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More On The Coaching Changes

Lots of handshakes and hugs in the visitors' clubhouse after this afternoon's final game. After the Nats' 8-3 loss (which guaranteed Washington baseball's poorest record), the majority of Manny Acta's coaching staff headed out the door, no longer part of the organization. The decision today not to renew the contracts of all but one coach signals, for the Nats, a massive housecleaning after an ugly 2008 season. It also means Acta loses several of his most loyal lieutenants, especially Tim Tolman who, in the minor leagues, mentored Acta as a player.

Acta was clearly shaken by the moves.

"Well it's a very tough day for me," he said. "Obviously this is only my second year managing, and I'm a blessed individual; I haven't had too much bad news in my life, other than the death of my older brother, this is like the worst news I've had before. But I had nothing but nice things to say about my coaches. They did a great job for me these last two years. They worked their butt off for me and for these kids, and I wish them nothing but the best.

The Nats coaches were told of their dismissals before today's game, GM Jim Bowden said.

"Those guys handled it better than me," Acta said. "They are true professionals. They were the ones pumping me up before the game in the morning and trying to make me feel like everything was going to be OK. I gotta give it to them. Apparently, they have been through it before somewhere. I have never been through it before, so I didn't know. I don't know how I would react myself. But they were true professionals."

Here are the coaches being let go:

* Tim Tolman, third base coach

* Rick Aponte, bullpen coach

* Pat Corrales, bench coach

* Lenny Harris, hitting coach

* Jerry Morales, first base coach

Each was in his second year with the organization. Only pitching coach Randy St. Claire, as I mentioned earlier, will be retained. Before they all exited, I was able to speak with Harris, Tolman and Corrales. All said they thanked Acta for the opportunity; all handled the decision with grace.

No coach yet knew the next step. "Go home and start making a list of people to call," Tolman said.

Now, let me just paste the full transcript of our group media interview with Bowden.

Q: Explain the decision.

We appreciate the hard work that the coaches gave us the last couple of years. We just felt that at this time a change was necessary.

Q: Will any of them be retained in a different capacity?

That's something that will be discussed next week. We'll consider everyone depending on what our needs are and openings are.

Q: When did you arrive at the decision to make the move?

We made the decision on Saturday night.

Q: When did you inform the coaches?

We informed them before the game today.

Q: What does changing the coaching staff do toward the ultimate goal here?

There are a lot of changes that we need to make to get to where we want to get to, and you know, we're going to start on 2009 tomorrow morning.

Q: The decision to have Randy St. Claire remain on staff -- what did you see from him that makes you feel like he's the right guy?

We thought he did a very good job with our young pitchers. They continue to improve and get better.

Q: Just curious, the decisions with Kazu and Tom Yost?

Those are just areas in our operation where we want to go about in a different way, a different direction. Again, we appreciate the hard work. They worked hard for us. We just felt we needed to go in a different direction.

Q: How will the process go to decide [replacements]?

Manny Acta, myself, and all of the baseball operations front office, we're committed to hiring the very best coaches in the game.

Q: Is it a process that you think will take a while?

We want to make sure we get the right coaches, and we're not going to put a timetable on it; we want to get the very best that we can get here.

Q: The timing of telling the coaches?

Well, the season is over today. In respect to them, it gives them an opportunity to look at their options for next year without having to wait a month or wait until their contracts expire at the end of October. It's done out of respect to them.

Q: Would Rick Eckstein be a candidate as the hitting coach?

I'm not going to get into any candidates today. That's something we start tomorrow.

By Chico Harlan  |  September 28, 2008; 6:07 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Breaking News: All of Acta's Assistants Gone, Except St. Claire
Next: What's Next


They want a different direction in their video coordinator? Come on.....

Posted by: kevinx | September 28, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

The Lerners must have figured a way to hire even cheaper coaches.

Posted by: ohplease | September 28, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Is the video coordinator the guy responsible for not figuring out how to properly use the ribbon board on top of the Red Loft properly? (That is, it was exactly like the straight ones)

Good riddance!

Posted by: It sucked | September 28, 2008 6:35 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Bergmann on Man | September 28, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Seriously? Acta's never experienced anything as bad as this in life, except the death of his brother? Maybe that speaks to the importance of the Nats' doing this. Acta has to know there are some consequences for losing 190+ games in 2 seasons

Posted by: MVM | September 28, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Clint is eligible for arbitration after next year. Until then, he's cheap, and he splits tips with the other cheerleaders, so they like him. They may have a rule 5 issue with Uncle Sam in Potomac, though.

