Wednesday, October 1, 2014

About the coaching staff

Terry Steinbach:
Manager, coach or
moving to Arizona?
When the Twins dismissed Ron Gardenhire as manager on Monday, they also put the seven coaches "in limbo." They have contracts through this calendar year, but no assurance that they will be on the new skipper's coaching staff.  Terry Ryan said Monday that he will not block any of them from moving on to another interested team in the meantime.

It should be said that managers no longer have the final say over their coaches, as they once did. That is one of many battles front offices have fought and won over the dugout bosses. Managers do have some say over coaches -- probably most strongly over pitching coaches -- but the general managers have the final say. It's no longer enough to be the manager's drinking buddy.

It wasn't Ron Gardenhire's idea to bounce Jerry White and Rick Stelmaszek for Tom Brunansky and Bobby Cuellar two years ago, after all.

I rather expect some of the seven coaches to remain on the Twins staff. Indeed, were I involved in the hiring process, I would need a really strong reason to go with a candidate who intended to replace Brunansky or Paul Molitor.

Let's go down the list and take a guess at their fates:

Rick Anderson, pitching coach: Can't see that he's returning. Ryan will almost certainly let his new manager have his pitching coach of choice. And it may well be that even if Anderson is the pitching coach of choice (if, say, Molitor or Steinbach gets the job), that Ryan will strongly suggest that a different coach be chosen.

Tom Brunansky, hitting coach: I want him to stay. The improvement of the Twins hitters from 2013 to 2014 was impressive. I can't prove that Bruno was responsible for that improvement, but the improvement was there.

Bobby Cuellar, bullpen coach: Might be considered for the pitching coach job. Might be kept as bullpen coach, Might be cut loose. My guess is he stays in the bullpen job. Sole Spanish speaker on the current staff, so naturally he was as far from the Latin contingent as possible.

Paul Molitor, baserunning/defensive positioning/first base: Conventional wisdom has him as the front runner for the managerial job. The interesting puzzle is: What if somebody else gets the top job? Would the Hall of Famer be willing to serve on a Doug Mientkiewicz staff? I hope so.

Terry Steinbach, bench coach: Also seen as a managerial candidate. The New Ulm native has also been connected to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where Tony LaRussa has installed Steiny's old Oakland battery mate, Dave Stewart, as a (relatively weak) general manager and is now looking for a new manager. Manager or coach, I expect Ryan to want to keep Steinbach; if the D'backs make a rapid offer, that might not be an option.

Scott Ullger: Jack of all
coaching trades,
master of none.
Scott Ullger, outfield/first base/third base: Can't see that he's returning. Ullger has been around since the Tom Kelly regime and has been given a variety of assignments over the years: Hitting coach, first base, third base, dugout, fill-in manager, outfield defense. He didn't do any of them so well that he kept the responsibility for long. Ullger has long struck me as the most dispensable member of the staff.

Joe Vavra, infield/third base: Longtime hitting coach, had hip replacement surgery during the season and spent most of the second half in the dugout. My guess is that he'll be offered the minor league hitting coordinator job he held before Brunansky was elevated to the major league job. (The Twins early in September dismissed Bill Stoneman, who had held the minor league coordinator post for eight years.)

Bottom line: Even if one of the current coaches is chosen Gardenhire's successor, I expect substantial turnover on the staff this winter. The relative stability that accompanied Gardenhire's assent 13 years ago is not going to be repeated.

1 comment:

  1. The Strib on Tuesday said Anderson told Ryan that if Gardy was gone he was gone as well.