Nov 12, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
The Nationals can’t begrudge Trent Jewett for leaving the organization and accepting a job as the Mariners’ new bench coach. Jewett has longstanding ties to Lloyd McClendon and wanted to become the new Seattle manager’s right-hand man, giving up his third base coaching job in D.C.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and the Nationals won’t hold it against Jewett.
But Jewett’s departure does leave Washington searching for another third base coach, yet again. If it feels like there has been a change over there every offseason, you’re not far removed from reality. Incredibly, the man who replaces Jewett will become the Nationals’ seventh different third base coach in 10 seasons.
Dave Huppert held the job in the inaugural 2005 season before being let go. Tony Beasley replaced him in 2006 but left to rejoin the Pirates organization the following year. Tim Tolman was Manny Acta’s choice to coach third base in 2007 and survived two seasons before former GM Jim Bowden forced a change and hired Pat Listach in 2009. Listach left for the Cubs after two years, at which point the Nationals brought in Bo Porter. Porter did a nice job during the 2011-12 seasons but then was named manager of the Astros, leading to Jewett’s move across the diamond this year.
That’s a lot of turnover for one coaching position over a decade. And the thing is, similar scenarios have played out at nearly every other position on the Nationals’ staff.
The Nats have employed five bench coaches, five hitting coaches, six bullpen coaches and seven first base coaches since arriving in town in 2005. The only position of stability throughout that time has been pitching coach, a title that to date has been held by only two men: Randy St. Claire (2005-09) and Steve McCatty (2009-present).
That can’t be considered good for an organization’s long-term health.
Mike Rizzo has talked numerous times over the years about establishing continuity throughout the organization, about establishing a “Nationals Way.” He has done an impressive job building up the franchise’s reputation, mostly through the scouting and player development operations.
Perhaps now it’s time to try to establish some continuity on the big-league coaching staff. It starts with the manager, who needs to be in this for the long haul. Davey Johnson wasn’t. Matt Williams certainly could be. It’s not far-fetched to envision a scenario in which Williams, currently 47 years old, holds this job well into his 50s.
Can Rizzo keep the rest of the coaching staff together throughout Williams’ tenure? That remains to be seen. Some use coaching jobs as stepping stones to bigger and better things, often with other organizations. But there have been plenty of cases of staffs staying together for many years, especially those tied to a particular manager. Tony LaRussa had Dave Duncan, Dave McKay, Jose Oquendo and others by his side in St. Louis. Jim Leyland had Gene Lamont, McClendon, Rafael Belliard and others with him in Detroit.
The Nationals certainly seem to be making an effort to build some continuity now, with the vast majority of Johnson’s staff (including McCatty and bench coach Randy Knorr) staying to become part of Williams’ staff. But they now find themselves in the market for a new third base coach. Yet again.
They can only hope the man they ultimately select will hold this position longer than any of his six predecessors. It won’t take much; all he has to do is survive more than two seasons.
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