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.
Blue Jays closer Ken Giles hasn’t exactly turned things around since joining the Blue Jays on July 31, when the club sent embattled closer Roberto Osuna to the Astros. Giles posted a 4.99 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Astros, then put up a slightly less miserable 4.58 ERA in 17 2/3 innings with the Jays. Still, he’s much happier with the Jays than he was with the Astros, even after winning the World Series with them last year. He said to Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, “I’m actually enjoying the game more than I did for my entire tenure in Houston. It’s kind of weird to say that because I won a World Series with that team. But it’s like, I just felt trapped there. I didn’t feel like myself there. Overall, I felt out of place.”
Giles also said “the communication was lost” with the Astros and it was something that came easy with the Jays. He said, “When I came here, they stayed patient with me. I said hey, I want to work on this thing till I’m comfortable. All right. OK, I’m comfortable, let’s move on to this next thing. Pitching, you can’t just try to fix everything at once. For me, I had to take baby steps to get my groove back. The Jays allowed me to do that. Yeah, the team was out of contention, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still my career. I still have to prove myself. Them being so patient with me, understanding what I want to do, was very, very big.”
Giles, 28, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has shown promise despite his overall mediocre numbers. In non-save situations this season (with both the Astros and Jays), he has a 9.12 ERA. But in save situations, his ERA is a pristine 0.38. Giles could be a closer the Jays find themselves leaning on as they attempt to get back into competitive shape. Since it sounds like Giles is quite enamored with Toronto and with the Blue Jays, a discussion about a contract extension certainly could be had.