When the Orioles finalized their 2022 coaching staff on Tuesday, they made four changes. Two were the shifting of titles and roles for holdover coaches Fredi González and José Hernandez. Two were the previously reported hiring of Matt Borgschulte and Ryan Fuller as co-hitting coaches.
Their other five coaches — pitching coaches Darren Holmes and Chris Holt, catching coach Tim Cossins and base coaches Anthony Sanders and Tony Mansolino return.
What is most striking is how little major league playing experience the coaches have.
González, like manager Brandon Hyde, has long been in the majors as a coach and manager, but neither played in the majors.
As a player, González was in the New York Yankees’ minor league system when Buck Showalter was a rising young manager, but he never played above Double-A before beginning his managerial career in 1990.
Playing in the major leagues has never been a prerequisite for managing the Orioles. Their two most successful managers, Showalter and Earl Weaver, never played in the majors. Nor did Hyde, Ray Miller, Cal Ripken Sr. or Dave Trembley.
Other than Hernández, who played 15 major league seasons and was an All-Star with Milwaukee in 2002, and Holmes, who pitched 13 seasons in the majors with eight teams, including five games for the Orioles in 2000, there isn’t much major league or, in some cases, minor league experience among the coaches.
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Sanders played just 13 major leagues games, three for Toronto in 1999 and 10 for Seattle in 2000 and 2001.
None of the others played in the majors.
The two new batting coaches, Borgschulte and Fuller, have almost no pro playing experience. Fuller, who was an undrafted free agent by Arizona, played 32 games for the Diamondbacks’ Rookie League team in 2012.
Borgschulte’s playing career ended in college. He has spent four seasons as a minor league coach in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Holt pitched in 15 games for the Pirates’ Williamsport team in Short Season A in 2002. Mansolino played four seasons in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia organizations and three more years of Independent ball. Cossins played seven seasons in the Texas, Yankees and Montreal organizations and another season of Independent ball.
Major league or years of minor league experience no longer seems to be a requirement for coaching, and that’s not just with the Orioles.
The San Francisco Giants, who won a major league high 107 games in 2021, list 14 coaches on their website. Only four played in the majors, and none of their three hitting coaches did.
Justin Viele, who’s listed as their hitting coach, was a 37th-round draft choice of the Orioles in 2013 and played two seasons in the low minors for them.
Other successful teams have more experienced coaches.
The world champion Atlanta Braves, managed by longtime minor league manager Brian Snitker have accomplished coaches, some of whom had long major league careers. Among the Braves’ coaches are longtime major league shortstop and onetime Colorado manager Walt Weiss, first base coach Eric Young Sr., third base coach Ron Washington, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and pitching coach Rick Kranitz,
All had long major league careers except for Kranitz, who has spent many years as an accomplished pitching coach, including a stint with the Orioles.
The Orioles’ coaches, particularly the new hitting coaches, are younger. Borgschulte and Fuller are 31 and both are proficient with new technology and analytics. The coaches they replaced were more traditional coaches who shunned the new tools.
Don Long, who was let go by the Orioles after the 2021 season, was a longtime minor league player, coach and manager who was the hitting coach for Pittsburgh and Cincinnati before joining the Orioles. Long was comfortable with new technology and received praise from Trey Mancini.
Ryan Mountcastle and Cedric Mullins both had excellent seasons in 2021, but too many others didn’t.
The Orioles ranked 10th in the American League with a .239 batting average and were near the bottom in every other important offensive category, so it wasn’t a surprise that Long was fired.
Over the years, some of the most acclaimed Oriole coaches had little or no major league experience.
Miller, who in addition to his two years of managing, had three iterations as pitching coach, never reached the majors. Dave Wallace, who had three successful seasons under Showalter from 2014-2016, pitched in 13 major league games with a 7.08 ERA.
When Chris Davis or other members of the Orioles in the Showalter era went into a slump, fans would belittle former hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, who was with the team from 2015-2018.
“How can a .215 hitter coach major leaguers?”
My response was always that success as a major league hitter had no bearing on whether Coolbaugh could coach.
The Orioles are hoping that the lack of experience for Borgschulte and Fuller won’t be a detriment.
Note: The Orioles signed right-handed pitcher Matt Vogel to a minor league contract. He pitched two seasons in the Tampa Bay organization, and has pitched in Independent ball since 2018.