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October 31, 2010

More thoughts on Orioles' coaching staff

Buck Showalter has flown back to Texas after meeting with Orioles owner Peter Angelos on Friday and club president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail on Friday and Saturday.

There will be plenty of ongoing conversations heading into the club’s mini organizational meetings in Arizona, which begin in earnest Thursday after a Wednesday night dinner.

Showalter would like to have his full coaching staff assembled by then. In fact, he’d love to have them there. Not sure if that will happen, but one thing we’ve learned in dealing with Showalter so far is that he gets an idea in his head and pushes to complete it.

It has been an interesting week as far as the coaching staff is concerned. Here’s a recap of what we know and what we can surmise:

The current staff’s contracts expire today, Oct. 31. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that some couldn’t come back. The Orioles, in the past, have renewed contracts after they have expired. But the reality is it’s looking like Showalter will have an entirely new staff in 2011.

Who’s on the 2011 staff? Jim Presley is the hitting coach and Rick Adair the bullpen coach. Mark Connor, who has been with Showalter at all three stops of his big league managerial career, is all but signed, sealed and delivered to be the pitching coach. They are negotiating with him, and it is seemingly just a matter of time before Connor is on board. If Don Wakamatsu doesn’t get a managerial job -- the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly have had interest, as did the Toronto Blue Jays, who have filled that spot -- he likely will be Showalter’s bench coach.

That leaves openings at first base and third base. The Orioles have asked permission to talk to former big league outfielder Wayne Kirby, a member of the Texas Rangers' minor league staff (as is Connor) who likely would also work with the Orioles outfielders if he’s hired. One of the base coaches will also serve as infield coach, and one surely will be a Spanish speaker.

Any initial thoughts on the 2011 staff? It will be experienced and has the potential to be extremely diverse, with a Japanese-American, African-American and Latino on staff. One of the most impressive things so far is landing Adair as a bullpen coach. Adair has had two stints as a big league pitching coach and is highly respected in that role. So why would he take a bullpen job? The guess is that the opportunity to work with Connor -- unofficially the godfather of pitching coaches -- has significant appeal.

What happens to the 2010 staff? Terry Crowley will serve in a newly created position of offensive evaluator in the system. It allows the Orioles to have a new voice on the big league level and yet not lose Crowley’s ability as a teacher and evaluator. Alan Dunn, last year’s bullpen coach, has been offered a pitching instructor position within the organization. Dunn was quiet and very businesslike, but he is widely respected and would be an asset to any club. It would be great to see him stay with the Orioles in some capacity. Bench coach Jeff Datz has been rumored as a link to Eric Wedge in Seattle, and pitching coach Rick Kranitz has ties to Joe Girardi in New York. Gary Allenson could return to managing Triple-A Norfolk if he wants to. Allenson, Datz, Dunn, Kranitz and John Shelby have been in the game so long and have such strong work ethics that it would be a surprise to see any of them out of a job for long. They might not have been part of a successful run in Baltimore, but you would be hard pressed to find current Orioles who didn’t respect and like those men.

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 2:11 PM | | Comments (29)


So be honest, what are the odds of Billy Ripken joining this coaching staff?

I'd say it is highly unlikely at this point. But we've learned never to say never.

Who cares if Bill Ripken joins the staff? I know he's a fan favorite but what does he bring that earns him a spot on this staff? I'm not saying he isn't qualified(or that he is) but let's just trust Buck.... Proven track record.

San -- This notion that the Orioles must have a Latino (or even just a Spanish speaker) on the coaching staff strikes me as more than a little silly. Granted, there are a quite a few players who have Spanish as their native language, but almost to a man they can speak English reasonably well by the time they reach the majors.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of Latinos who would make excellent additions to the staff, but I just don't see having a Spanish speaking coach as rising to the level of importance that makes it a make-or-break factor in hiring.

What makes such a decision all the more puzzling is the fact that the O's have very few Latinos on its roster, so this isn't even a particularly crucial issue. (Right now, there are only a handful of such players who would be close to being locks for the 25-man roster next spring and a couple of them, Jake Arrieta and David Hernandez, are simply Americans of Hispanic decent).

Also, the value of a Spanish speaker is limited. If you have a reliever with a bit of a language problem, it doesn't do him a whole lot of good if it happens to be the third base coach, say, who is fluent in his tongue.

I don't think Buck should be hamstrung in chosing his coaches. If he has a better candidate who isn't Latino, then he ought to be allowed to pick him without being forced in another direction by secondary considerations.

