Dave Martinez’s entire 2018 coaching staff will return next season, according to a person familiar with the team’s plans, who said the team had decided as much by the end of the regular season. Like Martinez, then, his coaches will get a second chance after a disappointing 2018 season spent mired in mediocrity and hindered by injuries.
Martinez is entering the second year of a three-year deal with a club option for a fourth, and will — rather obviously — no longer be a rookie manager. The growing pains he admitted he experienced with his pitching staff should lessen. His knowledge of and relationship with his players will be stronger. The chemistry with his coaching staff should improve.
That staff will once again include hitting coach Kevin Long, widely regarded as one of the most effective hitting coaches in baseball. Despite the win and loss numbers, Long’s offense compiled the third-best OPS in the National League behind the pennant-winning Dodgers and the Coors Field-aided Rockies.
It will also include pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, the laid-back veteran who let older pitchers come to him and younger pitchers be themselves. In his first season, the injury riddled Nationals rotation posted its highest ERA since 2010 — though it also included far more young and inexperienced starters than anyone anticipated.
Energetic Chip Hale will serve as bench coach once again, bringing his dogged attention to detail and constant intensity. Hale often stood alone in the dugout watching Nationals opponents take batting practice before games, hoping to glean some measure of an advantage from what he saw. Hale’s name has often emerged as a potential managerial candidate since he was let go by the Diamondbacks in 2016, but does not appear to be a candidate for any of this winter’s openings.
Tim Bogar and Henry Blanco, both longtime Martinez confidants, will be back to coach first base and in the bullpen, respectively. Blanco will also be participating in the league’s Japanese tour in November, joining Juan Soto and traveling secretary Rob McDonald on the trip. And Bob Henley, the lone survivor of the Matt Williams and Dusty Baker eras, will return to coach third.
Both Martinez and general manager Mike Rizzo said at season’s end that they anticipated the staff returning intact. Rizzo said he felt they earned another chance, and that he felt their work ethic and chemistry worked well for this roster. Indeed, they were a more involved group, as a whole, than Baker’s coaches, who often employed a more hands-off approach. But this staff also has something to prove now, as its members were hired to help a division-winning team take the next step, and instead oversaw disappointment. The National League East is only getting more competitive. Redemption will not come easily.