The Washington Nationals announced manager Dusty Baker’s full coaching staff on Tuesday, making the additions of bench coach Chris Speier, pitching coach Mike Maddux, hitting coach Rick Schu, first base coach Davey Lopes, third base coach Bobby Henley, assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones, and bullpen coach Dan Firova official.
Speier, 65, returns to the dugout as Baker’s bench coach, a role he served for six seasons (2008-13) with the Cincinnati Reds. Speier comes to Washington after gaining experience with six other organizations as a manager, coach or instructor, and after having served as Special Assistant to Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty the last two seasons (2014-15). A member of Baker’s staff in Chicago as well, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach from 2005-06, Speier spent the 2004 season as bench coach for the Oakland Athletics, coached third base for the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks, and served in the same role for the 2000 Brewers. Speier, who has extensive experience as a minor league manager and coach, played 19 years professionally. The three-time All-Star’s career spanned stops in San Francisco, Montreal, St. Louis, Minnesota and Chicago and included three postseason appearances
Maddux, 54, comes to Washington after seven seasons as the Texas Rangers’ pitching coach. During his tenure, the Texas Rangers earned four postseason berths, and Maddux was integral in developing many Rangers pitchers. Under his watch in 2015, Colby Lewis ranked fifth in the American League with 17 wins, while Yovani Gallardo’s 3.42 ERA ranked 11th. In 2014, his staff ranked second in the American league with 17 shutouts, second-most in Texas history. From 2010-13, the Rangers were one of just five clubs (along with Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, and Tampa) to post four consecutive sub-4.00 team ERAs, accomplishing that feat for just the second time in Rangers history (six straight, 1974-79). Prior to Maddux’s arrival, the Rangers had not posted an ERA lower than 4.00 since 1990. Over his first five seasons with Texas (2009-13), their team 3.94 ERA was Texas’ lowest ERA over a five-year span since 1981-85 (3.92). Maddux joined Texas after six years (2003-08) with the Brewers as pitching coach. There, he oversaw a Brewers staff that ranked second in the NL with a 3.85 ERA in 2008, the lowest mark by a Milwaukee club in 16 years, en-route to securing their first postseason berth in 26 years. Maddux served as the pitching coach for Houston’s Double-A Round Rock from 2000-02. As a Major Leaguer, Maddux was 39-37 with a 4.05 ERA in 472 games (48 starts) over 15 seasons with Philadelphia (1986-89), Los Angeles (1990, 1999), San Diego (1991-92), New York Mets (1993-94), Pittsburgh (1995), Boston (1995-96), Seattle (1997), Montreal (1998-99), and Houston (2000).
Schu, 53, returns to the Nationals for his third full season as the Major League hitting coach, his sixth with the organization. Schu, whose resume includes 18 seasons as a hitting coach and a nine-year playing career, oversaw a 2015 Nationals offense that ranked among NL teams in runs scored (3rd, 703), home runs (T3rd, 177) and slugging percentage (5th .403), as well as the emergence of NL MVP Bryce Harper. Schu, who was elevated to the Major League coaching staff on July 23, 2013, began the 2013 season as the Nationals’ Minor League Hitting Coordinator, a role he’d been in since 2010. Prior to the Nationals, Schu spent 12 years with the Diamondbacks, including portions of four seasons (2004, 2007-09) as Arizona’s MLB hitting coach. Schu hit .246 with 41 home runs and 134 RBI in 580 MLB games with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, California and Montreal.
