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Rizzo, Acta On Pitching Coach Change

[NOTE: I "new-posted" so quickly, but please note the news below about Flores.]

After the Nats "relieved pitching coach Randy St. Claire of his duties today" -- team PR speak -- and replaced him with Class AAA pitching coach Steve McCatty, acting GM Mike Rizzo and Manager Manny Acta held a joint press conference. Transcript follows.

RIZZO (opening statement): Well I just want to simply announce that, as everyone knows, we've replaced Randy St. Claire as major league pitching coach with Steve McCatty. Randy has been a loyal employee here for seven years and was a diligent worker and really did a nice job throughout his career here. As you all know we've struggled mightily with the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen, throughout the season and like we've been saying since the start of spring training, everybody is accountable for their part in the team, and we felt that a change was imminent and needed to be done at this time. So, with that, we replaced Randy with Steve McCatty, who has familiarity with most of the pitchers on the ballclub and brings years of experience both as an active player and as a long-time pitching coach to this very young starting rotation.

ACTA (opening statement): Well it's very unfortunate, because you don't want to see anyone lose their job, but we are all hired to be fired someday, and we are all accountable for what's going on here. The organization, we decided to make a change, and we're looking forward to working now with Steve. He's familiar with most of our guys. I'm very thankful for everything that Randy did over here. I think he's an outstanding pitching coach. This is a long-term plan here, and we're going to have some painful times. We've already had some, and changes have been made already, and probably will continue to be made until we make this franchise a winning one for a long time.

Q: What can you tell us about Steve?

RIZZO: Steve, I would reference him as an old-school pitching coach. He goes back to the days where pitchers pitched a lot of innings and they were really tough burly guys on the mound, and I think he's gonna bring an edge to the pitching staff, a toughness, and kind of a really tough-minded mindset not only to the starting rotation but to the bullpen guys, too.

Q: The change, was it made at your suggestion, Manny's suggestion?

RIZZO: Well, it was my suggestion that we needed a change. Manny and I discussed the situation, and I made the decision that I thought we needed a change at pitching coach.

Q: We all know how hard St. Claire worked. Why was it that some of the staff just didn't perform?

RIZZO: Well, it's a very in-depth question, but a lot of things go into the success and failure not only of a pitching staff, but a team in general. Like I said, I don't think we have time to go into a real in-depth answer. It wasn't all Randy's fault. Sometimes the material he had to work with wasn't always as good as we would want it to be. We tried to make changes to find the right formula to hit on the right bullpen. I thought we've seen signs most recently of a bullpen that's trying to stabilize, and I think that with Steve coming into the picture with the knowledge of a lot of guys that have gone through Syracuse I think we can bring even more stabilization to the bullpen.

Q: Mike, as you kind of alluded to with the stabilization of the bullpen in the last 10 days or two weeks, why was the time now to make this change?

RIZZO: Well I think the numbers speak for themselves. We were last in the major leagues in nine major pitching categories, and I thought we needed a new voice to the young ears of the starting rotation and to get a kind of stabilizing personality like Steve to deal with the pitchers.

Q: Some people probably will feel like Randy is being scapegoated here or the blame runs higher. Do either of you guys feel like the blame should be shared at higher levels.

RIZZO: There is no doubt about it.

Q: [Inaudible]

ACTA: Well, we win as a team and we lose as a team, and now with the coaching staff we have we're just going to work as hard as we can to do what we did here in 2007. We had an awful record through mid-May, and then we ended up playing .500 the rest of the way, so that's the way we have to look at it. The guys are there, we're going to try to do the same thing, and we're not going to stop working. That's the way we have to look at it. Is it going to change drastically from today to tomorrow? Maybe not. But it's been done before two years ago, and we're going to work as hard as possible to do it again.

Q: Mike, philosophically between Steve and Randy are there any differences that you're pinning your hopes on here?

RIZZO: Well, I think there are differences in the two ways of doing their job. Randy, as we all know, is a diligent film-worker and a mechanics-oriented pitching coach. Steve is more of a gut-feel [guy], more of a mental aspect kind of the game, and he's a much more old school pitching coach than I think Randy was. He was kind of the modern guy who worked diligently with films, how to attack hitters and that type of thing. And Steve I would describe as more not only of a mechanics type pitcher, because he's a very successful one in his own right, but a guy who really delves into the mental aspect of pitching as well.

Q: The fact he worked with many of these guys in the minors and in spring training, does that work in his favor?

RIZZO: Well, it certainly was a factor in choosing Steve, his familiarity with the staff and a lot of guys going through Syracuse and working with him over a couple years in spring training. He knows when they're going well, what deliveries work, what pitches work and that type of thing. When they get out of sync a little bit, I think he has the ability to get them back on track, so I think a lot of that comes into play.

