National League Coaching Movements

Yesterday, we looked at on-field staff changes across the Junior Circuit. This time, we'll check on some of the recent changes across the National League coaching ranks.

Florida - the next big thing – no experience required

 

Either showing a severe case of schizophrenia or at least a pendulum swing of the most dramatic proportions, the Florida Marlins swapped out the retiring Jack McKeon, who turns 75 next month, with Joe Girardi, who celebrated his 41st birthday last week.

 

McKeon departed after having managed for a total of almost 2000 games with five big league clubs, along with serving seven years as San Diego's general manager. His 2003 Wild Card Marlins squad won the World Series, but came home a disappointing third place in the NL East each of the past two seasons.

 

Despite having no prior managing experience at any level and just one year as a broadcaster and one as a assistant with Joe Torre's New York Yankees after ending his playing career, former bench coach Girardi was this postseason's hottest head coaching commodity. In addition to the Marlins, Girardi interviewed twice with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as a potential replacement for Lou Piniella.  He received a three-year deal from the Marlins.

 

Two third base coaches, Atlanta's Fredi Gonzalez and Oakland's Ron Washington, also interviewed for the post. During his somewhat bizarre week of unemployment, Oakland's Ken Macha had also expressed interest. Others receiving interviews include former Seattle Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price, Tampa Bay first base coach Billy Hatcher and Rays' third base coach Tom Foley.

 

For Girardi, no managing experience also means no negatives, no baggage - unless you count the Yankees' disappointing exit from the playoffs during his only season on the staff, that is. Oh, well… Girardi did collect three rings as a player, but then again, so have lots of other guys.

 

One report had Girardi on the fence, trying to decide if he should wait to take his first managerial position until the Chicago Cubs job becomes open – his hometown and original organization. I am sure beleaguered incumbent Dusty Baker was glad to read about that.

 

Anyway, good luck, Joe! As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

 

Can't be Rich in Milwaukee, but weird names still welcome

 

No, that is not a replay of former owner, but unfortunately, current Commissioner Bud Selig's complaints about his supposed money-losing years with Milwaukee.

 

Instead, at the conclusion of the season, the Brewers announced a shake up of the coaching staff. Everyone named "Rich" was dropped – specifically, bench coach Rich Dauer and third base coach Rich Donnelly. Rumors that it was due to their names being too plain could not be confirmed.

 

However, a quick check of the middle names of the rest of the staff makes one wonder if Manager Ned Yost doesn't favor being around other guys with weird handles. Sure looks that way as bullpen coach Bill (Radhames) Castro, pitching coach Mike (Ausley) Maddux, first base coach Dave (Earl) Nelson and batting coach Butch (Harold Delano) Wynegar are returning for 2006.

 

(You can look up their names, honest!)

 

Little help for Bernie Brewer

 

OK, I couldn't help but have a second headline for the Brew Crew. Too much good material there. Replacements for the pair of deposed Riches are now known, each with their own weird name and story.

 

Grady Little, the former Red Sox manager, is rumored to be Yost's choice as bench coach. This would be Little's first return to active duty since being fired by the Sox following the disastrous conclusion of the 2003 American League Championship Series.

 

Suggestions that Little will get the job because it is assumed he will continue the Milwaukee tradition of leaving Ben Sheets in games too long are just speculation at this point. Little spent the past two seasons in exile, working for the Chicago Cubs as a roving catching instructor and special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry.

 

Former Milwaukee fan favorite Dale (Curtis) Sveum was named the new third base coach for the Brewers. He has been the regular target of boo birds as Boston's third base coach for the past two seasons, but said with a straight face that the reason for the move is because he wants to work closer to his Arizona home. Uh, can someone get Dale a map?

 

Seriously, the Brewers do train near his Scottsdale, Arizona home. That takes care of the month of March. One road trip to play the Diamondbacks each season will add three more days. Not sure how Dale is going to break the news to Mrs. Sveum about the rest of April through September, though.

 

On a side note, former Giants, Cubs and Sox third base coach "Wave ‘Em Home" Wendell Kim is not expected to be Sveum's replacement. Though many Sox fans have compared the two, it is not a positive subject.

 

Whisler's Mother unhappy, but Grandma Moses elated with Reds

 

Once the "interim" tag was removed from his title, Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron set out to remake the Reds. Not exactly, as their new team mantra is continuity. Hey, they did finish six games out of last place, after all, and haven't changed their manager since June! Impressive.

 

Anyway, the Reds did make one coaching change. Narron invited everyone back for 2006 except first base and infield coach Randy Whisler. John Moses, who was named bench coach shortly after Narron became interim manager, is tentatively slated to assume Whisler's former first base coaching duties.

 

Moses has served as the team's outfield instructor and will stay in that role, so the Reds are looking to hire someone to tutor the infielders as the new bench coach. Rumors have Bucky Dent being that addition. Dent and Narron were coaches on the late Johnny Oates' Rangers staff from 1995 until 2001.

 

The other Cincinnati coaches expected back are pitching coach Vern Ruhle, hitting coach Chris Chambliss, third base coach Mark Berry, bullpen coach Tom Hume and bullpen catcher Mike Stefanski.

