WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Mike Rizzo had to play the role of the bad guy on Monday, by firing the Nats’ longtime hitting coach Rick Eckstein, and replacing him with a “new voice” in the clubhouse in Rick Schu to help bolster a “stagnating offense.”
“I’ve never been with a champion-caliber ballclub that had so many players struggling and hitting below their career norms at the same time, for such an extended period of time,” Rizzo told 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny on Wednesday.
“This is a performance business,” Rizzo added. “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I stood back and did nothing.”
Rizzo rejected the notion that Eckstein, who had been the Nats’ hitting coach since Sept. 2008, was fired as a scapegoat for the Nats’ unproductive offense.
“There was rationale behind the firing, and hiring of Schu,” Rizzo explained.
“This is on the players,” he later added. “The players didn’t perform and I felt that the message was ringing hallow. Four or five years of hearing the same thing from the same person, I thought we were at a point that we had to do something to try and remedy the offense, and I felt that Rick Shcu would be that new voice, and new energy, and new dynamic in the clubhouse, and I made the change.”
While the idea had been on his mind for some time, he wanted to see if the offense would gel with the return of Werth, Harper and Ramos from their stints on the disabled list, but when nothing changed, he knew he had to try to make something happen.
“The offense just wasn’t getting it done so we had to go a different route,” he said. “I thought with a different approach, a different energy level and a different messenger, that we could jumpstart this offense.”
Finally, Rizzo unveiled the Nats intention to remain quiet on the trade market leading up to the July 31 deadline.
“I don’t think there’s a player out there that’s better than what we have,” Rizzo said. “This is the team we have. Remember, we’re still one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball.”