Q: Have you decided what happens with Syracuse?

RIZZO: Right now our pitching coordinator Spin Williams is in Syracuse tonight until all the Dominos fall in the minor league system. We'll announce those in another day or so.

Q: Mike, was there a particular moment when you decided this was the right time?

RIZZO: Well, like I said before I think a change had to be made. This was the right time to do it, to salvage a big portion of the season we have left. We're only one-third through this thing, and I thought waiting wasn't going to help. If this was to be done, I thought a third through the season was a good test, and I thought a change was needed.

Q: With McCatty, Manny -- he's an old-school guy, you're a new-school guy. Will your style of managing pitchers change?

ACTA: The pitching coach doesn't change the way I manage. I consider myself a combination of the old school and the new school type of thing, and what he sort of brings over here is just a different view. I mean, Randy works as hard as anybody I've ever been around, but there is a different way to do things, and these guys, they've been under McCatty before, and he's been with us in spring training for the last three years, and he's going to try to get the best out of them with his own way. We sat together and we spoke about the way things are going to go, but the pitching coach really doesn't change the way I do things. He's here to take care of the pitching staff, to make sure I know which guys are available to pitch... but when it comes down to who's going in and out of the game, it doesn't matter who is the pitching coach.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 5:27 PM ET
 
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Next: A Philosophical Shift

Comments

i know rfk was built on a swamp, but is natstown built on the site of a desecrated sacred burial ground or something?

Posted by: surly_w | June 2, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of "PR speak"...

It's hilarious (well, really more like pathetic) that the team actually censored Randy's use of the word "fired" in Ladson's article on nats.com:

"I have been [dismissed] before."

Idiots.

Posted by: joebleux | June 2, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Oh great, so we're now going to have less emphasis on pitching mechanics for our young developing pitchers? Oh that sounds like a great idea.

This should be good for Hanrahan though. He needs mental toughness.

Posted by: Section506 | June 2, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Did Manny really just say this: "we are all accountable for what's going on here"? Apparently, only your coaches are.

Posted by: slewis1 | June 2, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"Randy, as we all know, is a diligent film-worker and a mechanics-oriented pitching coach. Steve is more of a gut-feel [guy],"

Or, in other words, we just fired Rick Eckstein and replaced him with Lenny Harris.

Blech.

Posted by: joebleux | June 2, 2009 5:39 PM | Report abuse

>>Q: Some people probably will feel like Randy is being scapegoated here or the blame runs higher. Do either of you guys feel like the blame should be shared at higher levels.
RIZZO: There is no doubt about it.

Who asked that question? Whoever did is my new hero although it needed a follow-up concerning responsibility of the higher-ups. But at least it's a beginning.
Sure hope the ball-boy aint next. he missed a grounder in the last homestand.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 2, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | June 2, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't they have just kept St. Claire and hired McCatty as a special assistant in charge of pitcher's aura?

Posted by: joebleux | June 2, 2009 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Just when the bullpen starts to come around they fire St Claire for doing a losuy job with the bull pen. The same bull pen that Rizzo tured over twice to find guys who could pitch at all?

Rizzo is not our guy. He lacks the people skills, or at least the appearance of those skills. His tact is just not good enough to be a deal maker.

And Acta surviving is a joke.

Rizzo saying that the young pitchers would benefit from a "stabilizing personality like Steve" is also very funny. They had a very stable 7th year coach who worked his ass off and who had produced pretty decent results with pretty questionable arms. Steve, my advise to you is RENT don't buy in DC.

Posted by: dfh21 | June 2, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Where are all the Rizzo fan brigade troopers these days? He's starting to make Bowden look like a diplomat.

Posted by: Section506 | June 2, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

This team needs a new EVERYTHING. And new post.

Posted by: leetee1955 | June 2, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

"Or, in other words, we just fired Rick Eckstein and replaced him with Lenny Harris."
---------------------------------------------
It's kind of like in "Jurassic Park" when Newman's jeep knocked down the road sign with the 45-degree-pointing arrow at the fork in the muddy road on the way to the dock he was desperately trying to reach and when he got out and tried to figure out which way to go he randomly spun the arrow on the sign and drove down the wrong path and ended up getting spit on by a dinosaur and violently devoured.

Posted by: Ted_Striker | June 2, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

And I thought Randy was really good. Never sure about Acta. Rizzo is a super-scout, maybe. Not yet a GM.

Kasten prowls behind the scenes of his amusement park, pulling strings and shmoozing the Lerners.

Bowden did that, but he didn't own a piece, nor did he have Selig's endorsement.

Next?

Posted by: joe2chase | June 2, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking the same thing joebluex. If you just wanted to help these guys with their heads why not just bring McCatty up for a while to help out??