Posted by: CE | September 28, 2008 7:00 PM | Report abuse

"Is the video coordinator the guy responsible for not figuring out how to properly use the ribbon board on top of the Red Loft properly?"

Properly speaking, he's the intellectual property proprietor. It's all above-board, very proper.

Posted by: Dept. of Redundancy Dept. | September 28, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

So I guess Manny is on notice that next year he takes the fall when he can't win with the minor league talent the Lerners' player budget allows him to put on the field.

Posted by: Chevy Chase Fan | September 28, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

What do you all think, will we be seeing a great deal more of Barry Larkin in the dugout next year?

Posted by: CE | September 28, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Manny knows the consequences perfectly well.

Acta has to know there are some consequences for losing 190+ games in 2 seasons

Posted by: MVM | September 28, 2008 6:56 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Bullpen coach: Robert Fick?

Posted by: ce | September 28, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey, what's Willie Randolf doing these days? More to the point, what's he doing in 2009?

Although I'm guessing Jerry Manuel might be dusting off his resume pretty soon now.

Posted by: ce | September 28, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Well, I gotta admit I'm interested to see what a new hitting coach can do...

Posted by: boxjam | September 28, 2008 7:30 PM | Report abuse

how about a bird bath for Screech?

Posted by: If they're cleaning -- | September 28, 2008 7:31 PM | Report abuse

boxjam, I think Eckstein becomes the hitting coach. Yost for the bench?

Posted by: AndrewStebbins | September 28, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

I look forward to some new coaches. I think that this sends a message to people that losing is not tolerated. Hopefully, they will take the next step and change GMs. I still don't think anyone trusts dealing with Bowden. I wouldn't!

Also, I hope that they start the Boras negotiations today with a solid offer of $8M for Strasburg. Might as well get that taken care of as long as they don't sign him until later. Discussions should start now!

While they are talking to him about Strasburg, they can discuss Texiera too.

I am also hoping that they land a few of the arbitration eligible Marlins pitchers that are young and talented. They shouldn't cost an obscene amount and with Randy still here to coach them, who knows!

Posted by: NatsWin! | September 28, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Acta was clearly shaken by the moves.

Do you need to write any more?

Posted by: Tom | September 28, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Bad, bad decision. Might as well have fire Acta. Which would make sense considering how bad the team was this year. But Bowden deserves blame here, so really, if you're going to "clean house", it should start with the GM.

Sire makes Frank Robinson look good, eh?

Posted by: dsda22304 | September 28, 2008 8:00 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, if Acta was clearly "shaken", and if he had true loyalty to that coaching staff, he would have resigned. That would have been the right, and ethical, thing to do. Elsewise, you're a figurehead manager with a bunch of spies around you -- which you already have anyhow with the ex-Reds Bowden has around town.

Time for the Lerners and Kasten to step in and fire Bowden and Acta and start from scratch.

Hire Terry Pendleton as mgr, get an ethical, professional GM (not one thayt breaks laws in recruiting) and start to inculcate the successful Braves strategy.

Posted by: dsda3731 | September 28, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

If they have so much faith in Manny, why are they pulling his staff away from him? Shouldn't a manager get to choose his own bench coach at least? If they don't have faith in Manny, they should fire him. Otherwise, let him do the job.

Posted by: JackinDC | September 28, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone read the Nats320 blog? They got treated really bad in Philly.

Posted by: Nats Fan | September 28, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Why would you fire your coaches before the last game of the season? Isn't that something that could be done just as easily tomorrow? Way to create a morgue in the dugout, I'm surprised the guys even had the energy to run the bases today. All scrubs on the field and dead men walking in the dugout, great move.

Posted by: Bob | September 28, 2008 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Acta to the Mets! Then he can find out that it feels even worse to be 1 game away.

Posted by: DR | September 28, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I have sick feeling that Bimbo will get renewed. I believe Kasten quits but retains his ownership interest.

Posted by: mjames | September 28, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Do you really need it spelled out for you? This was clearly done to cause as much distraction as possible to guarantee a "win" in the Strasburg Derby.


Why would you fire your coaches before the last game of the season? Isn't that something that could be done just as easily tomorrow? Way to create a morgue in the dugout, I'm surprised the guys even had the energy to run the bases today. All scrubs on the field and dead men walking in the dugout, great move.

Posted by: Bob | September 28, 2008 8:07 PM

Posted by: Duh! | September 28, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

I predict that the Nats will pass on Strasburg as they will be unwilling to pay the price. Also it is highly unlikely that he will want to play for Washington. He wants SD.

Posted by: mjames | September 28, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Jim Bowden, always classy.

