Is Jim Hickey the Answer to the Nationals’ Pitching Coach Dilemma?

Jim Hickey (left) and Dave Martinez (right) during their time as understudies to Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. (Photo: Nationals Communications)

If it seems like every year or two, the Nationals are looking for a new pitching coach, that’s because they are. They blow through managers too, but the search for a pitching coach seems equally – if not more – tiresome.

The Rise and Fall of the Nats’ Staff

Steve McCatty handled Washington’s pitchers for seven years (2009-15). The staff’s ERA dropped from 5.00 when he took over to 3.33 (second-best in baseball) in 2012, improving every year during that span. The unit checked in at a remarkable 3.03 in 2014, and never registered an ERA above 3.62 or worse than eighth in the majors in McCatty’s final five seasons.

The team as a whole spiraled under Matt Williams during 2015, and the contracts of most of the staff – including McCatty – weren’t renewed during that offseason.

The Nats let him get away, not knowing the misfortune and disfunction that could strike a pitching staff that based on talent alone was dominant.

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Robservations: Week 6

Is this what rock bottom’s like? It sure feels like it. 

The Washington Football Team suffered their fifth consecutive loss this season on Sunday, this time to the previously winless New York Giants, and have now plunged to the final spot of the worst division in football. And boy let me tell you, it was a doozy of an afternoon. 

Coming down to a final two-point conversion to win the game, the newly appointed starting quarterback Kyle Allen rolled to the left with a chance to tuck it and run for the endzone, but instead came to a full stop and essentially threw the ball into an open space of the field where no one was to be seen. It was actually pretty comical to watch. Even more comical was the rewatch, where it looked like Allen actually might have had a chance to run it in for the win had he not come to a complete halt. 

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Robservations: Week 5

Alex Smith, Washington QB, makes NFL return with first game in 2 years
Steve Helber, AP

Sorry this week’s Robservations is a bit late. Even I need a day off from writing about this team and all of their ineptitude. Plus I needed to take my lady on a nice date night before she leaves for a few days. Priorities, people. 

This week we’ve got another doozy of a game to talk about. Washington got absolutely walloped by the LA Rams, who managed to start this season by sweeping this entire NFC East because why not? Those are free wins, man. 

Unlike the other matchups with NFC East opponents, Washington really didn’t put up much of a fight at all in this one. Besides one pretty nice drive led by new starter Kyle Allen that ended in a gutsy seven-yard touchdown run, Allen’s debut was short-lived thanks to a pretty cheap hit by Jalen Ramsey that ended Allen’s day before halftime. We’ll probably see Allen starting under center again next week, but we did catch a glimpse of Alex Smith in his return from probably the most gruesome injury I’ve ever seen. 

That’s probably a good place to start for this week’s 30-10 loss. 

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Robservations: Week 4

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Welcome back to the fourth edition of Robservations. This week we’ve got a doozy of a game to talk about. 

A lot of the points I’ll be driving home are ones I’ve pretty much already addressed in the past three games so I won’t beat a dead horse too much (I mean, it’s already dead), but as you’re probably aware, the Washington Football Team dropped their third consecutive game this season, this time against a potential Super Bowl candidate in the Baltimore Ravens. 

The 31-17 loss was not unexpected as we all pretty much chalked this one up as a loss unless we saw this team play an absolutely perfect game (which they didn’t), but honestly I thought they gave us a decent performance all things considered. Enough lollygagging, let’s jump in. 

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Robservations: Week 3

Cleveland Browns
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

In Week 2’s loss to Arizona, I wasn’t mad with the 15-point loss to a clearly better team, but yesterday was quite frankly a bit of a different story. Washington’s 34-20 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns was a frustrating display of self-made errors that essentially gifted the game to a Browns team that I don’t necessarily see as significantly better than Washington. 

Considering next week is a matchup with an absolutely stacked Baltimore Ravens team, it was kind of important for this team to show up and get a good result against an opponent closer to their level before going up against a straight-up Super Bowl contender. What’s worse is that this team was pretty much in this game up until Cleveland made it an 11-point game in the fourth quarter. 

I suppose we should get into this game right? Okay, fine. 

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Robservations: Week 2

NFL: Washington Football Team at Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Consider this week a wake-up, people. Though the win over Philly was a great way to start this season off, we saw where this team is truly at against a far superior Arizona Cardinals team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I mean we knew a game like this was coming eventually, but it does show us that this team absolutely has a long way to go and that we have to adjust expectations accordingly. 

The truth is, I actually really like this Cardinals team. They’ve got an absolute beast of a signal-caller in Kyler Murray, one of the most unstoppable wideouts in the game in DeAndre Hopkins and a young and talented defense led by Vance Joseph. This is a team ready to win now despite being in the absolutely wild NFC West. This was a great litmus test for Washington, who didn’t necessarily play well, but showed the same resilience we saw last week, albeit in a game that was pretty much over by the fourth quarter. 

Let’s jump into the nitty gritty and see what went right and what went wrong in this week’s edition of Robservations. 

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Robservations: Week 1

Hi I’m Robby Fletcher and welcome to the first edition of Robservations, a new weekly blog where I’ll be talking about the Washington Football Team’s 2020-21 season. 

In this inaugural entry, we’ll be breaking down the team’s epic 17-point comeback victory against the Philadelphia Eagles to start off Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach. The win was the team’s first Week 1 home victory since 2011 and its first NFC East win since Week 8 of 2018. So, let’s talk a bit about some of the game’s biggest headlines. 

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Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 31–Sept. 6

Brock Holt slides home, adding to what was his most successful week in over a year. (Photo: John Amis/AP Photo)

It was a tale of two series for the Nationals this week. They were swept in four games by the Phillies, but took two out of four from the Braves to end the week. They had a losing streak extend all the way to seven games, but they finished the week winning two of their last three.

Rather than going game-by-game, let’s discuss trends this week.

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Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 25–30

Trea Turner continued a torrent stretch at the plate, solidifying himself as one of the league’s top shortstops. (Photo: Turner’s Instagram account)

The Nationals once again had a slightly abbreviated week. The prior “week” extended into Monday, since the Marlins series was atypically long, and Thursday’s tilt with the Red Sox was postponed – as were most games across the league out of respect towards racial injustice.

The Nats lost their first two games against the Phillies before the postponed match, then dropped two out of three from the Red Sox at Fenway Park, falling further from shouting distance of the other National League playoff contenders.

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Washington Nationals Series Review: Aug. 21–24

With extra innings needed from the bullpen, Wander Suero reminded Dave Martinez why he trusted the right-hander in 2019. (Photo: MASNSports.com).

After two days off earlier in the week, the Nationals returned to face the Marlins at home for five games. Washington lost the first game and split Saturday’s doubleheader, then continued to trade wins and losses in the next two games. The result: a 3-2 series loss and a missed opportunity to make up significant ground in the – albeit early – playoff race.

Here’s a recap of the series, as well as a preview of this week’s schedule.

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