I went up to the Harrisburg Hot Stove Dinner on Saturday night, where a number of Nationals front office executives had stopped by to help garner support for the 2011 season. My main reason for heading to Harrisburg, though, was to spend a few minutes talking to new Senators manager Tony Beasley, who is back in the organization after four seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Beasley was the Nationals' third-base coach during Frank Robinson's last season with the team in 2006, and had the same job with the Pirates from 2008-10 after working as a minor league field coordinator in 2007. It's clear already how highly-regarded he is in the Nationals' organization; Double-A Harrisburg is one of the team's most important affiliates, and the Nationals were only searching for a new manager because they promoted one of their rising managerial stars, Randy Knorr, to Triple-A Syracuse. That Beasley was the team's top choice should signal his stock in the organization.
Here's a transcript of my Q-and-A with Beasley:
BG: What brought you back to the Nationals organization, and what was the big factor in taking this job?
TB: Basically, after everything transpired in Pittsburgh (with John Russell getting fired) this year, I felt like I wanted to manage again. Managing is always something I've loved. Ultimately, I want to manage at the major league level. That's ultimately what I want to do. I felt like, being a third-base coach the past three years, I probably got a little bit away from that. I needed to get back into that. I knew I was going to probably be in the minor leagues somewhere this year. I was exploring managerial opportunities, and Harrisburg was a perfect fit. Talking with (player development director) Doug Harris about where the organization is going, what they've done in the draft the past couple years, obviously they're on the up-and-up and they're trying to do things the right way. That's obviously a situation I always want to be a part of, and that's probably the biggest reason I decided to come on board. And also, there are quite a few people within the organization that I'm familiar with. Being able to be comfortable in your working environment is always important.
BG: Did you have a couple other offers you were looking at?
TB: I had quite a few opportunities, and I did take some time and ponder what would be next. I had a major league scouting opportunity. I had some Triple-A opportunities. Then I had some other managerial opportunities, and I also had a roving (instructor) opportunity. This seemed to be the best fit for myself and my family. It just felt right, talking to Doug. You always want to work with someone you feel like you can communicate with, and there's respect both ways. It just felt like the right thing to do.
BG: The organization has acquired a number of high-profile players in the last couple drafts; you probably won't see much of (Stephen) Strasburg or (Bryce Harper) this year, but are there other players who have caught your eye?
TB: Really and truly, I haven't met anyone. All I know is the conversations I've had with Doug. He's really happy and excited about what they've done in the draft, and the potential prospects that they have. I do know in '06, when I was here, there was one guy that was talked about all the time, and that was Ian Desmond. Ian has turned out to work, but now there are an abundance of guys like Ian Desmond, or better. I know the organization's done some good things structurally - the people they've hired to work in the system. People like Matt LeCroy, who's quality. They're bringing on Marlon Anderson this year, who I know well, and I know he's a quality guy. Trent Jewett's over here, who I know very well. I know Spin Williams very well. Randy Tomlin is my pitching coach, and we were college teammates. There are quite a few people over here who are solid baseball people. I knew Doug when he was scouting, and I know what he's all about. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
BG: How well did you know Mike Rizzo in the few months you were here together?
TB: I met Mike; I can't say that we had much conversation, but I knew who he was. I remember when he came over from the Diamondbacks system, and he was highly talked about as a player-development guy. I knew who he was, and I knew he was well-respected. Just to see what he's done so far, and he's gotten the opportunity to be a GM, I think he's done a great job. They're headed in the right direction.
BG: Organizationally, so much has changed since last time you were here, but what's the biggest thing that sticks out to you that's different now from when you left in '06?
TB: I would say probably just more structure, and more unity. That's important. From my gathering, just the conversations I've had with Doug, I know things I've asked for, and Doug's been very open and honest, saying, 'If I do this for you, I'll need to do it for everyone.' There are no big 'I's,' and there are no little 'you's'. Everyone's in the same boat. We just need to make sure we're rowing in the same direction. I think we have that here. I'd be totally surprised if I got to spring training and found out any different.
BG: Managerially, what's your style, and what are the things you emphasize with players?
TB: I don't have a style, first of all, because I think if a manager has a style, it's more about him than his team. The style, I think, is whatever the makeup of your ballclub is. You have to manage that, and you have to get the most out of that. I just want to get the most out of each individual. Whatever type player this is, we want to make him efficient to be a major league player, and be productive being that type of player. Managing my time, I don't like to sit and wait for things to happen. I like to force the issue a little bit. I like an exciting brand of baseball. I like to run, and if I can't run, then maybe we can hit-and-run. But if I have a team that's strictly power, I have to put some of that on the back burner and let guys swing the bats. It just depends on how the team pans out in spring training. Whatever they dictate to me, that's the mindset we'll bring into the season.
BG: The mindset here the last couple seasons has been speed and defense; they've drafted a number of middle infielders here. Does that kind of excite you, seeing some of those body types that fit with that style?
TB: When you're talking about being more athletic and the defensive side, the pitching side, that's basically how you win games anyhow. But when you have guys that can be athletic and do some things, it's exciting. It's fun, because you know you have guys that are capable, and you have something to work with. As an instructor, that's all you want. You want some guys with some tools, some ability, and then you can instruct them and try to pull something out of it and teach them how to play. If you don't have it, it's hard to get a lot out of it.