Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On coaching roles

Tuesday's news involving the Minnesota Twins:

The Twins have not announced his hire, and I assume that's in part because they want to iron out their reshuffle of responsibilities before they do so. The remaining vacancy on the coaching staff is/was Butch Davis' job as outfield instructor/first base coach, but the intent appears to be for Pickler to be focused on putting the analytic advice from the front office into use on the field.

Somebody (my guess is Joe Vavra) will be "first base coach," but that in-game chore -- which often appears to be limited to yelling "back back back" on pickoff throws and gathering paraphernalia from hitters-turned-baserunners -- will be a slender portion of his duties.

Major league coaching jobs appear much more structured than in my early days of fandom. One of the running themes of "Ball Four," Jim Bouton's diary of the 1969 season, is the basic uselessness of coaches, who he depicts as protectors of baseball and enforcers (or inventors) of petty rules, hired as favors.

Jim Brosnan's earlier books, set about a decade earlier, is less explicit on the theme, but in "The Long Season" he implies that at least two of the Cardinals coaches have as their top priority jockeying to become the next manager and hints at the same for one of the Reds coaches, and "Pennant Chase" echoes an explicit Bouton critique a decade later of longtime pitching coach Jim Turner -- he was good at attaching himself to a pitcher who is succeeding and ignored those were struggling.

There is no "bullpen coach" in the Brosnan books. In the first, the pitching coaches (he had three on two teams) spend the games in the bullpen. In the second, Turner is in the dugout and Brosnan, as "captain of the bullpen," is basically responsible for making sure the phone gets answered. There is in Ball Four, at least on the Pilots, and it's pretty obvious that Bouton wished there wasn't.

The 1974 Twins had three coaches (Vern Morgan, Buck Rodgers and Ralph Rowe). Current major league teams are allowed seven in uniform during games, a designation I suspect exists largely becaused uniformed personnell acquire time in the players pension plan. The increase in coaches is partly financial (teams can afford more) and partly because the game has evolved to actually put them to work. It's not enough now to be the manager's drinking buddy, although I doubt that aspect has gone away completely,

No comments:

Post a Comment