It was a bit of a jailbreak in the Nats‘ clubhouse following the game, with guys rushing to catch flights home and offering their goodbyes. Not every player was even aware of the coaching changes, a bit of a surprise.
All of the now-fired staff members said the right things, as did Manny Acta, who clearly took the news hard since some of these guys were long-time, close friends of his… “It’s a very tough day for me,” the manager said. “I’m a blessed individual. I haven’t had too many bad news in my life. Other than the death of my older brother (in 2006), this is the worst news I’ve ever had before.”
Some reaction from Tim Tolman, Lenny Harris and Pat Corrales…
TOLMAN “Baseball’s not fair. It’s been this way for 100 years. When a team struggles, there’s going to be changes, and most of those teams will change their coaching staffs or their managers. That’s just baseball.” “I walk out of here with my head held high. I feel like I did a good job coaching third. I got better at it, especially the last season. I enjoyed trying to eke out wins and help players. That’s the first thing you go through: whether I could have done anything different. And the answer’s no. No way.”
HARRIS “It’s just been an honor getting an opportunity to help them, and it’s a stepping stone for me, to be in the big leagues for two years as a hitting coach. It was a plus. All I did was wish them well, hopefully they learn from their mistakes and can get better for it.” “I had a wonderful time. There’s nothing to point fingers about anything. This is what we had to work with, so we had to deal with it.”
CORRALES “I’ve enjoyed my two years here, with the exception of not being able to win some more ballgames. But I think they’ve got a fine young manager in Manny Acta, and this organization is geared right now, I understand, to deal with the kids. If they go that way, it’s a good direction.” “It’s not a good experience when you lose. We did some good things, a lot of bad things. Hopefully they’ll learn from their mistakes.”
ELIJAH DUKES, ON LENNY HARRIS: “I didn’t look at him as a coach. It was moreso as a father, really. You see how he talked to guys all the time. Off the field, he’s just a really great guy. You can call him, he’s going to pick up. It kind of bothers me a little bit, not to know that we’re going to have him back, but it’s part of the game. I’m going to keep in touch with him. Guys like that, you always want to keep them around you.”
WILLIE HARRIS, ON LENNY HARRIS “I don’t know what (Lenny) did for the other players, but I had a career year. I owe a lot of that to Lenny, because he put me in a great hitting position and helped me with the mental side of being aggressive, not feeling for the ball, just going up there and hitting the ball. He helped me a lot with that, so I owe him a lot of credit for the year I had.”
WIL NIEVES ON ALL THE FIRINGS: “It always happens. It’s been happening, it’s going to keep happening, but that moment is sad, when it happens. Nice people. You’re just sad to see them go.” So that will wrap things up for 2008, a season best forgotten if you’re a Nationals fan. The final record: 59-102, worst in the majors. The bright side: They get the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft, so start up the Steven Strasberg talk. Thanks to everyone who has read us this season and offered comments, both positive and negative. I think I speak for my colleagues Ben Goessling and Thom Loverro when I say that we really do appreciate each and every one of you. We’ll obviously continue to update this blog throughout the offseason, so stay tuned. Enjoy the postseason.