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June 14, 2011

Connor walks

The notion that Mark Connor resigned as Orioles pitching coach on Monday because of the struggles of some of his pitchers doesn't make any sense to me. Connor has been a great pitching coach for a long time, and you don't get to be that by getting frustrated when things don't go well. You get to be that by helping guys correct the problems that keep them from having success.

Connor apparently told manager Buck Showalter that he just couldn't grind out another long season and give the effort the job deserves. I don't see any reason to doubt that, though I can see why somebody could look in from the outside and wonder if he just got tired of the uphill battle he had been fighting with this inconsistent pitching staff.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 8:03 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Just baseball


well after 60 games, 2 guys are in AAA and a third one looks like he's headed there, so for him to have an impact he'd have to go to Norfolk. Do you think he envisioned Jakabauskas in his rotation?

Pete, this organization beat the hell out of Mazzone, now Connor. Next up, as they say.

Do you think AM will make any trades this year, or will he stick with this group in order to try to avoid what looks like the inevitable 90 loss season? I mean, the guy trips over himself trying to get out of his own way.

Isn't that a decision you should make during the off-season? Or is it old-school to expect players and coaches to have some sort of commitment to one another?

Barring any sudden life events, I can't respect a coach who quits in the middle of the season.

Im watching the Os game on TV. The announcers call Vladimir Guerrero...Vlad which rymes with glad. Ive always heard that pronunciation throughout his great career. However, Joe Angel and Fred Manfra call him VLAD rhyming with sod. I believe they are in error. Can you help me figure this out?

I wish Mark the best. Why is it every time we need a big hit Andino comes up,, seems like last year it was Cesar ,,.

Robert is on pace for 400 ab and 10 rbis

My guess would be that there are problems between Mark Conner and the pitching staff in general but Connor and Brian Matusz in particular. There were some grumblings in spring training about Conner making too many mechanical changes with the pitchers with most of them giving up on them and going back to their own way of pitching.

Coaches don't just quit in the middle of the season because they suddenly find that something they have done all of their life is just two hard to do any more. There has got to be more to this than meets the eye. The silence from the front office is deafening!

Pete's reply: We'll see. He looked pretty run down over the past couple of weeks. I hope his overall health is okay.

People quit jobs that suck.
Nuff said.

Connor publicly criticized the fan who failed to interfere on the HardyHR/Ruggiero catch last weekend. It was uncharacteristic for a pitching coach to comment on something like that and the comments lacked character or a sense of sportsmanship on Connor's part. Perhaps his candor was reflective of his burnout but I suspect he was told by the front office to refrain from further outbursts and they came to realize an attitude like his was not a good mentor quality with all the young pitchers. Guys at Connor's age often do not respond receptively to redress feeling their age gives them superiority over colleagues. I suspect Connor elected to just quit after being disciplined behind closed doors for his earlier out of line comments.

There is no difference between the statement "Connor left because of struggles of some of of his pitchers" and the statement Connor left "because he just couldn't grind out another long season..."

I agree Pete, health or family problems would be the reason for a coach to suddenly quit mid-season and let us hope that is not the reason for Mark However 'personal' reasons can can cover a whole range of reasons, perhaps it was just a bad choice of words on Buck' part which the Front Office will clear up today.

Hard to imagine that Connor just suddenly decided after a third of the season that he couldn't do this anymore. Like you, I hope it's not his health.
Not that it really matters much, I didn't see anything special out of him as a PC.
Anyone with a modicum of experience will be able to guide this staff to finish the season with the mediocre results we've seen so far. All out hot young arms have been pretty ordinary under his tutelage. I have no ill feelings toward the man, but his departure doesn't seem like such a disaster.

Hard to imagine that Connor just suddenly decided after a third of the season that he couldn't do this anymore. Like you, I hope it's not his health.
Not that it really matters much, I didn't see anything special out of him as a PC.
Anyone with a modicum of experience will be able to guide this staff to finish the season with the mediocre results we've seen so far. All out hot young arms have been pretty ordinary under his tutelage. I have no ill feelings toward the man, but his departure doesn't seem like such a disaster.

I for one think that the impact a pitching coach has on a big league player is minimal at best.

They can help in spotting fundamental flaws in the delivery and other things that go into being a good pitcher but a pitchers biggest problem is usually between the ears and there's nothing a coach can do about that.

The biggest problem in baseball is they rush these kids up to the big leagues too fast. It used to be that unless you were exceptional, you learned your trade in the minors, serve about a year or so in the big league bullpen and earn your way into the rotation, like Palmer and others did.

It should be assumed at that point you already understand to throw strikes, keep the ball down and work quickly. If we need a coach to teach that in the major's something is wrong with that guy.

Put Simon in the rotation. Bring Tillman and Berguson back and let them work out of the pen. They are better than the guys we have working the middle relief and it's a better learning experience.

If they aren't good enough to do that then let's get a package together and move them to get some other players.

Baseball has proven with some of these crazy contracts for pitchers with loosing records, that they'll bite on a deal with both players.

Pitching coach gone, who cares, next man up. It all starts and stops with the players not the coaches.