This notion of "diversity at any cost" is something that needs to be canned once and for all. Hiring should be not quota-based, so that the best man gets the job regardless of his background.

Certainly, if the O's resign Cesar Izturis (as they probably will), who speaks English quite well, they could always use him should they have help any player with a language barrier.

Ken, I always enjoy your posts, but I respectfully disagree on this one. This is not a case of diversity for diversity sake. Having a Spanish-speaking coach really is important for big-league teams these days. Yes, most Latino players can speak enough English to get by. But it is all about comfortability and eliminating barriers to make life as easy on a player off the field as possible. Consider that the club pays for an interpreter to make Koji Uehara comfortable in his Orioles' surroundings. And he is a veteran. Giving a young player someone who can mentor him in his native tongue about all aspects of being a big leaguer is huge. And there are so many qualified Spanish-speaking coaches out there, that it is not as if you'd be sacrifiicing quality. Just my opinion,

Buck is the baseball version of Bill Belichick. The O's are finally getting somewhere.

Gee... I wonder how Clemente, Pascual, Cepeda, the Alous, Aparicio, Minoso, and all the other early Latin players became so well-adjusted and accomplished without Spanish-speaking coaches.
I see Ken's perspective and I agree with it.


Come on. I am not saying a Latino can't be a great player without a Latino coach. I am saying if you have the opportunity to add a Spanish-speaking coach (of any ethnicity) to help break down the language barrier and make life a little easier for a chunk of your players, you do it assuming coaching quality won't be sacrificed.

Don't think we can compare Buck to Belichick, who has three titles and came within a hair of a fourth. Love Buck but he's not an all-time great or anyting crazy like that.

don't froget the * for "Hoodie" and spygate!

Wow when did the Baltimore fans turn as racist as they are now??? Here is a clue, baseball has come a LONG way since Clemente, Cepeda, Aparicio,and Minoso played. Much like Dan already said "there are so many qualified Spanish-speaking coaches out there, that it is not as if you'd be sacrifiicing quality". Adding the extra skill of being able to speak Spanish as well is just an extra resource for Buck (who we all say we trust) to use. No harm in that.

I hate politically correct things like diversity working it's way into sports. i don't care what race a person is if they can do the job.

Many of us, and eventually many more of us, realized that Dave Trembley failed because he could not motivate or hold players and coaches accountable - not because he was not a knowledgeable baseball man.

Buck had the team improve immediately because he communicates extremely well. Hiring a diverse coaching staff is smart and should prove be more productive.

Man I'm surprised mattingly wouldn't join. Seems like everywhere showalter went Mattingly was on that team with him.

Mattingly is the new manager of the LA Dodgers. I think he is pretty happy with that gig.

I'm white and can't speak Spanish, but I've been in the game for a long time and its absolutely necessary to have a Spanish speaking coach on a MLB staff. It helps with the day to day, as well as encouraging Latino players to sign with the team. It's also completely, 110% necessary for the manager to trust in him because he is who disgruntled Latino players will go to throughout the season and you want his message to be on board with Showalter's.

All the coaching announcements are about what I expected even if not all I wanted.. I was a little surprised to not see Shelby considered keeping. Buck mentioned wanting some former orioles and shelby did a good job with our outfield and their throwing. I sure hope Andy has some contracts keeping Bordick, Surhoff, and maybe get Murray or Brady with our minor league guys.. I would assume Mcgregor will stay a pitching coach down there.. At least I hope Buck will ask Palmer and Murray, Bordick, and Brady to talk to some guys in spring training.

Ken and Bear -

Your company just transferred you to Central Mexico. You've picked up a bit of Spanish throughout your career, but you're nowhere near fluent. Your buddy, who got the same promotion, is the only other English speaker you'll be working with, and he doesn't know how to ask "Where's the bathroom?" in Spanish.

Oh, and did I mention that you got a nice promotion and you'll be working under 1000 times more pressure than you have in your entire life? And that you're a rough couple of months away from being fired? And that there are a bunch of guys on the edge of the same promotion that would love to take your job?

Good luck.

If John Shelby was respected by just Adam Jones he'd probably still have a job or the prospect of one.

It is apparent by the way he continued to play center field until Showalter appeared that Shelby's "advice" to Jones went in one ear and out the other. How is that respect?

Wieters really improved behind the dish, so perhaps Datz has that to his credit. Perhaps he also learned a thing or two from Buck that Trembley could not teach him also.