 

DePodesta dreaming of a delicious Dodger Dog

 

Los Angeles (not of Anaheim) Dodgers canned five-year manager Jim Tracy after his club was one of only four in history to fall from ten games over .500 to twenty below during one season. Sort of a reverse Astros thing, if you will.

Not that it was entirely Tracy's fault, as his four previous clubs each registered winning records and general manager Paul DePodesta let many good players depart such as Paul Lo Duca, Adrian Beltre, Steve Finley, Alex Cora and Shawn Green. Tracy was given such iron men and model citizens as J.D. Drew and Milton Bradley to work with, instead.

 

Atlanta's Terry Pendleton was set to interview with DePo, but canceled at the last minute, citing family concerns. Good thinking, Terry. Another Terry, Collins, also interviewed. Collins, the Dodgers' director of player development, managed the Houston Astros and the Angels during the latter half of the ‘90s.

Jerry Royster is in the mix, too. He is manager of the Dodgers' Triple-A team in
Las Vegas and was the Milwaukee Brewers' 2002 skipper. Other candidates include Alan Trammell, fired as manager of the Detroit Tigers earlier in the month, Torey Lovullo, manager of the Cleveland Indians' Double-A affiliate in Akron, who has won championships in each of his four seasons as a minor league manager and Ron Wotus, bench coach for the San Francisco Giants.

 

No decision is imminent. DePodesta is expected to speak with former Dodgers Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine about the open managerial job or perhaps other positions in the organization. Gibson was the Tigers' bench coach under Trammell, Hershiser is Texas' pitching coach and Bobby V has led his Chiba Lotte Marines into their first Japan Series berth in 31 years.

 

Tracy jumps from LA frying pan into Pittsburgh fire

 

After five years of mediocrity, Pittsburgh Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was given the ax with several weeks remaining in the 2005 season. He signed on to be Jim Leyland's bullpen coach in Detroit. Interim manager Pete Mackanin was not considered to be a permanent candidate with the Buccos.

 

Fredi Gonzalez was the only other alternative who received an interview before Jim Tracy was offered the job and signed a three-year contract. Leyland and Ken Macha were also mentioned before they settled elsewhere.

 

Tracy is expected to bring his former Dodgers bench coach Jim Lett and pitching coach Jim Colborn with him to the Steel City. At least the two of them said they'd come if asked. There is also a rumor that Dodgers third base coach Glenn Hoffman could find a new home with the Pirates.

 

Arizona Price check

 

Bryan Price accepted a one-year contract to become the new pitching coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks once he learned that he wasn't going to get the Florida Marlins managerial job that instead went to Joe Girardi. Price resigned as Mariners pitching coach earlier in the month after spending 18 years with the Seattle organization, the last six as their major league pitching coach.

 

Rockin' Leo busts Braves' chops

 

Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone left the organization of which he's been a part since 1979. Mazzone has been in his current role since 1990 as the only pitching coach Bobby Cox has employed as Atlanta's skipper. Mazzone's replacement may be the man he replaced, Braves minor league pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton. Other candidates are rumored to be former Royals major league and Braves minor league pitching coach Guy Hansen and Mississippi's (Double-A) Kent Willis.

 

Mazzone joined the staff of best buddy Sam Perlozzo in Baltimore. Never work for good friends, Leo… By the way, a major league-quality staff would be a good thing to put on your Christmas list. And, you may want to keep that home in Atlanta just in case.

 

Cubs coaching continuity looking to extend 2005 success

 

OK, so that is a cheap shot. What do you expect to read here, praise? Anyway, Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild rejected an offer to join former boss Jim Leyland with the Detroit Tigers. Instead, the former Devil Rays skipper signed a one-year contract to return to the Cubs for a fifth season.

 

As a result, manager Dusty Baker's entire staff will be back on the North Side in 2006. Bench coach Dick Pole, hitting coach Gene Clines, first base coach Gary Matthews, third base coach Chris Speier and bullpen coach Juan Lopez will rejoin Rothschild.

 

An interesting rumor that was circulating was that if Rothschild had departed, the Cubs would have asked Greg Maddux to play the dual role of pitcher-pitching coach.

Baker was on the hot seat during his club's injury-riddled, fourth-place 2005 campaign. Some even linked him with the Dodgers' job, a team he once played with for eight seasons. However, Baker has one year remaining on his current four-year contract of between $14 and $16 million.  Needless to say, his future in Chi-town beyond that will be directly dependent on the Baby Bears' 2006 campaign.

 

Double "z" footnote from yesterday

 

Reader Jody Madron confided in the fact that he thought he was the only one who had wondered about the double "z" name consistency between past and current Orioles managers Lee Mazzilli and Sam Perlozzo.

 

Jody then wondered out loud if they are the only double "z'ers" in the history of MLB managerial ranks. Not surprisingly, since we are so weird around here, I already had the answer – yes and no.

 

Mazzilli and Perlozzo are the only double "z" surnamed managers in history. However, one man also has the combination in his first name. Know who? Of course you do. He's in the World Series, for Pete's sake!


That's right! Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is the only other skipper in the annals of major league baseball with the double "z" combination in his name.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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