The New York Yankees added catcher Brian McCann, Jhonny Peralta has left Detroit for St. Louis, Ian Kinsler is now in Detroit and Seattle’s division rival, the Texas Rangers, have added Prince Fielder. Seattle has added coaches.
I wondered how a new coaching staff would affect a team. Players are accustomed to working with certain coaches, though that does not mean they always listened to them, so one should not assume the coaches were beloved, nor should one assume they were disliked. Coaches are like teachers, some you like, some you don’t.
In the Mariners change, new manager Lloyd McClendon did a good thing. He promoted four coaches from within the organization, so the players already have a familiarity with them. The hitting coach is former Met and Tiger, Howard Johnson, who was the hitting coach at Tacoma last season and is a known commodity for the young hitters on Seattle’s roster. He has two World Series rings, the Tigers in 1984 and the Mets in 1986, and twice made the all-star team.
The new pitching coach is Rick Waits who has been the Mariner’s minor league pitching coordinator the last three seasons. He knows Mariner prospects like Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Erasmo Ramirez, Steve Pryor, et al. Since pitching tends to be the fine arts of baseball, familiarity with these young arms is a huge plus.
John Stearns, former Mets catcher is the third base coach. Last season when Rainiers manager Dan Brown was promoted from Tacoma to Seattle as a coach, Stearns took over as manger of Tacoma after starting the year as minor league catching coordinator for the M’s. A four time all-star he should be a good mentor for Mike Zunino.
Chris Woodward who played for the Mariners in 2009-2010 was the roving minor league infield coach last season for the Mariner organization. Now he will be the infield coach for the big club and no doubt tutor and mentor Nick Franklin and Brad Miller.
The Mariners have added coaches who can coach up the young players they already have worked with in the minors. These are positive off season moves.
McClendon did bring over Andy Van Slyke from Detroit to be the first base coach. When McClendon was the Tigers hitting coach, Van Slyke was first base coach from 2006-2009 and they were teammates with the Pirates from 1990-1994. He has been out of baseball for four years, but this 13 year veteran, three time all-star, and five time Gold Glove winner, will have no trouble fitting in.
McClendon also brought over Tigers bullpen coach Mike Rojas. He also spent four years as minor league field coordinator with the Tigers and as director of player development. He was a minor league catcher and has managed in the minors with four organizations. That seems like a lot of credential as for a bullpen coach. But what do bullpen coaches do anyway? It is a rhetorical question, so please don’t answer it for me.
On paper this looks like a great coaching staff, maybe one of the best they have had, filled with all-stars and players with rings, all of whom loved baseball, all of whom played it the right way, and most of them know the young players on the Mariners. I hope they do as well as they look on paper.