As their offense has languished among the worst in the game, the Nationals have made minor moves to this point — sending Danny Espinosa down, bringing up Anthony Rendon, trading for Scott Hairston and sending Tyler Moore to the minor leagues — but Eckstein’s firing carried a different weight.
Players recognized they cost someone their job — someone many in the clubhouse considered a friend. They recognized some sort of change was probably a necessity.
“Just looking at the offense we’ve got and the numbers, something’s not adding up,” said first baseman Adam LaRoche. “But it comes down to us. We’re the ones who should be sent down for a couple weeks. It just doesn’t work like that, obviously. Somebody’s got to take the fall.”
Added third baseman Ryan Zimmerman: “When you get to this level, it’s your job to hit. You get paid a lot of money to do our job, and [if] we don’t do our job it’s nobody’s fault but our own. … No coach is going to come in here and turn someone into a .300 hitter who’s not a .300 hitter. You are what you are. If we play like we’re supposed to play, then we’ll score runs.”
Schu, who was expected to arrive Tuesday, joins the Nationals’ staff with 16 years as a major league and minor league hitting coach on his resume, along with nine years in the big leagues as a player.
He was one of the first professional hitting coaches Bryce Harper worked with after being drafted by the Nationals, and he has a positive reputation in the organization.
So, on what most agreed was a difficult day, many tried to look forward.
“It’s not the guy’s fault that we’re not hitting and he’s the scapegoat right now,” infielder Chad Tracy said. “As much as I like Rick Eckstein as a person and a hitting coach, the decisions have been made and we have to move on. Now it’s time to move on with Rick Schu, and hopefully he can bring a new attitude that somehow lights a fire under us.”
Said shortstop Ian Desmond: “Rick was part of something really special here. With Rick, we got better, we continued to get better and we ended up winning a division title. … He’s done a lot of special things and he’s obviously a very good hitting coach. But this is a very cutthroat business and it’s all about what have you done for my lately. Unfortunately for him, he had to go.”