I don't know how much credit to give Allenson because I was soooo unimpressed by the minor league organization he probably had little he could do about flawed fundamentals as players were waived through to the majors like jets to takeoff at Newark Airport.

I hope Kranitz lands in New York. It could really help tighten things in the AL East.

Frankly, I'm disappointed in Showalter's staff. Last summer he talked about respecting the Orioles' tradition and history, yet he can't find a single qualified coach with a connection to the O's glory years? As I wrote in response to another article, it sounds to me like the old high school band is getting back together again . . .

the only Dunn I want to hear about is Adam, playing at first base for the Os in 2011!

I like it. Things are shaping up.

I really like the idea of a Spanish fluent coach. Seems to me a no brainer in this day and age.

muey bueno amigos

@Tim, honestly, does it matter who is on Buck's staff? I mean I want a world title, and if that means hiring a staff of former Yankees (even tho that won't happen) I wouldn't care. The only thing that matters right now is winning. BUT I do want to see, as well as some other people out there, want to see Billy Ripken get a position on this staff.

So, didn't I hear that Buck wanted to bring back the "Oriole Way" and that we would be seeing lots of former O's on his staff? Zero former O's? Come on. I like Buck but I think it will be hard for an entirely new staff, all with no links to the team, to gel and I think it could very well affect team chemistry.

Take it from a former minor leaguer...

My latino teammates could speak enough english to get through the basic conversations, but most hated to speak with reporters and simply answered in Spanish to get them off thier backs...

The need for a Latino coach is a bit overrated as Ken has said, but the Latin style of play would be a nice additional approach to baseball that differs from Buck at times.

I love the idea of an all new staff. The holdover players need to have their comfort zones challenged with new people and new ideas. The "Oriole Way" as we old timers knew it is dead thanks to Angello. Buck needs to install a new system of discipline, which he has a good head start on, and we'll call it the "new Oriole Way." Hopefully PA will stay out of the way.
Anyone who knows anything understands in this day and age if you're business has a large percentage of any ethnic group you need to cater on some level to them. Remember back when Vlad Guerrero turned down the Orioles and went to the Angels? In part it was because of the owner who is Latino. No, we don't want unqualified people just because they speak Spanish, but that is laughable today. You don't have to have anyone bilingual on your staff but If you want to attract some of the best baseball talent to your team it would be a wise move!
Again, I am thrilled with the complete changeover in staff. It should have happened back when Hargrove was dismissed.

not brooks:
Your allegorical tale was just waaaayyy too intellectual for me to understand.

Tell you what.... if you really want it to be relevant to this discussion, then tell it to the players I mentioned before.
They seemed to have found the bathroom just fine.

There you go again people taking Dan's words out context. A Latino coach would help, especially if you are recruiting great Latino Free-Agents, and up and coming young minor league players.

Please do not insult me, when you throw names like Clemente, Cepada etc..How would you know if these great ball-players would have excelled even more or been comfortable in a hostile racially charged society in the 60's and 70's. I bet some of your fathers and grandfather contributed to the plight of Latinos in baseball doing this time.

Don't insult ME.
A good ballplayer is a good ballplayer.
The sport transcends language differences.
Even basic baseball terms in Spanish are the same as they are in English.

Clemente, Cepeda, et al were not coddled (like so many organizations try to do these days with their "special" players) and they achieved greatness.

Are you saying they'd have become supermen if only they had interpreters ?
Gee.... maybe Clemente would have literally been able to fly, huh ?

Gotta agree. I don't give a damn about race. Just be Oriole orange and win damn it!

Ugh... I think people take this race thing wayy too far. I don't think anyone is saying that we NEED a spanish speaking person on the team. But how can anyone deny the fact that it would obviously help w/ Latin players? I mean that shouldn't be hard to figure out And THAT line of thinking is borderline racist. Its probably like 50 frickin positions within the organization (as a whole) and they want to "guarantee" one to person of hispanic ethnicity and its a problem? Nobody said that a latin coach is needed to make latin players excel. That would be blatant disrespect to those players. But I'm sure if some of you were transferred to Korea, or Mexico or South America, or Africa, you'd appreciate having someone of the same ethnicity onboard.. Its natural. come on... lets not make this something that it isn't/

WELCOME BACK Juan Samuel. You deserve the job based on your own merit, and your Spanish will come in handy for our soon-to-be newly acquired Latino players.

I had hoped that the most of the racist fans had faded away or were no longer around, but I see Maryland still has it's share, just like the New England area.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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