The Washington Nationals are 19-31. Every move Davey Martinez makes is now under the microscope. Even if he isn’t the only person who has to be relieved, as manager, he has to be the first to go. It’s a matter of when, not if, he is removed from the managerial post. The question becomes who replaces him?
First of all, even though assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon served as the acting manager on Thursday after Martinez was ejected for defending Howie Kendrick, don’t expect him to be under consideration. Until he usurps Kevin Long as lead hitting coach, he doesn’t have a claim for the job.
Hale would be the most conventional move. The 54-year-old bench coach is in his second season as Martinez’s righthand man. He in his 11th season as a big league assistant coach, but more importantly, he spent two seasons (2015-16) as the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although he had very mixed success (148-176) as their skipper, he also finished within four games of .500 in his first season. The next year also isn’t an entirely fair barometer, as his second star position player (A.J. Pollock) played just 12 games.
It’s doubtful that Hale would be the long-term answer, but he would be a very logical choice to finish this season. After all, he had a lot of say in the initial molding of Martinez last year.
Knorr seems to have been viewed as the internal successor for a while. Although he doesn’t have Hale’s major league managerial experience, the 50-year-old has led the way in the team’s minor league system for parts of seven seasons. He’s in his second straight (and third overall) season as a AAA skipper.
Knorr spent parts of seven seasons on Washington’s big league staff, including four years (2012-15) as its bench coach. When Dusty Baker took over, he assumed the role of Senior Advisor to the General Manager for Player Development for two years, before returning to the minor league ranks.
Of equal importance, Knorr is a former catcher, and much of his expertise is with pitching—he served two brief stints as a bullpen coach, albeit a decade ago. With a league-worst bullpen ERA of over 7.00, the Nationals could use a leader who could more effectively handle the pitching staff—something Martinez, Baker, and seemingly every manager preceding them couldn’t do.
LeCroy is a younger (43 years old) version of Knorr. Also a former catcher, he is in his ninth season as a minor league manager and sixth (2012-13, 2016-present) as the skipper for AA Harrisburg. In between, he was Washington’s bullpen coach under Matt Williams.
LeCroy looks particularly appealing for two reasons. First, he’s young, so he would theoretically be able to stick around the longest. Perhaps his better argument, however, is that Harrisburg is currently 30-16 under his watch, just half a game shy of the Arkansas Travelers for the best record in the upper-minors (AA and AAA). He’s also played a large role in the resurgence of pitcher Erick Fedde. In fact, his pitching staff is among the best in the minors by any metric you choose.
Wait, why would the Nationals promote Bob “Sendley” from third base coach? Why is he even still here? Clearly the organization is high on him—he’s been in it in some capacity since 2003. He’s 46 years old and yet another former catcher, but he has more coaching experience in the field than around the mound.
From 2003-09, Henley was a manager at low levels of the minor leagues (no higher than A+ Potomac). He then spent four years as Washington’s minor league field coordinator, before Williams tabbed him as third base coach. He is the lone holdover from two regimes prior to Martinez.
His ability to wave guys home effectively shouldn’t make a difference in whether he gets a managerial job or not. In fact, him sticking around in spite of mixed reviews on that front is a testament to his impact behind closed doors in other areas—those that may more closely align with what a manager does.
Among coaches within the organization, the 52-year-old Bogar smells the most like new blood; he’s only been in the organization for two years as its first base coach. He also has the most minor league managerial success of the group. From 2004-07, he won Manager of the Year in his respective league three times, reached three league championships, and won a title once.
Bogar was Tampa Bay’s quality assurance coach in 2008, where he formed a connection with Martinez, who was the bench coach. He spent the next four seasons in various roles (first base, third base, and bench coach) with the Red Sox.
He was once again a minor league manager in 2013, a bench coach thereafter in Texas and Seattle, and Special Assistant to GM Jerry Dipoto with the Angels in 2015. However, what sets him apart from the competition is his 22-game stint as interim manager of the Rangers in 2014, during which he went 14-8. If you want someone internal who’s been there and righted the ship, Bogar is your guy.
Showalter would be a short-term answer, but he’s proven to be successful as the man in charge. He has over 1,500 career wins and a .506 winning percentage, despite often having sub-standard rosters.
In 2010, he took over the Baltimore Orioles on an interim basis during the dog days of summer. After starting the season 32-73, Buck led them to a 34-23 finish. They returned to Earth the following year, but won at least 85 games in four of the next five, including two playoff births in the so-called toughest division in baseball.
Perhaps more impressively, he carried the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks to 100 wins in their second year of existence. Suffice it to say, he has no trouble handling adverse situations. He’s also held in high regard when it comes to handling the bullpen, which would do wonders for the Nationals, and is extremely respected overall.
Showalter isn’t afraid to be frank with players when it’s warranted, but Girardi is a well-known hard-ass. That both helped and hurt him at times while in charge of the Yankees, but it’s just what the doctor ordered in D.C.
In his ten years in New York (2008-17), his teams never finished below .500, despite frequently being stricken by injuries, particularly near the end of his tenure. He won at least 95 games in four straight seasons (2009-12), reached the ALCS four times, and won the World Series in 2009—capping off a 103-win season with a well-deserved bang.
Unlike the rest of this crop, Girardi is over a year removed from coaching. However, he does remain active. Immediately following his removal in New York, he returned to the broadcast booth—he initially cut his teeth there in the mid-2000s, following his 15-year playing career—as an analyst for MLB Network.
This would be unorthodox. No doubt, the Nationals hold the 46-year-old Porter in high regard. He was the team’s third base coach from 2011-12 and is in his first season as the co-anchor of “Nats Xtra” on MASN. Washington always viewed him as a future manager, but got beat to the punch by the floundering Houston Astros.
All told, Porter spent ten years as a big league coach, including two as a manager in Houston—throw out his record, the roster was noncompetitive. He was also a special assistant to Braves GM John Coppolella in 2017 and championed a spring training camp for unemployed free agents last season as an MLB Players Association representative.
Interestingly, Porter has been very outspoken on “Nats Xtra” about in-game decisions by players and coaches recently. It seems the the Nationals quietly hired him to help him get a coaching gig, but he may be looking to jumpstart that process.
I’ll give honorable mentions to Mike Matheny and John Gibbons (formerly of St. Louis and Toronto, respectively), but I don’t see either as top external candidates—plus, I think it’s more likely that they stay internal.
A move must be made soon, and there are plenty of options, but you can (probably) only pull the trigger once. So what’s your flavor? Internal or external? Young or experienced? Short-term fix or long-term trial run?