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Rizzo and Baker feel great about Maddux and Lopes hires

Nov 10, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today

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.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Nov 10, 2015 at 6:23 AM

    I cannot imagine a better coach than Lopes to work with the young players on the fine art of base running. I also love the fact that he is not a proponent of head first sliding.

    • knoxvillenat - Nov 10, 2015 at 7:03 AM

      I’m with you Joe, get rid of the head first slide and maybe you reduce the chance of concussion as well as hand and thumb injuries.

      • natsguy - Nov 10, 2015 at 9:19 AM

        Sliding is inherently dangerous if not trained correctly. It used to be that feet first was discouraged because of the proclivity of broken ankles. The Dodgers used to have Maury Wills come to Spring Training every year just to train players how to slide correctly.

      • adcwonk - Nov 10, 2015 at 9:41 AM

        The Dodgers used to have Maury Wills come to Spring Training every year just to train players how to slide correctly.

        And I’d bet any amount of money that Davey Lopes learned directly from Maury Wills.

  2. loudounhound - Nov 10, 2015 at 8:09 AM

    Any rumors on a bench coach selection?

    Off topic, but does anyone know where we can find concept drawings of the new spring training complex?

  3. veejh - Nov 10, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    This is shaping up to be a pretty good offseason so far. Now, figure out the BP, and the other holes in our team so it feels like Christmas day every day leading up to ST.

    • nats106 - Nov 10, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      Yep, right up until around April 15. 🙂

  4. tcostant - Nov 10, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Maddux was offer more than Bud Black’s first offer. He is a good get!

  5. loudounhound - Nov 10, 2015 at 1:58 PM

    Thanks for the links on the new spring training complex. The one thing I really hope they preserve is fan access. The Viera complex is a fan’s dream for the most part. The best ever was Dodgertown at Vero Beach. At other teams’ sites, and I’ve been to a few, fans either cannot access the practice fields or access is extremely limited.

    • natsjackinfl - Nov 10, 2015 at 2:17 PM

      Don’t get your hopes up. The Astros were about the worst for viewing practice sessions. I imagine it’ll be the same for the Nats at the new complex.

      We can hope, though.

      • ArVAFan - Nov 10, 2015 at 3:54 PM

        The article does mention berms around the fields for the fans to watch practice, so at least the architects had thought about it. However, the odds of there actually being grass on those berms by mid-Feb 2017? About like finding the 2016 WS trophy in Philly–or, finding Angelos’ dollars in Mark Lerner’s pocket!

        I think we’ll skip the first year in WPB, and wait for your first-hand report before going down (or not) in 2018.

  6. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 10, 2015 at 2:42 PM

    Not sure I can agree with the notion (in the original article, above) that Steve McCatty’s departure was the most surprising. While injuries were certainly an issue, the pitching staff as a whole underperformed. You don’t blame it all on the pitching coach, of course, but in a full-scale housecleaning there was no immediate argument that you keep Mr. McCatty.

    • TimDz - Nov 10, 2015 at 3:09 PM

      Maybe a case of it being time for a “new message.”

      • Doc - Nov 10, 2015 at 3:30 PM

        Yeah time for a new message. Blake Treinan wasn’t getting the old one. Neither was Storen, in the 2nd half.

    • jd - Nov 10, 2015 at 3:48 PM

      In my opinion Strasburg’s development was very spotty, JZimm regressed, Gio never found consistency and Fister had brutal year, Roark also went backwards. I’m sure it’s not all Mc.Catty’s fault but the overall body of work is not all that impressive.

      • Doc - Nov 10, 2015 at 4:20 PM

        Totally agree, jd.

        How much was the messenger, and how much was the messengee, don’t know. But it’s time to try a different messenger..

        I thought that Stras could have used a better technical approach sooner, if one were available.

      • letswin3 - Nov 10, 2015 at 4:49 PM

        But the person who got to Strasburg when he came back from his DL stint needs some recognition. There was something new in his eyes and in his attitude. It was like he had become a man, with a look of determination that I’d not seen before. A guy gets a hit, no sulking. A fielder lets one get by, or makes an error, no look of exasperation, instead “I got your back” looks. And then he would blister the strike zone. I’m confident that his confidence will make him an improved pitcher in 2016. I’ll admit that there was a point when I would’ve supported a trade involving Stras, but now I’ve becoming a fan.

      • jd - Nov 10, 2015 at 5:16 PM

        Here’s the conundrum with Stras. If he won’t sign an extension this winter to you approach it the same way you did JZim or do you make a move now while his value is still very high? I think I’d be inclined to sit down with Boras and see if something can be worked out long term and then if it can’t I’d see what if I can fetch a king’s ransom for him.

  7. raleighnat - Nov 10, 2015 at 10:26 PM

    Wish Stras was a long term Nat. I think we are going to need another frontline starter via trade or free agency to keep up with the Mets. I don’t think Gio, Roark, and Ross gets it done and there is still a depth problem.

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