WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – With the Nationals’ offense still suffering coming out of the All-Star break, and just 64 games to make a playoff push, general manager Mike Rizzo had to make a tough decision by firing hitting coach Rick Eckstein on Monday.
Davey Johnson, a guy who’s publicly defended Eckstein all season, didn’t take the news so well. You may remember his “if you fire him, you might as well fire me” comment back in June. He’s not likely to get over it any time either.
Jim Duquette, a man familiar with both Davey and the delicate relationships between managers and general managers, says things will never be the same between Johnson and Rizzo.
“I can tell you from personal experience, it does create a strain with the manager,” the former Mets GM told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny. “Because the manager is supposed to defend his coaches, and you’re basically taking the rug out from underneath him, and you’re going over his head and saying ‘I’m taking this upon myself. I’m firing one of your coaches.'”
And if Rizzo was looking for an immediate spark from the personnel maneuver, he didn’t get it Monday night. The Nats dropped a 6-5 heartbreaker to the Pirates for their fourth straight loss coming out of the break, to fall three games under .500 and a solid 8 games back from the NL East-leading Braves.
“Listen, Davey doesn’t take those things lightly,” Duquette went on. “He never has over his entire career, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a lot of arguing and bickering, and definitely the relationship won’t be the same.”
The Nationals currently have the 4th worst team batting average in the league (.240), and the third worst on-base percentage (.300).