Notes on the Nationals’ manager search

WASHINGTON DC - SEPTEMBER 15: Washington third base coach Trent Jewett, left, shakes hands with Wilson Ramos (40) rounding third and heading to home on a 6th inning solo home run during the Washington Nationals defeat of the Philadelphia Phillies 11 -2 at Nationals Stadium in Washington DC September 15, 2013. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Trent Jewett has a chance to replace Manager Davey Johnson. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In today’s Post, we have a story with Cal Ripken’s thoughts on managing. He has not changed his stance since the summer, really, and he seemed bemused on the recent uproar over his possible return to the dugout. If he does not fully understand the furor that has followed his publicly revealing he might be interested, he may be forgetting that he is CAL RIPKEN, the mid-Atlantic’s most significant baseball icon since at least Walter Johnson, and probably ever.

Ripken, at 53, is more curious about a return now than at any point since his playing days ended. He is approaching the point at which if he does not get back in the game he did so much for, he may never return. But that doesn’t mean he will definitely land the managerial job this winter, either with the Nationals or the other three teams – Cincinnati, Seattle and the Cubs – that have vacancies.

As for the rest of the Nationals’ search for Davey Johnson’s replacement, information is scarce. General Manager Mike Rizzo has declined comment on the search from the start and has not changed his stance, choosing to keep the process as quiet as possible and give away nothing. “That’s Mike’s M.O.,” said one person close to the process. “He’s going to play things very close to the vest.”

With that in mind, here are some tidbits we’ve been able to gather on the search.

>>> As of late last week, the Nationals had yet to interview any candidates. It’s not clear whether that’s changed this week. The two strongest internal candidates remain bench coach Randy Knorr and third base coach Trent Jewett. Earlier this week, Jewett politely declined to discuss any specifics.

“I think the consideration would be great, to be thought of in that regard,” Jewett said. “Beyond that, you either get the job or you don’t.”

Jewett has been with the Nationals since 2009, when he took over as the manager at Class A Potomac. Jewett became Class AAA Syracuse’s manager in 2010, and then he joined the Nationals’ staff as a coach in 2011.

Jewett, 49, was a minor league catcher for four seasons before he spent more than a decade as a coach and minor league manager with the Pirates. He shares close relationships with many players and is well-respected in the clubhouse.

Knorr has been the most popular choice among current Nationals players, many of whom he managed during his years as a manager in the Nationals’ farm system. Knorr has acknowledged his somewhat precarious place in the Nationals’ manager search. If he does not receive the job, he would likely have to look elsewhere for his next position, since a new manager would be likely to choose his own bench coach. Knorr has been with the franchise since 2001.

“It would be a strange clubhouse without him around,” one Nationals coach said.

>>> Both USA Today and CBS Sports have reported Don Mattingly will return to the Dodgers with a contract extension next winter. Rizzo showed interest in Mattingly, then the Dodgers’ bench, before he hired Jim Riggleman as the full-time manager prior to the 2010 season. The Nationals probably would have talked to Mattingly again this time around, but now it seems they won’t have that option.

>>>In different circumstances, Bo Porter would be a strong candidate. He is well-liked and well-regarded by both the front office and ownership. But since he is under contract as Houston’s manager, the Nationals would have to give something in a trade to acquire Porter. That will likely provide too much of a hurdle. The Nationals have not contacted him, at least not yet.

>>> The Nationals’ coaching staff fell into flux with Johnson’s departure. Washington’s coaches are under contract through October. If the Nationals do not retain them by that date, they are free to negotiate with any other team.

Hitting coach Rick Schu has been told he will return to the organization in some capacity. Rizzo would prefer Schu remain the Nationals’ hitting coach, but if the next manger feels strongly otherwise, then Schu may be reassigned within the organization.

Schu proved himself capable last year. Under Rick Eckstein, the Nationals scored 3.7 runs per game. After Schu took over, they averaged 4.6 runs. Nationals hitters praised Schu for his relaxed approach. They respected Eckstein’s work ethic and ability, but felt he could overload them with information.

Tyler Clippard spoke on behalf of the Nationals’ staff and strongly advocated for Steve McCatty to return as pitching coach. McCatty has been the team’s pitching coach since midway through the 2009 season, making him the staff’s longest tenured coach at the major league level. Since 2010, the Nationals have the seventh-best ERA in baseball.

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