Dave Martinez earned the chance to reshape his teaching workers
Washington hired Jim Hickey to replace Menhart as their pitching coach. It promoted Randy Knorr, an organization liver, to first base coach and swung Bobby Henley back over the diamond to coach third. And when the entire group was announced on Wednesday during the off-season opening hours, it was clear Martinez was prioritizing long-term relationships.
Hickey and bank coach Tim Bogar crossed paths with Martinez in Tampa Bay. Martinez and Bullpen trainer Henry Blanco go way back. Knorr, most recently manager of the Nationals’ AAA subsidiary, was Martinez’s team-mate for the Texas Rangers in 2000. Long and Bobby Henley are returning after helping the 2019 Nationals to a title. comes back as an assistant and hits Trainer and Long’s right hand.
“This is just an opportunity very few managers get to be honest with you,” Hale told The Post after leaving the organization. “There are very few managers who have complete control over their employees’ decision-making.”
Enter Hickey and Knorr. Hickey, 58, was the Rays pitching coach for 11 years. For one of them, Martinez was a special instructor in spring training. For the next six years, Martinez was a bank coach for manager Joe Maddon, sharing a dugout and changing room with Hickey. Hickey also worked with Maddon as the Chicago Cubs pitching coach in 2018, giving him another season under Martinez’s mentor. After Menhart was fired, Hickey was the obvious choice to fill his place.
The addition of Knorr, on the other hand, was less predictable. But he and Martinez played together in Texas when Knorr was a late career catcher and Martinez was a seasoned outfielder. That one season laid the foundation for a strong bond in Washington. They handled the exams for an AAA team in Fresno, California. They spent the spring trainings catching up. And Knorr, 51, has been with the Nationals since they moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005.
Knorr began administering the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats. From there he directed the Potomac Nationals Class A and the Harrisburg Senators Class AA. He then went on to serve as the Major League pitching coach and bank coach, not renewing his contract following the sacking of manager Matt Williams, and returning as senior advisor to general manager Mike Rizzo, focusing on player development.
Next, Rizzo made Knorr the club’s Class AAA manager for 2017, 2018 and 2019. Then, when the 2020 season in the minor league was canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Knorr ran the Nationals alternative training venue in Fredericksburg, Va. The Experience consistently respected Knorr. His knowledge of Washington’s young talent is another plus.
Overall, Martinez’s circle now looks like this: a pitching trainer he’s seen in action; a first base coach to rely on; a bullpen trainer, Blanco, who is one of his closest friends; a bank coach, Bogar, whom he sees as a direct extension of himself; a third base trainer, Henley, who has a history similar to Knorr; and two batting coaches, Long and Roessler, who have played the same roles with the New York Mets for four seasons.
Last season, the Nationals’ shot in defense of their title ended in a record 26:34 amid a global pandemic. And an employee who has been remade according to Martinez’s picture should soon also have a new roster to work with.