupp, high-Class A manager Tommy Shields and low-Class A pitching coach Pat Rice. Three others — pitching coordinator Brad Holman, pitching coach Larry Pardo and Bob Boone, a senior adviser in player development — had their contracts terminated after refusing to comply with the organization’s vaccine mandate for non-playing employees.”
There were also some significant departures from the analytics department.
Rizzo acknowledged earlier this month that there would be changes throughout the Nats’ organization.
“I think that we’re certainly going to make some changes in the player development and scouting ranks,” Rizzo said.
“Just to get some new ideas and some fresh looks and some fresh set of eyes in there, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
“I think that 10-12 years with the same staff shows the cohesion, and then when you make some nice tweaks to get some new set of eyes and some new ideas it’s never a bad thing.”