The Nationals need only to hire a bench coach to finalize their 2012 field staff, and they will make their hire with an eye on the future. The Nationals, General Manager Mike Rizzo said, plan to fill the bench coach position with a potential successor to Manager Davey Johnson.
Now, the bench coach will not necessary become the Nationals’ next manager. But the Nationals intend to promote Johnson’s successor from within the organization, and Rizzo wants the next bench coach to be a candidate, along with current third base coach Bo Porter, first base coach Trent Jewett and Class AAA Manager Randy Knorr.
“We want to have a successor to come from our staff,” Rizzo said. “We want to add a person that could be that successor. We feel that we have several on the staff already. We want to add one more to that we feel could be the next manager of our team.
“This specific position or person isn’t necessarily going to be that heir apparent. But we want to add a quality guy, so maybe he’s the guy. Maybe Trent’s the guy, or maybe Bo’s the guy, or [hitting coach Rick Eckstein]. We’d like one of those guys, for continuity’s sake, we’d like it to be a guy from our current coaching staff.”
Rizzo also wants the next manager to come from inside the team to help build an organizational identity. As the Nationals have built a strong scouting and player development system, more and more of their major league players have been produced solely by the Nationals. Rizzo wants to further define what that Nationals’ stamp means, to have a clear vision from the bottom rung of the minors to the majors about what it means to play for the Nationals.
“It goes along with the Nationals’ way of doing things,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo has whittled down his bench coach choices to three, at least one of whom is currently on the staff. “Randy Knorr is one of them,” Johnson said. They’re in no rush to make the decision, Rizzo said.
Rizzo will have full say on the bench coach, which Johnson said he’s fine with. He had no clear definition of what he wants out of a bench coach, other than someone with a bright baseball mind unafraid to share opinions.
“You want to surround yourself with good people who can take your job,” Johnson said. “I’m sure whoever it is is going to be a good baseball man. I’m totally confident in any decision [Rizzo] makes.”
One funny, unrelated story: Johnson was recently at a fundraising event for the Florida Collegiate Summer League, the league in which he had his most recent managerial experience prior to taking over in the Nationals’ dugout. He chatted with a couple of the managers from the league. “They were pretty excited,” Johnson said. “They think they’re candidates to go to the big leagues now.”