Nov 10, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
The Nationals’ disappointing 2015 season was followed by a long list of casualties. In addition to Matt Williams getting fired, they dismissed their training staff and did not renew the contracts of all of their assistant coaches.
Pitching coach Steve McCatty’s departure was the most surprising among that group. It is hard to blame the Nationals for wanting to clean house, but McCatty left D.C. as one of the more accomplished pitching coaches in MLB.
In his place has arrived Mike Maddux, who previously spent seven years with the Texas Rangers. Along the way Maddux coached Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels and was part of a team that won two AL pennants.
Maddux is a well-regarded pitching coach himself and his pairing with new manager Dusty Baker is something the two men first discussed two years ago.
“I’ve known Mike for a long time. His brother Greg played for me in Chicago,” Baker explained. “I had a conversation with Mike, I remember, two years ago. My son wanted to go to the game to see Shin-Soo Cho when they were in Oakland. I had a conversation with Mike at that time. He said ‘hey, I would like to be on your staff at some point in time.’ That put a little bug in my ear, but I didn’t even know if I was going to have a staff or that he would be available.”
Baker is thrilled to have Maddux in his corner, and so is GM Mike Rizzo.
“He fit a lot of the prerequisites that we were looking for in a pitching coach,” Rizzo explained. “Dusty had a relationship with him, and he really respected the way he did his business. He’s not only a mechanical expert with arm angles and tweaking of deliveries and that thing, but he’s a mental skills expert. He really knows the ins and outs of pitching. He comes from a great pedigree. He’s had great success, and he’s got a great résumé. He’s a guy that knows the whole gamut of the art of pitching. And he comes with a respect factor from the players that’s hard to beat.”
Rizzo went on to clarify that the Nationals did not hire Maddux before Baker was in place.
“It was a later decision. Michael, in his contract, he had an out, a window to discuss with other teams. We took that opportunity to discuss with him in generalities. And then later on when we made the Dusty decision and got Dusty finalized, Mike became a free agent at that time, and — after I talked to Dusty about it — he was the first guy I went after. We went after him extremely hard and aggressive. And in one day, he made his decision,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo and Baker also commented on Davey Lopes, who was announced as the Nats’ first base coach the morning of Baker’s introductory press conference. Lopes rejoins the Nationals after filling the same position with the team in 2006.
“Davey, he’s been a favorite of mine for years,” Rizzo said. “Several of our players have a real tie to him. He’s a player favorite.”
“Davey Lopes is a longtime friend and my daughter’s godfather,” Baker added.
Baker also said he will give Maddux and Lopes a good deal of autonomy on his staff.
“These guys do most of the work. I designate guys to do certain things and then give them the freedom to do their jobs. These guys do the work,” he said.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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