Acta has proven he's a big-league manager. He doesn't need the retread, broken-down talent of the Nationals. Far better jobs will be open within a week. He should move on.

Posted by: rickNmd | September 28, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

"Also it is highly unlikely that he will want to play for Washington. He wants SD."

He has no choice. If the Nationals want to draft him, they can. And if they don't, Seattle will.

Posted by: this ain't the nfl, dude | September 28, 2008 8:26 PM | Report abuse

The firing of the coaches isn't the real news of the day. The Nationals did do something right this weekend. They didn't win any games and mess up getting the number 1 pick. Now if the ownership will loosen the pockets and actually sign a pick, maybe they can move forward.

Posted by: John Howard | September 28, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Can Bowdon fire himself next?

Posted by: JT | September 28, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

Well, you can't fire all the players can you. I would expect a healthy turnover though also. Next stop....Panera @ Viera, March 09.

Posted by: SC Nats Fan | September 28, 2008 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Jimbo and Stan stay. They're like government workers earning their GS-13 salaries; where else in the world can they get paid for producing this crap product, the Agriculture Department? Lerners won't change a thing; they're building equity everyday, rent-free to boot. They've played the entire city, including those stooges on the City Council, like a two-dollar drum. I actually think this team could be worse next year...Kearns and WMP could be healthy for 162 games, robbing more at-bats from Dukes. How about packaging Milledge, Kearns and any infielder except Zimm and Goozie for that Marlins prospect, Cameron Maybin? Hell, I'll throw in Langer-bum to boot!

Posted by: Lerners are Cheap Ba----ds | September 28, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

I liked Acta a lot his first year and I think most on the board did as well. I think he was really handcuffed by having to play 'assets' such as Lo Duca and Flop so that they could have trade value.

I think we'll see a totally different Acta next year. A manager doesn't change that much from Year 1 to Year 2. If anything, he gets better.

Posted by: Expos Fan | September 28, 2008 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Though I welcome a housecleaning, I wonder whose decision this was. Chico, any insight on that. Was this Bowden's call, or Kasten's, or did it the edict come from Ted L? It clearly wasn't Acta's idea.

It would be odd if Bowden fires a bunch of people and then gets fired himself. So I fear that Bowden keeps his job, which would be very bad news for the Nats.

Posted by: Section 222 | September 28, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Yom Kippur is next Thursday, October 9. Will the Lerners apologize to us, their fans, before then? They have betrayed our trust.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 28, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Read btwn the lines... Bowden is NOT on the chopping block come tomorrow. Way too many "we"s and "will"s in those quotes for a guy who would have some inkling his time with the franchise was almost up.

We're doomed to repeat this misery again and again until we get a GM with a shred of ability/dignity and an ownership group willing to spend the money necessary to field a consistent winner.

Posted by: Brian H | September 28, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

fyi. on the front page of is a shared-byline story co-authored by chico about how kasten is frustrated by the lerners' frugalness. where ya been, son?

Posted by: natsscribe | September 28, 2008 9:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tip, natsscribe. Talk about a superficial article though! If Lerner and Kasten are constantly "at odds" as the article claims, you'd think that Chico and Sheinin would be able to relate some specific disputes, rather than just giving us vague generalities. And even for Kasten and Bowden, the only specific incident they talk about is one that was already reported by The Sporting News. This article really tells us very little.

Posted by: Coverage is lacking | September 28, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

The article was the Post's attempt to make up for getting scooped by the Times last week.

I thought the Lerner's were hired to be hands-off owners and let Kasten do his stuff. I'm not surprised they are low-payroll hawks - why else would Bud have chosen them? But I thought they'd let Kasten have almost free reign. This is disappointing.

I was anti-MASN, but, man, I'm sure glad we did the deal with the devil now. No way those ratings net $25 Mil, with more next year -- unless MASN goes belly up.

Lots to do, but, as a fan, I hope one of them is to get the games on Snyder's radio stations so those guys stop ignoring the Nats and the Birds get off our DC sports station. If not 2009 than 2010. much good will now 100% squandered. A pity. A cryin' shame.

Posted by: a total disaster | September 28, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

The article is useless, other than the fact that the Lerners are isolated wack jobs. I can't blame Chico so much because he's young, and obviously doesn't know any better yet, but Sheinin is a lazy slob from the word go. You listen to him on WP Live and all he does is regurgitate superficial crap which has usually happened weeks or months ago. It's one thing to be a rookie on the beat, but to be fat, lazy and forty isn't even close to being acceptable. Maybe he should stick to critiques of the latest indie band like he does on his chats. He reminds me of what one of my college professors in Building Construction once said about architects - they learn less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.