Lopes, 70, returns to the Nationals as the team’s first base coach, a post he held during the 2006 season. The 2016 season will mark the 30th as a Major League coach for Lopes, who spent the past five seasons in the same position for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A highly-regarded baserunning instructor, Lopes was instrumental in improving the Dodgers’ running game. Since 2011, a Dodger has ranked in the top 10 in stolen bases three times, and the 2011 Dodgers posted a 75.9 stolen base percentage, the team’s second-best mark since moving to L.A. in 1958. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Lopes spent four seasons (2007-10) as the first base coach and outfield/baserunning instructor for the Philadelphia Phillies, appearing in the postseason all four years and winning a World Series ring in 2008. While with Philadelphia, Lopes coached current Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, helping him achieve back-to-back 20 stolen base seasons (2008, 2009) and an 88 percent (60-for-68) stolen base percentage. In each of his four seasons the Phillies posted the best stolen base percentage in MLB, including the best mark in MLB history in 2007 (87.9 %). In 2008, the Phillies also led the NL and tied for the MLB lead with 36 outfield assists. Lopes served previously as the first base coach in San Diego (1995-1999 and 2003-2005), Baltimore (1992-1994) and Texas (1988-1991), and skippered the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000-02. A 16-year Major Leaguer, Lopes’ playing career included stops in Los Angeles (1972-81), Oakland (1982-84), Chicago (1984-86, Cubs) and Houston (1986-87). Lopes appeared in four World Series, including a World Series Championship in 1981, as well as four consecutive All-Star Games (1978-81).
Henley, 42, returns for his third season as Washington’s third base coach and his 23rd season with the Montreal/Washington franchise. Henley, who has coached in the Nationals’ system for 11 years, served as the Nationals Minor League field coordinator from 2010-13 and spent four seasons (2006-09) as catching coordinator, as well as manager of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals. Henley guided the GCL Nationals to a league championship in 2009, posting a 36-19 mark before going a perfect 3-0 in the playoffs. He also served managerial posts in Washington’s system with Single-A Potomac (2005), Single-A Savannah (2004) and the GCL Expos (2003). Henley was selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft and made his MLB debut in 1998.
Jones, 40, returns to the MLB ranks as the Nationals’ assistant hitting coach. A veteran of 10 Major League seasons, Jones most recently worked in 2014 as the hitting coach of San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate El Paso Chihuahuas. It was his third season as a coach in San Diego’s system after serving the 2013 season in the same capacity with Double-A San Antonio. Jones joined the Padres in 2012 as the hitting coach at Single-A Fort Wayne. Selected in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft by the Minnesota Twins, Jones enjoyed time with Minnesota, (1999-2005), the Chicago Cubs (2006-07), where he played under Baker, Detroit (2008) and Florida (2008). He hit .277 with 255 doubles, 19 triples, 165 home runs, 630 RBI, 632 runs scored and 82 stolen bases in 1,302 games.
Firova, 59, joins the Nationals after more than 20 years of managing and coaching in the Mexican League. He most recently worked as a coach at the Pericos de Puebla Baseball Academy and for the past two seasons, he managed the Piratas de Campeche, earning postseason berths in 2014 and 2015. Firova’s most successful managerial stint came with the Tigres de Mexico City, where he won three Mexican League championships (1997, 2000, 2001) during his eight seasons (1995-2002) as manager. Firova was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft and made his Major League debut with the Mariners during the 1981 season. He also appeared in the Major Leagues with Seattle in 1982 and Cleveland in 1988. Firova played 13 professional seasons with Seattle, Kansas City, Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs, before joining the Tecolotes de Nuevo Laredo as a coach in 1992.
By Mark D. Lerner
Vice Chairman & Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals
Thanks so much for submitting your questions this past week. I always enjoy hearing from fans, and have always said we have the best fans in baseball! I plan on sharing on our social channels throughout the offseason, so I hope this will be the first of many conversations!
Let’s get right to your questions:
Why haven’t you cut Jonathan Papelbon yet? His act was embarrassing to a Nats fan. I will not attend or watch a game until he is no longer on the roster.
I knew this would be the first question, so let me tell you what our thinking is right now. This continues to be a tough one. The incident between Jonathan and Bryce Harper was an unfortunate and unacceptable blow-up between two very passionate players. Luckily, they put it behind them almost immediately. It was probably easier for them to do that because they know each other in a larger context: as teammates who both want to win. I know both players would love to have that unfortunate moment back. We have asked Mike Rizzo to determine what roster best puts us in a position to win a World Series. He will certainly do that based on talent, and what’s best for our clubhouse moving forward.
What are you going to do now that Jordan Zimmermann is gone and you might lose Doug Fister? Is Tanner Roark back in rotation? Or Lucas Giolito ready?
