PHOENIX - The Nationals’ 2013 season is over. “World Series or bust” came up bust.
One thing that’s strange about professional sports is how quickly the focus inevitably turns once a season ends. A week ago, the Nats embarked on a road trip still hoping to pull off a miraculous run into the postseason. Two days ago, they ran out their regular lineup and played a game for their manager, who was trying to reach a statistical milestone.
But after yesterday’s game, as the Nats packed their bags in the visiting clubhouse at Chase Field, their 2013 season having wrapped up, the questions shifted toward next season, and specifically, who will be on the coaching staff.
Davey Johnson has managed his last game with the Nationals, leaving that job vacant. And while general manager Mike Rizzo will take some time to survey a list of candidates and go with the guy he feels is best for the gig, many members of the Nats have already stated their preferred choice - bench coach Randy Knorr.
“I mean, I think it’s pretty evident that Randy and I’s relationship goes back a long time,” Ian Desmond said. “He’s been a tremendous influence on my career, and for me to say anybody else but Randy would be a lie. That’s who I want to see as the manager of this ballclub. With that being said, I wouldn’t ever doubt any move that Mike Rizzo made. Since I’ve been here and seen the progress that we’ve made under his guidance, the team’s only gotten better.
“Right now, I’ve been thinking about it, I can’t think of a move that he made that, as armchair GM, I can’t see a move he made that hurt our team. He’s done an unbelievable job and I would respect anybody that he brought in. I would respect his decision, but I as a player think Randy’s probably the best fit for us.”
Tyler Clippard was asked for his opinion on the managerial search, and while he didn’t specifically drop any names when discussing who he’d like to see get the job, it’s clear he, too, was endorsing Knorr.
“At the end of the day, where our organization stands right now, we’re gonna be in a good spot going into next year from a player standpoint,” Clippard said. “The clubhouse is in a good spot. The only thing I ask of whoever makes the decisions on the managerial side of things is: Don’t mess it up. We’ve got a good thing going on.
“We’ve got a good thing here. Hopefully, whoever comes in here next year realizes that and the dynamic of the chemistry that we’ve built over the last two seasons is a very important thing. I think somebody who is more familiar with the dynamic of the clubhouse is going to be more beneficial to the organization as a whole. So whoever it is, as long as they understand that, I think we’ll be fine.
“Who do I want it to be? I want somebody who knows the clubhouse. I want somebody who knows the players. I want somebody who has been here over the last three or four years and just has an idea of what this organization is building and where it’s come from and where it’s going. That’s what I want. So whoever it is, hopefully they understand that.”
As is the case with Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty’s job might be up in the air if the Nationals hire a manager from outside the organization.
McCatty has been with the Nationals’ organization since 2006, and has been the Nats pitching coach since June 2009. Like Knorr, he’s worked with a number of players on the Nats roster over the years, and has built up relationships and trust with many of them. Should Rizzo decide to make an outside hire when it comes to the managerial job, that manager might want to bring in his own coaches to work under him. And that might leave McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu and others out of work.
Clippard, however, voiced his support for McCatty, and he wasn’t shy about saying that the Nationals would be making a mistake if anyone else is the pitching coach next season.
“Cat has to come back,” Clippard said. “If he doesn’t come back, there’s something wrong. He’s got to come back. He’s been with me for a long time, but from a selfish perspective, that’s understandable that I would say that, but I think most importantly, he’s built up a great pitching staff in the big leagues. We understand what he wants out of us and we understand what we want out of him. There’s no reason to change that. I feel like we’ve been pretty good.”
McCatty, of course, knows the drill. He’s been around the game a long time and has been a coach since 1996, and while he’d love to be back in his same role next season, he knows there’s no guarantee of that happening.
“That’s up to Mike Rizzo and whoever they bring in,” McCatty said. “If he wants me back, I’d be really excited. If he feels he needs his own guy, that’s the nature of baseball. It would be disappointing if it worked out that way, but you never know until it happens. It’s what we do. It sucks, but it’s what we have to deal with. ...
“I don’t think you really know how much (the relationships with the pitchers) mean. I’ve had a lot of guys - (Craig) Stammen and Clippard, now Strassy (Stephen Strasburg) and Zimm (Jordan Zimmermann). You build up a lot of really good, long-lasting relationships. So it would mean a lot. Like I say, being in this game for as long as I have, you understand that’s part of it. It sucks. The life of a coach is not easy.”
It sure isn’t, and for now, Knorr and McCatty will have to sit and wait, not knowing what their futures are.