Two Nats Champions Arrive On The Coaching Staff in 2024. What Can They Doo?

The Nationals shook up their coaching staff this offseason and added two familiar faces to the team, both with championship experience. What will their roles look like?
Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals
Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

Not too much has changed about the Nationals since you last saw them. Unfortunately, there's a lack of new acquisitions to get overly excited about, and if you browse our ranking of new Nationals players in 2024, you'll likely be disappointed. As much as I enjoy Joey Gallo, he cannot deliver the 2024 Nationals to the playoffs, and neither can Nick Senzel. As the team rebuilds, we must look for other reasons for optimism in the Nats' camp.

The top priority for the Nationals, and any rebuilding team, is to find signs of progress that indicate future success. The team's young major leaguers are counted on to improve and prepare to help a future contending team. The team's veterans are only as valuable as the assets they could potentially be traded for. Minor league talent is coveted and built up as the base of a low-cost future dynasty that rarely materializes. The speed of a rebuild is largely determined by the ability of the organization's front office and development staff to make the right acquisitions and get the most out of young talent.

These are all areas where the Nationals have recently struggled. With no ownership change on the horizon to shock the system, the current rebuild is the only way out of last place. It has to work, and it has to work for a team that has increasingly gained a reputation of being behind on the times in terms of player development. All things considered, the franchise is in a position that very few other teams would want to be in (if they're interested in winning baseball games, that is).

You've heard these themes expanded upon before with pretty much every Nationals story. Each underwhelming acquisition, each rare sighting of ownership, and each quote from Mike Rizzo is a reminder that the organization does not have it all together. However, it is a new year, a new spring, and there is a key new face in the Nationals dugout. Enter Sean Doolittle. For good measure, enter Gerardo Parra, too.

If you had a dollar for every time the Nationals and the 2019 season were brought up by Nationals social media, by their giveaways or promotions, by Davey Martinez or Mike Rizzo, by any article written about the team, by any fan conversation, et cetera, you'd be able to retire next year. Well, here's your payment for today: Sean Doolittle and Gerardo Parra were key figures on the 2019 Championship team, and they were massive fan favorites. This year, Doolittle will be the analytics-to-pitching-staff whisperer, and Gerardo Parra will be the coach/hype man for any National that manages to reach first base.

In pretty much every conceivable way, this is a great move for the team. Even if the team is awful, it's great to have some familiar faces on a team that is almost entirely overturned from their World Series days. Most importantly, Doolittle and Parra are each incredibly entertaining and unique personalities. Even if they have no impact on the status of the team, they will provide a boost to the entertainment experience of Nationals games, similar to the times Ryan Zimmerman or Jayson Werth have shown up to the ballpark in recent years.

I'm prepared to go farther than seeing Doolittle and Parra as merely celebratory figures, though. It's fair to wonder whether they could genuinely improve the ball club, especially considering the team's coaching development staff has been far behind the cutting edge in recent years. For Parra, we must ask: how much is a good vibe worth? He was something of a clubhouse mascot as a Nationals player, tasked with keeping spirits high first and backing up the outfield second. Knowing Parra, there is no doubt he can resume his cheerleading duties with aplomb. It might be a cliché to say that his mastery of vibes doesn't show up in the box score but makes a real impact, but if it's said enough times, maybe it will come true.

For Doolittle, we must ask exactly how much his analytical experience can help the team. It seems like a heavy ask of a former player with no coaching experience to massively improve a weak talent pool. He won't be crunching numbers himself, of course, but he does seem like a great choice to be a communicator between the analytics department and the pitchers in desperate need of changes. Whether that analytics department knows what its doing is up for debate, however.

So what will he Doo, exactly? It's probably impossible to tell. If a Nats pitcher, any Nats pitcher, makes tweaks and has a surprise performance this year, Doolittle will likely be the recipient of some of the credit. If little to nothing changes, as seems somewhat likely for the Nationals low-upside rotation, Doolittle will likely still be lauded for his new role and behind-the-scenes impact. There will be quotes about it either way that reveal little. His skills will be unquantifiable unless he goes out and closes a few games himself.

Parra and Doolittle remind us of better times. Is the organization stuck in 2019? Well, no, because the team spent money trying to win back then. They do seem to hope their fans stay stuck in the past, but real fans only stick there because they know it's possible to get back there, to have a contending team, and to return to the World Series. It's not likely, but it's possible. One thing we know is this: Sean Doolittle and Gerardo Parra know what it's like to be on a Championship team. If any part of the organization is going to point us back in the right direction, it is going to be these guys. They can't do it by themselves, but they're definitely good to have around.