No matter what kind of conspiracy you believe in, Connor's departure doesn't bode well for the O's. They have had too many good pitching coaches walk. Personal or not personal, this is a huge loss, and a big setback for the development of an already shaky starting rotation. Consistency in personnel is one of the keys to being a good team. The O's continue the musical coaching chairs that have plagued them for years.

although mark connor gave personal reasons for resigning. i don't blame him for doing it. none of the pitchers other than zach britton have show that they are really ready for prime time. young pitchers from other teams might have a bad outing, but they don't seem to be as inconsistant as the oriole pitchers. with the orioles not hitting,they make the other teams young pitcher look like cy young

Just an gut hunch but my guess too is that the know it all great young guns we have just didn't listen, try or develop any where near the level major league pitchers need to be.
A guy that has been around as long as Connor has don't just walk unless the issues are so systemic that all the time & advice is just not sinking in.
If it were a health issue or family issue you take a leave of absense, get things organized & head back.
Look at our staff of the "present" & "future"...Matusz appears more & more to be a cocky know it all that can't hold runners, can't hit even 90 on the gun & is acting like a punk, Bergesen spends as much time in Norfolk as he does in Baltimore over the past 3 seasons & Tillman has spent so much time in Norfolk he gets a Navy pension. The sad part is...they all say the right things after they get clobbered yet fall back to the same things the next game & the next & on & on it goes.
Then look at our bullpen...a total disgrace except for Johnson & Kogi for the most part. They can't hold leads when that rarity occurs & far too often have let teams back in games when the door should have been slammed shut.
My bet is Mark is gone because he told Buck I can't be doing this when they don't even give my suggestions a fair shot. Connor has coached some of the best pitchers in this game & for him to leave without a statement to explain his departure means one thing...he wants to leave with class & keep quiet.
Mark Connor has forgotten more pitching information than our clowns will ever learn...and with him walking out like he has speaks volumns about our "great young arms" more than any words ever could.

Pete's reply: I suppose that's possible, but when there's a chance that there are health issues involved, I'm not doing to speculate.

We don't need a steady parade of pitching coaches. We need to keep sending pitchers down and replacing them with guys who will throw strikes and can go 7+ innings.

The problem is the pitchers, not the pitching coack. Just like the problem has always been the hitters, not the hitting coach.

I will say up front I hope it's not health issues, too. For this to be a resignation and not a leave of absence there's a temptation to quote fictional character, Gregory House, "Somebody better be dying."

Conspiracy theories are inevitable when facts are lacking. Connor has a one-hour meeting with Showalter. Only the latter talks to the press. Below is a list of pitchers who said something along the line of, "Gee, that's a shame."


Then, there's Connor's past.

Two years after being a minor league pitcher for two years when injuries ended his playing days, he was a pitching coach at the University of Tennessee and an independent minor league team.

From 1979 to 1992, Connor served in the Yankee organization for all but two years. Interestingly and perhaps coincidently, those were the dark days of that franchise slipped into. (Obviously, Steinbrenner bears most of the blame but one can't help wonder if that affected hiring practices, too.)

Connor was a scout that first year. Then for the next four and a half years, he was pitching coach for two Yankee farm teams. From mid-1984 to mid-1985, he was coach with the parent club. He finished '85 as the pitching coach of his third minor league team. He returned to the Yankees for two more years as a bench coach.

His two-year hiatus from the Yankees was so he could go back to the University of Tennessee to be their head baseball coach. His successor would last 18 years with three College World Series appearances to his credit.

Connor took refuge back with the Yankees for the next four years. And here is where things get interesting. Connor was bullpen coach the first year back. He was the pitching coach the next two years -- his first time in the major leagues. The second of those two years was Showalter's first year as Yankee manager.

In Showalter's second year as Yankee manager, Connor was demoted back to bullpen coach. Showalter would last two more years as Yankee manager. Connor became a minor league pitching coach in the Blue Jay organization for those two years -- another demotion.

Interestingly enough, Connor's next stint was being the "pitching coordinator" for the Diamondbacks. Those duties entailed scouting and preparing for the expansion draft of that team. He was then the D-backs' pitching coach their first three years during the same time Showalter was their inaugural manager.

Both were shown the door after the 2000 season.

Connor then became the pitching for the Blue Jays for the 2001 season. His tenure as pitching coach was parallel with manager, Buck Martinez. Both lasted a year and a half. The Blue Jays were 20-33 before the change in 2002, and 58-51 after the change.

To be fair, Connor resigned from Toronto out of solidarity to the fired Martinez.

Connor joined the Rangers in 2003 as their bullpen coach, the same year Showalter joined as their manager. Connor was promoted to pitching coach in 2006. That would be Showalter's last year as a manager until he became the third Oriole manager of 2010. Connor lasted two more years under current Texas manager, Ron Washington.

Connor was a consultant for the Rangers the two years prior to joining the Orioles.

Given Connor is 61 years old, the daily grind of being in uniform and traveling may very well have taken its toll on Connor. Connor's track record of loyalty sure seems to take the wind out of the sails for any true conspiracy. Even if the Orioles had approached him with the idea of keeping him in the bullpen while promoting Adair (who did a wonderful job with the Mariner pitching staff prior to joining the Orioles), it would not seem likely Connor would then resign in a snit. It would go against his track record.

While it would have been nice to see if the players had any true reaction to the resignation -- any reaction now has had too much time for rehearsal -- it is equally possible the players were just as stunned by the resignation and are using the extra time to figure out just how they want to react.

Whatever, it seems the resignation and its explanation seem to be good at face value.

Sorry, House, somebody better not being dying. Best wishes to Connor.

And best wishes to Adair, Showalter and the pitching staff. This team is third in the league in giving up home runs. No blame from here for now, but accountability must always be present.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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