Bill Ladson of MLB.com has a story up about how the Nationals have a new offensive identity this year. The crux of it: Davey Johnson — unlike seemingly every broadcaster you’ve ever heard — is NOT a fan of his hitters always trying to take the ball the other way. Rather, he wants his hitters to pull the ball if they get busted inside rather than seek out those “good piece of hitting” pats on the head.
But in saying so, he quite clearly criticized his predecessor, Jim Riggleman, for emphasizing that approach, noting that it’s not his philosophy, nor is it the philosophy of Rick Eckstein, the hitting coach under both of them:
“I think the regime before liked everybody to go the other way. We really couldn’t handle fastballs [inside]. We didn’t hit the ball where it was pitched. We have the talent to hit the ball where it was pitched, but we were a little defensive. … We had the book on us. … ‘Pound them in with hard stuff,’ and we weren’t able to do much.”
If it’s a bit unusual for a manager to directly reference “the regime before” in such matters, it’s extremely uncommon for a player to slag on his last manager by name like Jayson Werth does later in the article:
“Between last year and this year, it’s night and day,” Werth said. “Just the whole atmosphere in the clubhouse. You have an iconic manager that really knows how to handle this team. If we still had a guy like Riggleman as the manager, I don’t think the team is where it’s at.”
Of course, players have been super positive things about Davey Johnson for his whole career and the results speak for themselves, yet he has been run out of town a number of times. It’s almost as if he sometimes has run-ins with the front office or something.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.