Hale, 55, leaves Washington amid a staff shake-up. He was Martinez’s bench coach for two seasons before moving to third base coach in 2020. And while he wanted to remain with the Nationals, the team with which he won the World Series last October, he also can see why it’s time to move on.
“I understand that Davey, with his extension came the opportunity to kind of revamp his staff and get guys that he wanted,” Hale said in an interview Monday. “And so you never want to be anywhere that you’re not wanted. I know I did everything I could every day there, in spring training, during the season, to help guys get better. The World Series year was magical.
“But that’s the way it goes. The more years you spend doing this — and not just yourself, [but] seeing other guys go through it — you understand that this is just part of the business.”
Martinez signed his multiyear extension Sept. 26. In the weeks since, in the aftermath of the team’s 26-34 finish, the Nationals have parted ways with Hale, hitting coach Kevin Long and pitching coach Paul Menhart, who were all on expiring contracts. Hale was initially hired to help Martinez acclimate to managing. General Manager Mike Rizzo knew Hale from Arizona, where Hale worked in the minors while Rizzo helped feed the system players as the Diamondbacks’ scouting director. As a former manager and veteran coach, Hale was a familiar option to round out Martinez’s first staff.
But Martinez favored Tim Bogar, whom he handpicked when hired before the 2018 season. Martinez shifted Hale to third base coach last winter to make room for Bogar as his bench coach. The bench coach is a manager’s right-hand man, and Bogar will have a spot next to Martinez as the staff evolves.
Last offseason’s changes were, according to Martinez, an effort to avoid complacency. Now a makeover leaves Hale, Long and Menhart searching for jobs.
“I’d known Mike, he’d known me, and he felt like I could fit a role there to help Davey, who had not managed in the major leagues or managed in the minor leagues,” Hale said. “We were just fine. This is just an opportunity that very, very few managers get, to be frank with you.
“There are very few managers that get total control of decision-making on their staff. More power to him. This is the way it goes, and I’m sure there are guys out there that he’s been with a lot longer than me that he’s looking to get in. That’s how we all get these jobs in the first place. There’s somebody who sort of sponsors you.”
With Hale, Long and Menhart out, Bogar, Henry Blanco, Bobby Henley and Pat Roessler remain from the 2020 staff. Blanco, like Bogar, is Martinez’s longtime friend and figures to stick as the bullpen coach. Henley has been with the organization since before it moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. Roessler, the assistant hitting coach, came after Long recommended him.
In a recent interview with The Post, Menhart said: “I was never Davey’s guy. And that’s not a knock on Davey. I completely get it.” Hale offered an identical perspective.
“It does make it easier to swallow,” Hale said. “For me, on a personal side, if this were just affecting me, I know how it goes. But you’re talking about your wife, kids, grandkids, stuff like that — it’s tough because they have to deal with this, too. I dealt with that being fired as a manager. It’s just not easy. It doesn’t just affect me; it affects a lot more people. That’s the sad part about it.”
In three years with the Nationals, Hale zipped around the field and clubhouse. He was known team-wide as the best at shagging flyballs in batting practice. Before this pandemic-shortened season, he often spent summer afternoons drilling Howie Kendrick’s sons in the outfield. He slapped grounders in pregame warmups. And when Martinez dealt with heart issues in September 2019, Hale stepped in to manage a series in St. Louis.
A World Series ring will always remind Hale of what he accomplished in Washington. So will the relationships that won’t disappear. Now, back home in Tucson, Hale hopes another team values the experience of winning a championship.
“I’m excited to talk to people once I have the ability to,” Hale said. “You get your name out there and see what’s going on. I just hope and pray that this virus takes a turn and goes away a little bit, so we can have fans and have a normal baseball season. I think that’s probably the biggest worry for me right now.”
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