Frank's Back, But Coaching Staff Revamped
[December 15th] -- Frank's back.
The Nationals announced Thursday that the team has signed Robinson, 70, to a one year, $650,000 contract. Although it took a long time to finalize, there was little doubt that the deal would get done. In this period of Nationals' history where uncertainty reigns supreme, returning Robinson to the dugout was a "must-do."
In addition, pitching coach Randy St. Claire and bench coach Eddie Rodriguez will be returning to Washington with Robinson. However, hitting coach Tom McCraw, first base coach Don Buford, bullpen coach Bob Natal and third base coach Dave Huppert have been fired. It was known that if Robinson came back, he was going to have to make changes to his staff. Huppert was a certainty to lose his job, as was McCraw [having the worst offense in the league will do that to you]. However, the firing of old friend Don Buford was a surprise. He was likely blamed for the Nationals' poor baserunning that cost them several baserunners during the season.
Since taking over as manager in 2002, Robinson has done big things with little talent. He won 83 games in both 2002 and 2003, and 81 games last season. In 2004, he won only 68 games, but that came on the heels of an off season that saw the team lose many of its core players to free agency and cost-cutting trades.
Robinson has a career .478 winning percentage, quite good considering he's managed some very poor clubs. With the Nationals, certainly the worst of the four [Cleveland, San Francisco and Baltimore were the others], he had an even better percentage, .485.
Robinson is the closest thing the Nationals have to an "icon." At the end of a 21 year career where he slugged 586 homers, he became the first player-manager in the major leagues since Lou Boudreau in 1952, and the first black manager in the history of the big leagues.
Sure, Frank Robby can be a little short at times, and no, he doesn't "get" tattoo's and ear rings [neither do I for that matter], but he's the type of manager that players love to play for [just ask Robert Fick, who chose the Nationals in part because of his relationship with Robinson].
There is no question that this will be his last year as manager. He will certainly give way to someone younger and more vibrant in 2007. I hope, however, that the new owner finds a prominent position for Robinson within the organization, and not just as a figure-head. Let the guy be a leader in the front office. He's earned it.