We are always looking to improve our starting rotation. The good news is that we have some strong young arms in our farm system that may prove that they are ready to crack the roster as starters. We also have stockpiled enough young talent all around that we have players other teams may want to trade in return for a pitcher or two. I think we are going to have a very interesting and competitive Spring Training in 2016.
Mr. Lerner –
Per Twitter, I am asking a question that my season ticket partner and I have had for years. Is the Curly-W clock in right/center going to get hands again? The clock was such a nice and what seems to be a relatively cheap feature. Also, what about the Curly W in the center field grass? I have read that the answer was due to it damaging the lawn but I am not sure I buy that. I had even put a Curly W in my backyard and tweeted it for encouragement. :) We have concert stages that leave marks.
I love the clock, too, but there has been an ongoing maintenance issue and I’m sorry to say it looks like it’s impossible to fix. I’ve been told the parts are just not available. It’s actually a pretty complicated issue, believe it or not, and we’re looking at designs to replace it with something else, no later than the All-Star Game in 2018.
As for the field, I think fans loved seeing the Curly W the same as I did, but players complained about the erratic bounce the ball made off the edges of the design so, of course, the groundskeepers stopped cutting it into the grass. Can’t argue with that.
Thank you for taking my question, Mark…It seems as though a strategic error was made last season with the failure to add the necessary pieces to make the playoffs. Mike Rizzo mentioned at the trade deadline that budget constraints were a factor in the decision not to add talent, other than Papelbon, who played at no cost. I can only assume that Scherzer’s $210MM salary had a lot to do with limiting the available budget, and you have his salary on the books for another 13 years. What is being done to allocate the necessary funds to on-field talent this year to avoid a repeat of last season? Thank you.
We will never go crazy on spending for spending’s sake, but I think we have a proven history of smart spending on talent we believe will help us win now and in the future. That really is our test at this point. We are constantly looking for ways to get better, and we ask Mike Rizzo and his staff to make honest assessments about the value of the talent available.
Will the Lerner family be willing to sign high profile free agent(s) this season?
I think the fans know we will never be shy about spending money and will never rule anything out. These types of investments — and they are truly that — are large-scale decisions that have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. But to close yourself off from any of those investments with a blanket statement wouldn’t be prudent, or in the best interest of the team. We have great trust in our baseball operations department and the guidance they provide, and we won’t close any doors.
The Nats refreshed the team’s uniforms several years ago. I personally feel the set has been a success for the most part, but also could be improved in some ways. How do you feel about them? Do you see any enhancements/additions in the future, or are you content with this set?
It’s funny, now anywhere I travel I run into folks wearing Nationals team merchandise – Curly W caps, jerseys, T-shirts. I think we have developed a pretty popular logo and brand. We are open to alternate designs down the line, but currently we are sticking with what is proving to be popular.
Can we have the interlocking “DC” return as a home/away alternate and is it possible to sell the uniforms and caps with the interlocking “DC” logo in the team store?
We are open to alternate designs, but don’t have any current plans to change the uniforms next season. I’ll share your request for the interlocking DC logo to be made available in our stores with the retail team!
I was born in D.C., raised in Prince George’s County, MD. I still live in P.G. till this day. I, like most D.C. area baseball fans, were forced to follow the Baltimore Orioles until we finally brought a team back here to our metro area. It’s frustrating to see the Baltimore Orioles post up billboards in P.G. County (BW Parkway right at the D.C. border, and 301) as if to claim the area as their own territory simply because it’s in the state of MD. P.G. County is a part of the D.C. area, as is Montgomery County, and has no connection to the Baltimore area other than it happens to be in the same state. My question is- What are you doing to continue establishing your territory on the MD side of the D.C. metro area? It just feels like we get less attention than the VA side of the DC area. There should be a lot more presence here. This is all Nats country. O’s country stops in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
As a fan who grew up in the Maryland suburbs, I know how strong our fanbase is there. Believe me, we are going to keep growing our brand throughout Maryland and the entire DMV. We are working to develop innovative ways to reach and keep those fans. Keep your eyes open and I think you will see some additional presence through our community relations and marketing.
