As the NFL season wears on, with the Chiefs making the Ravens’ close win over the Bills a bit more understandable and the Patriots showing why they probably deserved to win against the Ravens, there is baseball news for a fan base that could use some reasons for optimism. You know how they always defend new college football coaches by saying they are playing with “someone else’s guys”? Well, Buck Showalter may be playing with a team he didn’t put together, but he is finally acting to bring in his own set of coaches in with the to-be-announced additions of Rick Adair and Jim Presley, and likely additions of Mark Connor and Don Wakamatsu. As I have said before, baseball is unique in that it is next to impossible to determine how much of a player’s success is attributable to his coaches, but we are going to do our best to try…
I like the addition of Jim Presley as a hitting coach, as he understands what it is to work with young players. The Marlins always have one of the youngest teams in the majors, this year averaging 26.9 years of age and are in a constant state of flux. The stingy front office is unable (or more likely unwilling) to hold onto their veteran talent, and Presley has been faced with a constant stream of new players entering the big-league club. For that reason alone he should be considered for the hitting coach spot. The fact that he was fired should have nothing to do with it, since Jeffrey Loria seems to have expected his inexperienced, overmatched roster to compete for a playoff spot this year. They were lucky to be within shouting distance of .500, and anyone aside from the megalomaniac owner could be able to see that. Can you tell how I feel about the Marlins ownership? The fact that Presley has a long history with Showalter, dating back to joining Buck’s 1998 staff with the Diamondbacks (another young team) is just a bonus.
I have never heard a pitcher credit a major turnaround to the bullpen coach, but we can assume that Rick Adair is being brought in for a reason. Alan Dunn has been offered a minor league spot, which seems odd given how well the Orioles’ bullpen performed down the stretch and the emergence of David Hernandez and Jason Berken as consistent relievers. I think this is less a matter of Dunn being ineffective but Showalter wanting to bring in a coach he is more personally comfortable with. Adair most recently served as the pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners, having been dumped along with the rest of Don Wakamatsu’s staff as an easy scapegoat for the team’s struggles. I think any baseball fan can attest that the pitching staff was not what dragged Seattle to its dismal record this season. The Mariners boasted the 3rd best ERA in the American League despite relying on Orioles cast-offs Garrett Olsen and Dave Pauley in significant roles. Frankly, this team was not well assembled outside of Cliff Lee (briefly) and the best pitcher in the AL, Felix Hernandez (argue with me on that later). He deserves a pitching coach gig, the Orioles should be grateful to have him as a bullpen coach.
Likely, though not yet agreed to, are the additions of Mark Connor as hitting coach and Don Wakamatsu as bench coach. I would like the Wakamatsu addition, being a former manager but in no way a threat to Showalter if the team starts to underachieve (though at this point, would anything be underachieving?) over the next season or so. Wakamatsu had trouble dealing with veteran egos in Ken Griffey Jr. and Chone Figgins and frankly did not have the respect of his team. Hopefully as a bench coach, he would not have the burden of having to be the man in charge and can defer to Showalter whenever possible.
Mark Connor is presumably the next pitching coach, though personally I really like Rick Kranitz and the progress he has been able to make with this young staff during his tenure. Like Dunn, I think this is more a matter of getting Buck his own guy rather than firing the last guy. Connor was a bullpen coach with the Rangers from 2003-2005, and was promoted to pitching coach by Buck in 2006, Showalter’s last season with Texas. Connor was fired in 2008 and has since been an “advisor” with the club since. What would worry me about this move is that when Nolan Ryan took over he made an effort to remove pitch counts and overhaul the way pitchers were being handled and coached with on the club, and it has had great results. That does not bode well for members of the previous regime, as Ryan took over right before Connor was fired.
With pitch counts going the way of other outdated baseball commandments, it makes you wonder whether Ryan was a year or two before his time. Given the difficulties of pitching at Texas and the historical ineptitude in their starting rotations throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, the Orioles faithful may have to take Buck’s word for it if he wants Connor in that spot.
Third and first base coached have yet to be determined, but odds are the entire O’s staff will be completely different compared to Opening Day 2010. Baltimore fans hope the results will be just as different.