Aug. 29, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (left) talks with batting coach Rick Eckstein (right) during batting practice before a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals Fire Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein

The Nationals announced today that they have fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein. Eckstein has overseen a Nationals offense that is 27th in baseball in runs scored after being 10th last season.

Davey Johnson, a longtime friend and supporter of Eckstein’s, was clearly upset about the move. “It was a shocker. I’ve experienced a lot of things in my career. I’ve been traded, I’ve been released, I’ve been sold, I’ve been fired. But today is arguably the toughest day I’ve had in baseball. I respect Rick Eckstein, I think he’s a great coach. I think he’s one of, if not the best hitting instructor in baseball. He’s just a great gentleman and a great man. So it hurts.” He even went so far as to suggest that Rizzo fire him instead.

Despite his emotions, Davey seemed to understand the need for a move, even if he felt that Eckstein was the wrong man to sacrifice. “Obviously I’m not in agreement with it. But I live by the adage that when you’re successful as a team, even the lowliest bird dog scout should get a lot of credit for the success. Everybody should share in the success. And I’m a firm believer that when you aren’t successful, everybody is in on the blame, too.”

Rizzo was very utilitarian about the move, and was nowhere near blaming Eckstein for the team’s troubles. “Rick Eckstein is a fine hitting coach. He’s a major league caliber hitting coach. A lot of this falls on the players. This is a players’ league. The players are paid to perform, and they haven’t. The voice of that, and the guy in charge of that, I thought we needed a different perspective and a different way of doing things.” Rizzo appears to have fired Eckstein simply for being in charge of an offense that has tanked, whether it is his fault or not. He cannot be blamed for wanting to change something, but firing people for the sake of firing someone can be dangerous.

Replacing Eckstein will be minor league hitting coordinator Rick Schu. Schu has worked with many Nats in the minors, including quite closely with Bryce Harper.

The move may reek of desperation, as any move in which someone is fired for the sake of firing someone. However, Washington Post sports copy editor Greg Schimmel had a very interesting and relevant fact. On July 22nd, 2010, the Philadelphia Phillies trailed the Braves by seven games in the standings and fired their hitting coach. They would go on to win the division by six games.

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  • Shawn Casey

    Hmmm so Rizzo fires Eckstein. My question… when is Nats Nation going to wake up and see Rizzo as the problem?
    To wit:
    Last year we had the best front to back pitching staff but instead of seeing Gorzi, Sean Burnnett, John Lannam in the lineup…Rizzy kept Zack Duke and Henri Rodriguez and brought in the waaaaaay over priced Dan Haren. True Lannam has been hurt this year but so has Haren at a much steeper price.
    Instead of seeing the Beast in the line-up, Rizzy traded for Denard Span who is proving to be a waaaaay overpriced Roger Bernadina (great defense but couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat). Instead of keeping the Beast you keep LaRoche again a great glove but one of the streakiest hitters in the league. Do you see the chain reaction of the Span deal?
    Then last season Rizzy signed Ryan Zimmerman to a huge deal that is truly paying dividends. Don’t get me wrong I love Zim but last season with the injuries and this season with the errors and consistent hitting into DP’s…it appears this contract will be an albatross, which leads me too…Jason Werth. True he is the hottest Nat, but fans don’t be prisoners of the moment, year 1 abhorent season, year 2 injured missed 1/2, this season injured again but doing better but is he Werth (see how I did it) the contract? The jury is still out. Other great Rizzies include the oft injured Wilson Ramos…other than his first week back he’s been quite ordinary. Our wonderful bench (goon squad) they should be called the goonie squad and how does Rizzy fix this huge problem? Scott Hairston! WOW!
    The only trade I see that Rizzy got right was Gio…hopefully he won’t be banned for the rest of the season…his name is on the list no matter what his daddy says.
    So what say you Nats fans?