Any big changes/new developments you are working on at Nationals Park?
We’re always working on enhancing the fan experience – from concessions to giveaways to seating options. Last season we created the private clubs within the ballpark, K Street boxes and Club 24, unveiled the Lansinoh Lounge for nursing mothers and hosted Jose Andres’ Pepe food truck – to name just a few. We have some great things being developed during the offseason, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise!
What’s being done about security at Nats Park. I want to feel safe at the ballpark. The security staff seems as though they don’t take their job seriously.
I disagree with your assessment. Our security is second to none. Most of the comments I’ve gotten about security – both from the perspective of friendliness as well as professionalism – have been very positive. If you have specific instances, you should alert the organization immediately using the in-park text messaging system. Our staff is very well-trained and we are vigilant about providing the best and most effective public security possible, as well as the best game-day experience.
Seriously, you should have interviewed me for the skipper job! What women do you have in your team execution group? You need us! I am available if price is right!! #womentowinworldseries
I am proud that the Washington Nationals have one of the best records in professional sports when it comes to hiring. We currently have more women working in executive positions in our front office than not only any other in Major League Baseball, but than any other team in professional sports in America. I do think we will begin to see more women breaking into baseball operations departments throughout baseball, and we will see women assuming high ranking jobs on the field.
Can you share your feelings regarding last season? The thank you letter to fans at the end of the season said “Our desire to do better – to be better – burns stronger than ever.” What do you view as the biggest issue that contributed to the disappointing season?
Our family’s goal is to bring a World Series back to Washington. We strive to be a playoff-caliber team every year. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to be that last season. But we are moving forward to next season and are excited to usher in the Dusty Baker era. We have put into place several other significant changes, too, from hiring a new coaching staff to restructuring our medical team and we’re hopeful that the 2016 season will be a great one.
Why won’t the Nationals pay to have Metro run late for evening games?
We’ve consistently said that as a world-class city – and the Nation’s Capital – D.C. needs to have a world-class public transportation system and that includes an extended hours schedule like every other major American city. Currently our fans contribute millions of dollars and thousands of hours a year to WMATA traveling to and from games during our 81 home games. That usage should be reflected in extended hours.
The construction scheduled for the new spring training facility is very ambitious. How confident are you that you will be able to meet the goal to open in time for 2017? And what is the plan if it can’t happen in time?
This is going to be such a wonderful complex for our team, our fans, and the Palm Beach community. We’re really excited for this new chapter for our organization and are happy to have such wonderful partners in the Astros organization. The new facility will feature Major League-size practice fields, minor league-size practice fields, batting cages and pitching mounds. The stadium itself will significantly improve the fan experience with 6,400 ticketed seats and 1,250 ticketed berm seats, as well as suites, party decks, concession stands, team store, a picnic area and outfield attractions. The Palm Beach location also has lots of flights to and from D.C. and features expanded hotel and restaurant options. It is an aggressive timetable. Our organization, and the Astros and our contractors are very aware of what needs to be done. The local governments and our new neighbors have been great and are engaged in working to meet the deadline to open our doors to fans for 2017’s spring training.
Why do you believe Dusty Baker is the right man for the job?
There was unnecessary confusion and misinformation during the hiring process because of so many false reports. We were thrilled to bring Dusty on board. He is a fantastic addition to the team and we are incredibly excited to see what he will bring to the clubhouse. He brings nearly 50 years of professional baseball experience with him – he is among the winningest managers in baseball history. He has deep postseason experience, both as a manager and as a player – and has produced seven postseason teams, including five division championships. He’ll help create a clubhouse focused on winning and he’s a lot of fun to be around. We think players and fans will really connect with him.
Many people have pointed out that MLB has had very few African-American managers. What are your thoughts on how baseball can become more diverse at all levels?
Diversity at all levels helps make the game better. We support MLB’s efforts to enhance diversity within the management ranks and believe it is important. We’re proud to have Dusty. Dusty is the best person to be our manager right now. Period. Of course, we are also proud that our most recent coaching hires have made us more diverse.
