Some thoughts on the Orioles' coaching staff - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Some thoughts on the Orioles’ coaching staff

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Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles now have three spots open on Buck Showalter’s 2017 staff: pitching coach, bullpen coach and assistant hitting coach.

Technically, only bench coach John Russell is signed through next season – most of the coaches’ contracts expired Oct. 31. But Showalter has expressed confidence that the others will be back. That includes base coaches Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson and hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.

Coaches are often under-the-radar types, and the best ones usually go unnoticed. But Showalter really has had some excellent lieutenants over the years.

So piecing together the 2017 staff is something that’s a priority for Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette.

“We’re working on assembling our coaching staff for next year,” Duquette said Thursday. “We’re going to be interviewing some candidates for pitching coach and bullpen coach and be assembling our staff for next season.”

Former Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, 55, is a candidate and the Orioles have interviewed a couple others.

If the organization decides to hire internally, Double-A Bowie pitching coach Alan Mills, a former Orioles’ reliever, may be the leading candidate for one of the open spots previously held by Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti. Triple-A pitching coach Mike Griffin is also well thought-of within the organization.

Wallace, 69, left at season’s end because he no longer wanted the daily grind and travel of a big-league season. Chiti’s contract expired Monday and he signed a two-year deal this week with the Atlanta Braves to be that organization’s Director of Pitching, overseeing the minor-league pitchers and assisting with the majors’ staff. Wallace has signed on to join Chiti in Atlanta as a roving instructor and advisor.

You can read more about Chiti’s departure here.

Obviously, losing both creates a big hole in the continuity of Showalter’s staff. He’s made at least one addition every offseason he’s been with the club, but the majority of the coaches on his staff had been with him for at least two-to-three years.

If history is any indicator, his new hires will be experienced baseball men – usually in their late-40s to mid-60s – who have held similar jobs in the past. He’s a big believer in coaches that have paid their dues in the minors and have experience in player development departments.

Showalter and Duquette have countless connections throughout the game, so there likely will be no shortage of qualified candidates to discuss.

It probably would behoove the club to move quickly, though. Free agency is about to start in earnest next week and Duquette has said the club will continue to look to improve its pitching staff. Having a pitching coach hired – especially one with a track record – could be key to the recruitment effort if the Orioles, indeed, are looking to add arms via free agency.

Also, possibly the most pressing issue facing Duquette in terms of contract extensions is right-hander Chris Tillman, the club’s top pitcher who will be a free agent after 2017 (most of the club’s core isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018).

These next few months will be instrumental in trying to lock up Tillman, and surely he’ll want to see what the club does with its pitching coaches before signing on long-term.

The other hire isn’t as high-profile. Mark Quinn, brought in before this season to be the assistant hitting coach to Coolbaugh, will not return in 2017, as first reported by MASNsports.com.

So, Showalter and company – vice president Brady Anderson has also been involved in hiring, especially when it comes to hitting coaches – will have to replace Quinn. That process should also begin soon.

Although some fans have called for the firing of Coolbaugh due to the one-dimensional approach of the offense – lots of homers, lots of unproductive outs — it would be surprising to see that happen. Coolbaugh has received high marks from his offensive players and, frankly, can only do so much with a lineup that is heavy on sluggers with limited on-base capabilities.

Besides, having to replace four coaches in one offseason would seem to be a daunting task – and an unnecessary one at this point.

Three new hires is plenty.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. DauerPower

    November 4, 2016 at 7:21 am

    In regards to Coolbaugh, isn’t the main job of a hitting coach to take one dimensional hitters and make them multi dimensional? I know you try to build on a hitter’s strengths but you also need to manage their weaknesses too.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 4, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      At this level, no. It’s to mechanically tweak to help make minor adjustments and keep them positive. Changing an approach of a guy who has been the majors for multiple years is exceptionally difficult. Old dog, new tricks. Often by the time they reach the majors, they are who they are. So it’s to get them to be the best out of what they already are.

  2. kodiack59

    November 4, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Dan – this isn’t necessarily meant about Dom but maybe you can explain something to us about how these situations work in baseball. If I’m in a business and i wait until someone’s contract is up to bring them back, i risk the chance of losing them. If i know i want them back (and I’ve got free time, say maybe a few weeks since my team lost in round 1), wouldn’t I work to get a new contract in place before-hand? If Buck wants them back, why don’t they have new contracts already?

    • Dan Connolly

      November 4, 2016 at 9:32 pm

      Well, it’s not just one person’s decision. And my sense is that not everyone was in agreement. So it got put off. And eventually Chiti was left without a contract and shouldn’t have to wait around if someone else wants him. My point is the Orioles — as a whole — obviously didn’t want him enough.

  3. John in Cincy

    November 5, 2016 at 7:49 am

    I know this will sound crazy & if anyone thinks so, I totally understand, but I’d like to see Barry Bonds as hitting coach. Yes, he was fired after a season with the Marlins, however it wasn’t because he stunk as a coach, but because he had an issue with Don Mattingly that wouldn’t go away.

    Okay, yes, there’s a potential friction with Buck before he’d even gotten here, given Showalter’s friendship with Mattingly. Maybe that wouldn’t cause further problems, but likely would, so already Bonds wouldn’t get the job. Steroids in the past would be another large distraction & could itself be a barrier.

    Finally, Bonds having had only one year as coach under his belt might work against him, so three strikes he’s out. But I didn’t mention his name because I seriously think he’d get the post, but only that he might be better than people would think.

    As I said at the top, he didn’t get fired because he was a poor coach. Some players praised his mentoring (of course, the player Miami most wanted to see Bonds work with to take to a new level, Giancarlo Stanton, was out for most of the year, so that never went anywhere).

    Barry Bonds is one of the few former power hitters who might be able to get Oriole sluggers to stop being such free swingers, because as his career went on, Bonds elevated his OBP along with his slugging.

    Granted, some will argue that it was because of his PED advantage that pitchers began pitching him extremely carefully. Still, until the intentional free pass became all the rage as a neutralizer in pitching to him, pitchers were working to get the ball over the plate–or close to over–but stay away from his power grid.

    Bonds, as a result, became one of the most patient hitters in the game as well an astonishing eye for what was or wasn’t a strike (think Hyun Soo Kim with gargantuan power). As a consequence, he was willing to accept the walk from time to time, and amassed staggering totals of unintentional free passes as well as the only player in MLB history with over 100 IBBs in a season, which is insane to contemplate and likely never will be approached.

    So, in my “not gonna happen, but sure is fun to speculate” scenario, if Bonds could impart his something of his own approach to the free swingers of the O’s, it could make an already formidable offense even more intimidating.

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