Thursday, December 22, 2016

The coaching overflow

The Twins on Wednesday filled their coaching staff to overflowing. They named not only Jeff Pickler, whose selection had been leaked Tuesday, but Jeff Smith, who has been managing in the Twins farm system for a dozen years, most recently at High A Fort Myers.

There being a maximum of seven uniformed coaches -- a designation rooted, as I observed in the Wednesday post, in the fact that coaches and managers get credited with time in the player pension fund -- assistant hitting coach Rudy Hernandez becomes a non-uniformed coach.

I had commented a while back about Smith in the context of his reported candidacy for the head coaching job at his alma mater, Stetson. Steve Trimper, who had been the head coach at Maine, got the job Saturday; Smith, according to a Mike Berardino tweet a day or two earlier, had taken himself out of consideration for the position. At the time I figured that meant Smith knew he wasn't getting the Stetson job; now I figure that he had been assured that he was going to be on the major league staff.

Smith will be the first base coach during games. He will also supplant bench coach Joe Vavra as the catching instructor and the departed Butch Davis as baserunning instructor, Smith, unlike Vavra, is a former catcher, so at least theoretically he's a better fit for that role. Pickler's portfolio will include outfield instruction -- another Davis assignment  -- as well as the "analytics liaison" role that had been reported.

Berardino's story on the hires implies, by the way, that Pickler is eager to downplay the analytics stuff, at least for public consumption. Again, I may be reading too much into that, but I think that's connected to the jock-vs-egghead dynamic. Pickler has an extensive playing resume, all in the minors, which gives him more cred inside the clubhouse than would someone like me.

I'm old enough, as mentioned previously, to remember the days when Calvin Griffith pinched his pennies by having a slender three-man coaching staff. I think it was Derek Falvey who spoke earlier this offseason about adding resources; having, in effect, a eight-man coaching staff is a fairly visible example of that.

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