It’s not just manager Dusty Baker who will not return to the Nationals next season. The contracts of his entire coaching staff will not be renewed, allowing for whoever replaces Baker to choose his own coaches.
Pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Rick Schu, bench coach Chris Speier, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Bobby Henley, bullpen coach Dan Firova and assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones won’t be retained, the team announced Friday.
President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo said the new manager will have the right to make the decision on his coaching staff.
“As we do with all these decisions, there will be a team decision,” said Rizzo. “The decision of manager will obviously have a great impact on who we hire. It will be a group, team decision that is for the betterment of the organization.”
Maddux would appear to be a candidate for the Nats’ managerial vacancy and will likely get several calls from teams searching for a new pitching coach. Baker deferred to Maddux on most pitching decisions, often telling reporters asking pitching questions that they’d have to check with Maddux.
Speier was on Baker’s coaching staffs with the Reds and Cubs. Lopes was a longtime teammate of Baker on the Dodgers. Schu and Henley were inherited from Matt Williams’ staff when Baker took over the Nats two seasons ago. Firova was a longtime manager in the Mexican League.
Jones played for Baker when he managed the Cubs. But Jones was suspended with pay by the Nationals just as the postseason began pending the investigation into a legal matter and was unlikely to return even if Baker had gotten an extension.
I am told some of these coaches could resurface as coaches or coordinators in the Nats’ minor league system. Schu was the Nats’ minor league hitting coordinator at one time. Henley also has a great deal of experience managing in the Nats system and has also served as a catching coordinator and a minor league field coordinator.
The club fell to Chicago in Game 5 of the National League Division Series last Thursday night. Rizzo said players were not consulted this week on the decision to not bring back Baker.
“You were in the clubhouse that night,” Rizzo said during a conference call Friday afternoon. “The last thing we were talking about and thinking about was these types of issues. No, we didn’t take any advice or have any comments about the players about this.”
Rizzo made it clear Friday that he believes the Nats are still a very young franchise and that these tough playoff losses have come in a very short period of time. He believes the Nationals still have a lot of success ahead of them, especially with the 2018 roster looking very similar to the club that won 97 games this season.
“Let’s not forget that what we’re talking about here is a team that has had a lot of success in a very, very short period of time, “Rizzo said. “Let’s not gloss over the fact that, yes, we’ve won a lot of games, we’ve won four divisions and we’ve only been in existence under the Lerners’ regime since 2006. We’ve won a lot of games and a lot of division titles and a lot of success in a very, very short period of time. When people compare us to the other teams - the Cardinals, the Dodgers and the Cubs and the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, that type of group - we’re in our infancy still.”
“Our goal has never wavered,” Rizzo said. “We’re laser focused on creating a team, an atmosphere and a culture that allows us to win a world championship for the D.C. fans and to have a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”