I see that NatsFest has been expanded to two days and now has a winter theme. Why did you make these changes and how will NatsFest be different this year?
We think everyone will really enjoy the new and improved WinterFest experience! Two days – December 12 and 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the DC Convention Center – with new winter-themed games and photos with Santa – and old favorites like the Kids Press Conference, Player Story Times and autograph sessions. Dusty Baker will be attending, as well as players. Tickets are available at nationals.com/NatsWinterfest – $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for $35 for adults and $22 for children 12 and under.
We heard from fans that the one-day only model was difficult given how busy families are during the holiday season. Expanding to two days gives our fans more options. We also looked at the calendar and realized that given the timing, it made sense to incorporate a winter theme along with fan favorites from previous years.
Your manager just made dismissive comments about allegations of domestic violence allegedly perpetrated by a former player of his. My question: what are you planning on doing about it, knowing that silence or a vague non-apology is not acceptable?
The Nationals and MLB take domestic violence very seriously. We support the policies the league has put into place regarding this issue. Dusty gave the eulogy less than a year ago at Darryl Hamilton’s funeral, whose death was tragically a result of domestic violence. He has personal experience with domestic violence, and seen the repercussions of it to those very close to him. He was in no way condoning or trivializing the allegations. Dusty was sharing his personal impressions of Chapman based on his experience managing him for the Reds, and commenting on the man he knew then. He has clarified that his hope was that Chapman, the Chapman he knew, had not committed the reported acts of violence.
The Nats had great success and overwhelming crowd participation when Take On Me was played during the 7th-inning stretch. Now, it seems it’s hard to get much involvement and participation has dwindled. Why is Take On Me no longer played and will you ever bring it back to the 7th-inning stretch?
Thanks for this question. We’ve heard from many fans that they would like a larger variety of songs incorporated into the game experience, so we’ve experimented with different things. We’re working on what will be played next season and appreciate your feedback!
Given Wednesday’s announcement by MLB regarding proposed netting guidelines, what sections will be impacted at Nationals Park?
We take the health and safety of our fans very seriously. We’ve been told by MLB that our current netting meets the standards proposed this week.
by Amanda Comak
The Washington Nationals acquired right-handed reliever Trevor Gott and minor league right-handed pitcher Michael Brady from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for infielder Yunel Escobar and cash considerations on Thursday.
A hard-throwing right-hander, Gott joins the Nationals after appearing in 48 games for the Angels in 2015, including his Major League debut on June 14 vs. the Oakland Athletics. The 23-year-old posted a 3.02 ERA and a 4-2 record in 47.2 innings during his first Major League season, striking out 27 batters and walking 16. Gott finished seven games for the Angels.
A native of Lexington, Ky., Gott has averaged 96.74 mph on his fastball during his Major League career – and touched 98.8 mph (according to BrooksBaseball.com) — as part of a repertoire that also includes a changeup and a curveball. A sixth-round selection of the San Diego Padres in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, Gott was a part of the package of players utilized by the Padres to acquire closer Huston Street in July, 2014.
In three Minor League seasons Gott was 7-7 with a 2.69 ERA in 108 games (124.0 IP). He finished 64 games and earned 30 saves.
Brady, 28, has compiled a 20-21 record and a 3.08 ERA over the course of six minor league seasons, spanning all levels (251 games, 385.1 IP). Originally a 24th-round selection of the Florida Marlins out of the University of California, Berkeley, Brady was claimed on waivers by the Angels in April, 2014.
Escobar, 33, hit .314 with a .375 on-base percentage and a .415 slugging percentage in 139 games for the Nationals in 2015. The veteran infielder started 134 games at third base and clubbed 25 doubles, one triple and nine home runs. His .314 batting average ranked sixth in the National League and his 49 multi-hit games were the eighth most by any National League player in 2015.
Acquired from the Oakland Athletics on January 14, 2015 in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard, Escobar’s lone season in Washington featured his highest batting average since his rookie (2007) season with the Atlanta Braves.
With the addition of Gott, the Nationals currently have 37 players on their 40-man roster.