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Nationals hitting coach breaks GM-imposed silence

Jun 3, 2011, 2:51 PM EDT

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Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo gave hitting coach Rick Eckstein orders to avoid talking to reporters for the past several weeks, apparently fearing that Eckstein would be too hard on himself about the team’s offensive struggles.

Eckstein finally chatted with the media yesterday and sure enough he was very tough on himself:

I’m going to blame myself. That’s the way I’ve always been. I don’t point fingers at anybody else. Where we were in a lot of categories were below where we want them to be. We want to go out and be able execute under any circumstances, and when that doesn’t happen, the first person I look at is myself.

As the hitting coach, I take every at-bat home. It’s something that, I think it through. I try to pick apart where I make mistakes. I try to make sure that every plan for each player is the right plan. I beat myself up about it. So, yeah, I do take it personally. When the success does start to show, I’m very happy for the player, because I know how hard they worked for it. But I continue to pick myself apart.

Fair enough, but on the list of Nationals being criticized for the team’s continued poor play Eckstein probably doesn’t even show up. At least not right now. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche have been hurt, Jayson Werth has been mediocre, and young pupils Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa have done well enough to cancel out Ian Desmond going backward in his development. And other than that he just doesn’t have much to work with.

In other words, Eckstein might not be doing a particularly good job, but there’s enough wrong with the Nationals that no one should be pointing fingers at him. Heck, Rizzo still thinks the lineup’s problem is lack of success with runners in scoring position even though they’ve been no better or worse in those spots than they are overall (which is to say terrible).

  1. halladaysbicepts - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Hitting coaches affect very little of what the players do at the plate. As a matter of fact, out of all the coaches on the team, they are the least important.

    Eckstein sounds like he’s about ready to jump off a bridge. Lighten up, dude. Your team just took 2 out of 3 to the Phillies. Consider your team lucky.

    • kopy - Jun 3, 2011 at 3:50 PM

      I don’t know. I used to play as much 1st base coach as possible for my softball team. All I would do is drink a lot and try to convince my teammates to slide into 1st. I suppose if you’re in the bigs you may have to collect a shin/elbow guard and give it to a bat boy.

      • rebarratige - Jun 3, 2011 at 4:18 PM

        “I used to play as much 1st base coach as possible for my softball team.”

        Please do not use the verb “play” to describe what a softball team’s first base coach does. It’s not fair to athletics.

      • kopy - Jun 3, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        I apologize. I suppose I used the word “play” like a 5 year old would say “make believe”.

  2. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 3, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    I dont think hitting coaches are a huge deal, but they can make a difference. Look at Kevin Seitzer in KC. The Royals dont do much good, but they do hit and most of the players credit Seitzer.

  3. sknut - Jun 3, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Hitting coaches can make a difference, see Young, Delmon when he listened to Vavra last year he hit with power and did well, when he hasn’t he has performed poorly.

  4. natstowngreg - Jun 3, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    From what I’ve been able to learn, Rick Eckstein is obsessive-compulsive about the art and science of hitting a baseball. So it’s no surprise he takes the Nats’ hitting failures personally.

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