The Nationals named Tony Beasley the manager of Class AAA Syracuse, making him the leader of the team with which Bryce Harper is most likely to begin the 2012 season. Beasley, 44, managed Class AA Harrisburg last year, giving him a half season of experience with the Nationals’ top prospect.
Beasley will replace Randy Knorr, whom the Nationals tabbed as Davey Johnson’s bench coach and potential successor.
Beasley managed for five seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system before he joined the Nationals in 2006 as their third base coach. He returned to the Pirates for the next four seasons, serving as their major league third base coach from 2008 to 2010. The Nationals hired him back last season, and he led Harrisburg to an 80-62 record and a playoff appearance.
“For us, we felt like with his experiences, he was more than prepared for this opportunity,” Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said. “He’s coached in the big leagues. He’s dealt with a variety of players. He’s had a tremendous level of success wherever he’s gone [as a manager]. We know he’ll have success next year in Syracuse.”
Beasley spent nine seasons as a minor league infielder before he began his coaching career. He has managed at every level of the minors except Class AAA. More than anything, Beasley earned a reputation as a likable and positive presence.
“He’s got a great demeanor,” Harris said. “I don’t know one single person that has ever come across Tony Beasley that has a derogatory thing to say about him. His character is off the charts.”
As for Harrisburg’s next manager, the Nationals seem to have that position just about sewed up. “We’re probably going to announce that shortly,” Harris said.
This week, Baseball America gave Harrisburg its Bob Freitas award as the top Class AA organization in baseball.
UPDATE, 6:01 p.m.: Well, the Nationals did announce Beasley’s replacement at Harrisburg in short order. The Senators announced Matt LeCroy, Class A Potomac’s manager last season, will move up to manage Harrisburg this year.
LeCroy, a former major league catcher, left his biggest impression on the Nationals in 2006, when his right arm made Frank Robinson cry. LeCroy, a backup, allowed seven stolen bases before Robinson, then the Nationals’ manager, yanked him in the middle of an inning. Believing he had embarrassed LeCroy, Robinson could not hold back tears at his postgame press conference.
Harrisburg also announced Paul Menhart will be their pitching coach and Eric Fox will become their next hitting coach.
Menhart replaces Randy Tomlin, who had been a crucial coach in the development of several Nationals pitchers, most notably John Lannan. When Lannan struggled in 2010, the Nationals sent him to Harrisburg specifically to work with Tomlin, and Lannan rebounded to throw 184 2/3 innings and win a career-high 10 games this year.
Tomlin stepped down for personal reasons, Harris said, and the Nationals intended to keep him in their system. The Nationals expect he will spend the 2012 season out of baseball.
“Randy elected to step aside,” Harris said. “He was an impact coach in our organization. I know it was a tough decision for him. We intended to bring him back. This is his decision. We did not want him to leave the organization.”
Menhart has been a significant influence for several young Nationals pitchers, including Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg. Menhart actually served as Strasburg’s very first professional pitching coach in the Arizona Fall League in 2009.
“When Randy Tomlin stepped away, obviously Paul was more than prepared,” Harris said. “He’s really the guy that built the foundation with a lot of those guys.”
Fox joined the Nationals from the Diamondbacks’ minor league system, where he had served an outfield coordinator and base running coach. Fox, a former major league player, has previously worked with Nationals hitting coordinator Rick Schu.
Harris said LeCroy’s replacement at Class A Potomac should be finalized within days.