For the second straight autumn, the Washington Nationals and Manager Dave Martinez are reshaping their major league coaching staff. Bob Henley and Randy Knorr will not be on it in 2022, according to a person familiar with the changes, though they will remain with the organization in player development roles. Otherwise, bench coach Tim Bogar, hitting coach Kevin Long, pitching coach Jim Hickey, bullpen coach Henry Blanco and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler have been extended opportunities to return in their current positions.
Henley, 48, was the Nationals’ third base coach this past season. Knorr, 52, coached first for a team that finished 65-97 and was gutted at the trade deadline. Henley worked with the club’s outfielders, while Knorr was in charge of controlling the base paths on defense. Together, they coordinated offensive base-running. They both have been with the Nationals since 2005, arriving with the team from Montreal.
Over the past 16 years, they have served a variety of roles in the majors and minors. Knorr, for example, was Ryan Zimmerman’s first manager with the Class A Savannah Sand Gnats. He ascended to Martinez’s staff after managing the Class AAA Syracuse Chiefs in 2018, Class AAA Fresno Grizzlies in 2019 and running the alternate site during the pandemic season of 2020. Henley had been in the big leagues since 2014 — a consistency Knorr has not reached — but was often criticized for his aggressiveness at third. Their reassignment comes amid a staff shake-up across levels and departments.
In mid-September, the Nationals fired four minor league coaches: outfield and base-running coordinator Gary Thurman, Class AA hitting coach Brian Rupp, high-Class A manager Tommy Shields and low-Class A pitching coach Pat Rice. Three others — pitching coordinator Brad Holman, pitching coach Larry Pardo and Bob Boone, a senior adviser in player development — had their contracts terminated after refusing to comply with the organization’s vaccine mandate for non-playing employees.
So as holes are filled, there are clear ways for Knorr and Henley to slide in. After working with major league outfielders, Henley, a former catcher, could replace Thurman. And since the Nationals did not employ a catching coordinator in 2021, Knorr could assume that responsibility. He said in June that, to cap a long coaching career, he still wants to be a major league manager, minor league field coordinator or catching coordinator. The latter two goals seem attainable next season. But new roles for Henley and Knorr will ultimately depend on how the Nationals structure player development moving forward.
In the majors, Martinez and General Manager Mike Rizzo will have at least two spots to address. The number could grow if the staff increases in size, as some in the clubhouse have quietly lobbied for. Martinez already announced that Hickey will return for 2022. Bogar and Blanco are considered his right hand men. Long, then, becomes the biggest question mark.
Last October, he looked around the majors before landing back with Washington on a one-year deal. According to multiple people with knowledge of his situation, he is open to returning again, though he will consider other opportunities in the coming weeks. He interviewed for the Nationals managing job before they hired Martinez ahead of the 2018 season. That same fall, he interviewed to manage the New York Mets, where he was the hitting coach, before they chose Mickey Callaway.
More recently, he attended the National League wild-card game in Los Angeles with star outfielder Juan Soto. They sat with agent Scott Boras, who represents Soto and employs Long’s son. They each wore Nationals jerseys (Soto for Trea Turner; Long for Max Scherzer). Long and Soto have grown very close in recent years, with Soto asking Long to pitch to him during last summer’s Home Run Derby. As a team, the Nationals finished tied for eighth in on-base-plus slugging percentage (.754). The other top nine clubs either made the playoffs or were contending in September.
It is unlikely that Long signs for another one-year deal, according to two people with knowledge of his intentions.