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Nationals fire hitting coach Rick Eckstein

Jul 22, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT

rick-eckstein-nationals Getty Images

Hitting coach Rick Eckstein is the first person to take the fall for Washington being one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season, as the Nationals announced that he’s been fired and minor-league hitting coordinator Rick Schu will replace him.

After scoring the fifth-most runs in the league last season the Nationals kept the lineup mostly intact while adding a new leadoff man in Denard Span, but they’ve fallen to 14th in scoring as injuries have often wrecked the lineup and Span, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, and other key contributors have struggled.

Interestingly, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com manager Davey Johnson “was not supportive of the decision” to fire Eckstein, who remained on the coaching staff when Johnson replaced Jim Riggleman as manager in mid-2011. Eckstein’s profile on MLB.com notes that he “has helped to establish Washington’s lineup as one of the NL’s top offensive units over the last four seasons.” So much for that.

UPDATE: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes that as of a month ago both Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo “offered double-barreled support for” Eckstein and Rizzo even “admonished reporters” for asking about Eckstein’s job security.

  1. nolanwiffle - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Now we’re playing some frickin’ hardball!

    • stex52 - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Yeah, because Eckstein doesn’t have a single hit this year. Oh, wait…….

      I think the correct term for this change is “cosmetic.”

  2. bisonaudit - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    Well, it isn’t like Johnson has anything to lose by expressing his opinion.

    This team is 8 deep on offense. The bench has been among the worst in baseball. That’s a Rizzo problem.

    They’re the worst base running team in the league. That’s a Johnson problem. But it’s a problem that exists on the margin and he’ll be out next year.

    Mostly, just about everything went right last year and just about everything is going wrong this one.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      You make excellent points. Rizzo absolutely failed when it came to the bench and the bullpen this year, and that would be the difference in perhaps 10 games over the course of a season. But Johnson has been the bigger problem, deciding to yank starters way too early and use the deficient bench and bullpen way too much and then, inscrutably, failing to act at other times when it was clear that he needed to take a flailing pitcher out or, crazy I know, use his bench for defensive upgrades or at least to play the r-l matchups. Davey just seems to me like he wings it all the time, and it has an actual cost to the team this year that I suppose he lucked out with and wasn’t held accountable for last year.

      Mostly, I agree that this looks like one of those years when a good team experiences some of the very worst luck, whether self-made or random.

  3. beefytrout - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:27 PM

    I have to think Magadan of the Rangers is on the hot seat as well.

    • deaninajijic - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:26 PM

      Add Eppard of the Angels, who got promoted when they decided Mickey Hatcher didn’t know how to coach anymore!

  4. lphboston - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    This was long overdue, and I’m surprised Johnson isn’t also walking the plank.

    The Nationals have been beyond helpless at the plate, and the team’s unwillingness to make changes has basically cost them a full season. The starters have to be completely frustrated. How many good games by Zimmermann, Strasburg and Gonzalez have been wasted?

    This should be just the start of a makeover. They need to axe Span, move Harper to center and bring in a power-hitting leftfielder. Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche are too easy-going and one of them needs to be moved and replaced with someone who gives a crap.

    Basically, this team needs a jolt of adrenaline.

    • bisonaudit - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      Span’s not the problem. People’s irrational expectations for him are. Johnson got it right when he moved him to the bottom of the order going into the break.

      They’re stuck with Werth and his bloated contract which damn near everybody in this town insists on defending. It’s been a disaster of Schneiderian proportions from the beginning.

      The more I think about it the more I blame Rizzo.

      • Reflex - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        You do realize Werth has been on fire for a month and a half now, right? He’s pretty much the only National consistently hitting. Was his contract too big? Sure. But he’s also a damn good player when healthy.

      • bisonaudit - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        Reflex:

        You do realize that this team has no one who can hit who isn’t in the starting line up. A little of the Werth money could have gone a long way to mitigate one of the worst benches in the league.

      • Reflex - Jul 23, 2013 at 1:20 AM

        At the time Werth was signed, the Nats had literally one offensive star(Zimmerman). You can go on all you want about the bench, but at the time the bench was the least of their concerns.

        I’m not saying that Werth isn’t overpaid, I’m saying its not even close to one of the worst contracts in baseball right now.

        Also, tonight was his second two homer night in a row, so yeah, get rid of the one guy who’s actually hitting…

  5. unclemosesgreen - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    God – that face – he’s David Eckstein’s brother.

    I bet the D’Backs could use a guy around the clubhouse with his kind of grit and Will To Win.

  6. psunick - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Nice timing for the new guy. The Nats open a four-game series today against the team with the lowest ERA in the league.

  7. deathmonkey41 - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    I often lobby for the Yankees firing Kevin Long. Just because he was handed a lineup of future HoF and current All Star players and turned them into a bunch of pull-happy hackers. Then again- I wonder how much input a hitting coach actually has on veteran hitters. Oh well, screw him and the horse he rode in on- fire Kevin Long!!!

  8. greymares - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    same guys that hit a ton last year, can’t hit this year so fire the hitting coach. It’s all about the players. this change is a joke.

  9. recoveringcubsfan - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    The Nats can’t win (nor can their fans): shouldn’t all the Phillies fans and Nats haters be on this thread, telling everyone how this is actually GOOD for the Nats since this is exactly the kind of “character building” misery that last year they insisted the Nats fans didn’t have yet? I’m just fighting illogic with illogic here…

  10. kicksave1980 - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:53 PM

    Talk about a thankless job title. When players are crushing, it’s because they’re good hitters. When players forget how to hit, it must be the ‘hitting coach’.

  11. natslady - Jul 22, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    Of course Rizzo and Davey vociferously expressed their support for Eckstein. This is a government town. You hear that, you start checking your retirement plan.

  12. sillec28 - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    What’s next, fire the third base coach if the Nats aren’t hitting enough triples?

  13. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Danny Espinosa is not impressed.

    In other news – Rick Schu is still alive? That’s great for him, but I lost my $10 bet

    • greymares - Jul 22, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      after he stopped playing pro ball i watched him play against a bunch of high school kids in a New Jersey tri-county league. where he actually could have used his own hitting coach. lol.

  14. mikedi33 - Jul 22, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    I wonder now what will happen with the teams that have 2 official hitting coaches, will they fire them both as scapegoats?

    • jwbiii - Jul 22, 2013 at 10:33 PM

      No, that just means that they have an in-house replacement who knows all the hitters.

  15. losanginsight - Jul 22, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    Thanks to The Dodgers pitching staff.

  16. luz56 - Jul 22, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    Davey Johnson should’ve been given his pink slip too… It was a bad hire the day they got him

  17. colv - Jul 22, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Good for Johnson sticking up for his guy. True leadership. Swing the bat players and maybe good things will happen. When Davie was in Baltimore and I was a kid I remember him as totally involved in the community and was honored to take some on-field coaching from him and other Baltimore greats.

  18. macjacmccoy - Jul 22, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    Mike Morse anyone?

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