After losing eight of the past 10 games, the Nationals fired hitting coach Rick Eckstein, to the dismay of manager Davey Johnson.
In a news conference Monday, a visibly distraught Johnson said the decision did not reflect his feelings on Eckstein's coaching ability.
"It was a shocker," Johnson said. "I’ve experienced a lot of things in my career. I’ve been traded, I’ve been released, I’ve been sold, I’ve been fired. Today is arguably the hardest day I’ve had in baseball."
In the midst of what seems to be a never-ending slump, the Nats are ranked 29th in runs scored and 28th in on-base percentage out of 30 MLB teams.
"Rick is one of the hardest workers I've met," third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "He always was prepared to have everything we need to succeed and unfortunately us as players haven't succeeded this year and he kind of has to take the fall for that."
As early as last month, Johnson said, “If you want to fire the hitting coach, you might as well fire me right with him."
Monday, Johnson was asked if he still believes those sentiments.
"I’m not quitting," Johnson said. "In my discussions about firing Rick, I said there were other options. [I told them to] do away with me.”
Although he said he wasn't involved in the decision to fire Eckstein, Johnson said he brought the bad news to him as a courtesy.
"I had to be the one to tell him," Johnson said. "I owed him that much respect and it didn’t make it any easier. I feel like a part of me is gone too."
Johnson said he also wasn't part of the decision to bring Rick Schu on board as the new hitting coach.
As for any other management or coaching changes, Johnson said he's confident the Nats, now below .500, will be able to come out of the slump.
"I believe wholeheartedly that we are going to play better," Johnson said. "But that’s the thing about playing this level. If you don’t continue to play better, there are changes made. I know, I’ve been involved in just about every aspect of it."
Zimmerman said ultimately, the players take the blame for the team's lack of success on the diamond this season.
"The bottom line is we have to perform," Zimmerman said. "If we don't do that, we're going to continue not winning ball games, but I think we can. We'll go out there and continue to play hard every night and that's really all you can ask."