Posted by: Brue | September 28, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse


He and the usher who dances to the godawful "Sweet Caroline" are perceived as having more value to the organization than mere coaches. (Sigh.)

Posted by: Vincent | September 28, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I am glad to see something being done indicating a shake-up. Hope to see a lot more before March, both on the field and off.

And seriously, I despise Clint as much as the next gal, but can we agree to retire moaning about Clint, Screech's filth, and the dancing usher (who I actually like quite a bit, especially after seeing his interview on the WETA special). Let's all MOVE ON.

Posted by: JennX | September 28, 2008 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Ya gotta love some former poster coming back to say that others should "move on" and not post about stuff that apparently annoys her. JennX, it seems like you're the only one "moaning" around here--but if you don't like the discussion and joking about Clint, no one is forcing you to read it, you can just skip over it. And if that's not good enough for you, maybe you're the one who should just move on.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2008 1:19 AM | Report abuse

god i hate the redskins and the NFL. caps soon, maybe they will get some coverage so i can acutally visit please keep this site updated chico i need baseball news, i need news that isnt related to brett farve or the redskins, so that rules out espn and most of this site. you are my only hope chico....please, not even every day, every like 2 days, even if you hafta make a story up, it works for the nfl just do it. former nats in the playoffs, possible coaches or draft picks or free agents i dont care if its syracuse bat boy tryouts please just give me something other than chris cooley's manparts.

Posted by: love | September 29, 2008 1:36 AM | Report abuse

ELIJAH DUKES, ON LENNY HARRIS: "I didn't look at him as a coach. It was more so 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."

Posted by: flynnie | September 29, 2008 2:26 AM | Report abuse

haha I think we all know why Bud Selig picked the Lerners to be the owners of the Washington Nationals franchise.

Posted by: Lernersuck | September 29, 2008 2:33 AM | Report abuse

I would love to know what the Lerner's planned budget is for 2009 for club payroll and the signing of draft picks. That will tell more than anything else about the relationships on this team and in this organization. It will either verify the Lerners as being a capable steward of this baseball team in Washington or it will permanently villify them. It will be the basis of the argument for evaluating Kasten and Bowden. Some old maxims never fail, "Follow the Money" is the clue to how this organization runs. Give us this information Chico and then some of the puzzles will be solved. So far all you have given us is shadows.

Posted by: Dale | September 29, 2008 6:42 AM | Report abuse

This kind of bile is to be expected at the end of such a terrible season, but why is everyone so mad a the Lerners and Kasten for doing exactly what they said they'd do?

The only move that doesn't fit the model they laid out was not signing Crow, which is a whole issue inand of itself, but everything else matches The Plan, but then every thing is being lloked at through a Cheap lense, which is not accurate.

IMO anyone who thinks the Schneider and Church for Milledge was a salary dump is a complete Moron.

Posted by: estuartj | September 29, 2008 7:06 AM | Report abuse

I think you're right.

I disagree with you. The draft failure was not just Crow. To fully exploit the draft we must draft and sign players in depth. My frustration this year went may beyond the Crow debacle. We missed out on several good oportunities apparently because of an unrealistically low budget. I'm afraid next year we might sign the top two and then a springling of organizational players. Up until now I haven't supported Learners Are Cheap but I'm beginnng to do so.
I hope I'm wrong.
Let's play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | September 29, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I second love's plea for continued NJ coverage.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 29, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of which, new post.

Posted by: natsfan1a | September 29, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Well, I've been reading in here for months that Lenny Harris should be gone. These comments read like you all are as stunned as Manny was at all this. You all got what you wanted. Let's see if you're happy now with what we get instead. (probably not IMHO)

Posted by: Pitch Inside | September 29, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Sounds as if the Manager, Manny Acta was not involved/consulted with the decision to fire the coaches. Strange... And then, further in the announcment, it states Acta will be involved in the process to hire new coaches. Even stranger....

Posted by: CFJ | September 29, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Agree with those pointing out the contradiction in Manny apparently not having input on the firings while still being retained himself. This doesn't add up. Maybe upper management actually thought these coaches really needed to go (although I don't personally believe that all these guys could have been fired for "cause", such as it were -- they're not the reason why we lost), or maybe they just see it as sending some kind of "message" (to whom? the team? Manny? the fans?). But either way, publically seeming to undercut your manager's credibility and authority -- to say nothing of disregarding his presumably valuable perspective in the decision itself -- isn't going to help anything, with anybody.

Posted by: Natsman | October 1, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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