Derek Lilliquist's handling hurts Nats' reputation

Brian Tinsman
May 05, 2019 - 10:11 pm
Nationals fire pitching coach Derek Lilliquist

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Nationals' decision to fire Derek Lilliquist was hardly earth-shattering news.

The Nats are in fourth place in the National League East. Much of the team's offensive firepower has been lost to injury. Manager Dave Martinez gets a pass, for now.

On the other hand, the Nats' bullpen has been in disarray all season. Even the rotation has underperformed to this point, making Lilliquist an easy sacrificial lamb.

So easy, in fact, that the Nationals told his replacement, Paul Menhart, that he would be taking over for Lilliquist three days before the latter was fired:

That's a long time to let a guy twist in the breeze, even if he needed to go. This a really bad look for general manager Mike Rizzo.

If a boss wants to fire an employee for poor performance, that's his prerogative. But setting up a situation in which others know that an employee is a dead man walking is a sign of malice or at least dysfunction. It's likely that if Lilliquist's replacement knew days in advance, others did as well.

This is more than just bad form--it's about reputation. 

Let's face it: Rizzo and the Lerners might invest heavily in players, but they leave something to be desired with coaches.

The winningest manager in franchise history, Dusty Baker, was unceremoniously shown the door after his two playoff seasons. They hired Baker on a bargain contract after famously making an "insulting offer" to Bud Black.

They like to have coaches play out their contracts without the respect or insurance that comes with commitment. They seem to prefer hiring coaches at a discount rate. And now, they don't mind firing coaches in humiliating fashion.

If quality coaching candidates know this, why would they want to come to Washington? 

"Every important decision that’s made for the Washington Nationals, I’m responsible for," Rizzo emphatically told the media this week. "I can live with that. That’s the way things have to be."

Maybe so, but they don't have to be like this.

 

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