Throw out the experience and technical guidance and replace it with a "gut". Smart guys. Really smart.

All this did was prove why Manny is still here. Rizzo's an idiot so he keeps an idiot at the helm.

I just LOVE this nugget from Acta:

"but we are all hired to be fired someday"

Last I checked if you do a good job you retire at some stage rather than getting fired. MORON. But now it's confirmed. We've got 2 morons. One managing the team and one keeping him there.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 2, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Was it St. Claire who started Austin Kearns over Willie Harris the other day thereby leaving two players out of position rather than just one (Dunn)? Was it St. Claire who put the pitchers in impossible positions thinking that four or five guys are going to be sharp every day? Was it St. Claire who insisted on playing the sixth inning as if it was the ninth then be out of options if the game went to extras? This is amazing. Are Kasten and Rizzo this clueless? Manny is not getting the most out of anyone on this team, either the pitchers or the position players. What are they thinking?

Posted by: truke | June 2, 2009 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I have to wonder... when things get this obviously stupid... does Bud or MLB whisper in their ears that maybe they're in danger of running the team into the ground? Somebody needs to... someone the Lerners will listen to...

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 2, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

In firing STC, Rizzo says everyone in this organization is accountable. If that is the case, why is Manny Acta still the manager?

Posted by: bupbups | June 2, 2009 6:22 PM | Report abuse

I think we've seen enough of the ACTING GM. Let's make it FORMER GM.

Posted by: SaveOurTeam | June 2, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

>RIZZO: There is no doubt about it.

Who asked that question? Whoever did is my new hero although it needed a follow-up concerning responsibility of the higher-ups.

That don't sound like a ringing endorsement for Manny. Although, I could care less until he's gone. What are they gonna fire him after the draft? I know you'd have to wait to get another GM until after the draft, but the manager? STEP IT UP OR STEP ASIDE RIZZO

Posted by: Brue | June 2, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Well, Rizzo's proven he's not the answer. Which means he'll get the job. "Old school pitching coach" will lead to "burn out young arms". It's like we've got our own Dusty Baker! That'll make Strasburg want to sign here.

But here's the real headscratcher: "Sometimes the material he had to work with wasn't always as good as we would want it to be." Does that mean you tried to trade for Derek Lowe and got JLo at 3AM instead? St. Claire had chicken**** to work with for three seasons and always outperformed expectations. That was his undoing; management had gotten spoiled getting decent performances from replacement level pitchers. This year, the chickens have come home to roost. How much better would this team be with a Randy Wolf to take the load off the bullpen and give the team a fighting chance every fifth day? Oh wait, The PlanTM says we have to roll out young pitchers so they can get better.

This organization has failed from top to bottom, and the responsibility is at the very top, not at middle management.

Posted by: gbooksdc | June 2, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

"It's hilarious (well, really more like pathetic) that the team actually censored Randy's use of the word "fired" in Ladson's article on nats.com:

"I have been [dismissed] before.""

Why do you think he said "fired"? I'm guessing he said "sh*t-canned".

Posted by: nunof1 | June 2, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

>Why do you think he said "fired"? I'm guessing he said "sh*t-canned".

Or screwed.

Posted by: Brue | June 2, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

It is again a disgrace, the way the organization has handled a situation. t is ludicrous to fire someone who has been so:
(1) loyal to the team
(2) hard-woking
(3) professional in every aspect of his career
(4) respected around the majors for the job he has always done

I realize this is a business, but the fact remains that if the upper management doesn't identfy a strategy, a formula, for success within certain financial restrictions (see Minnesota and Oakland, for example), this will continue to be nothing more than a floating, rudderless ship.

Here's hoping that Randy will get what he deserves: a job with a Major League team that actually has a clue.

Posted by: coachpete | June 2, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

CoachPete: I have less of a problem with them firing the guy -- it is employment at will (actually probably not, he probably gets paid for at least some portion of the remainder of the season, if not all), but what gets me is that he was loyal, hard working and professional (as you ably note) and Rizzo was neither professional nor loyal in canning the guy summarily without an explanation and without Acta being in the room. The organization did a similar hand jive with Frank Robinson and here they are again. Classless. Unexcusable. If you don't want the guy, fine, but treat him like a man for God's sake.

Rizzo just does not have the demeanor to pull this gig off -- he knows players, but he's no negotitator, no motivator no communicator. I almost wish we still had Jimbo.

Acta is just terrible, he should have been gone right along with St. Claire. He's an apolagist of grand order and he's stunk the joint up to no end in every facet of his job for hundreds of games now. I do not care if they go on some fantastic roll and win 40 of 50 and finish in the middle of the NL East pack -- if Manny is back in 2010 my 5 year, 4 full season ticket run is over.

Posted by: dfh123 | June 2, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

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