Monday, October 16, 2006

New Phillies Coaching Staff

I've been purposely holding out on bringing up the subject of who will fill the three available jobs on the Phillies coaching staff because, in all honesty, I hadn't the faintest idea. The news today that Jimy Williams, Davey Lopes, and Art Howe would join pitching coach Rich Dubee, hitting coach Milt Thompson, bullpen coach Ramon Henderson and catching instructor Mick Billmeyer on the Phils staff certainly qualifies as a shocker. Williams is the new bench coach, Lopes is the new first base coach and outfield/baserunning instructor, and Howe is the new third base coach/infield instructor [Pick your favorite:, Inquirer, Comcast Sportsnet]

I hate to make it appear like I'm copping out here, but I can't help but to take a centrist, fairly balanced approach on these hirings. There are things I liked and things I didn't like about the hirings:
  • I do like having Art Howe as the new third base coach/infield instructor. Howe as a third base coach can not possibly any worse than Bill Dancy, the man he replaces. Plus, Howe has a fairly strong reputation as an infield instructor - he also has an eye for infield teaching talent as he was the manager in Oakland who hired Ron Washington, the best third base coach/infield instructor in the league by far, to his staff.
  • I don't like Jimy Williams being on the coaching staff. I don't like the way his managerial tenures have ended throughout his careers (his firings in Boston and Houston being the most damning as I see them), I don't like the fact that he is the man keeping tabs on things in the dugout for Charlie Manuel, and I especially don't like the fact that there is only one M in his first name.
  • I do like having Davey Lopes aboard as the first base coach/outfield instructor/baserunning instructor despite his disastrous managerial record (144-195 in 2+ years with Milwaukee...though to be fair, those Brewers squads weren't the most talented). Lopes was a prolific base stealer in his day and, while I'll readily admit that being good at something doesn't necessarily make you a good teacher of it, I do tend to give the guy the benefit of the doubt because of it...rightly or wrongly.
  • I don't like the fact that Lopes replaces Marc Bombard on the staff...I know Bombard was fired weeks ago, but I still think losing a good baseball man like him will hurt the Phillies. There's something to be said for having a coach on staff who has experience dealing with players on the roster stemming from time in the minor leagues together. The young players really seemed to respect Bombard and now he's gone. I don't like it.
  • I do like the fact that the Davey Lopes hiring made me check out his Baseball Reference player page. I've read all about his abilities as a base stealer, but I had no idea he popped 28 homers in 1979. That spectacular '79 season is a pretty crazy outlier in his otherwise above average career. Guess you really do learn something new everyday, right?
  • I don't like that the Phillies couldn't find a spot for John Russell on the staff. Hopefully no other team can lure him away from the organization (I've read Texas is planning on interviewing him for their top job shortly) so that he can return to a managerial job in the Phillies minor league system.
So as a whole, I think it is fair to say that these three hires are fine in the short-term. I think that the trio of Williams, Howe, and Lopes is at least slightly superior the departed Gary Varsho, Dancy, and Bombard group. Howe is absolutely an upgrade over Dancy, Williams and Varsho is probably a push, and Lopes and Bombard seem pretty evenly matched (I'm a big Bombard fan, so I give him the slight edge...but it is very close).

Now here is what I really think - I think the names won't really all that matter much to the majority of Phillies fans out there; I think both the age of the guys hired (they are all old - average age of the three is 61) and the previous managerial experience of each (as noted, all three have been managers before) are the two things Phillies fans will ponder the most. Why would the Phils go out and bring in three veteran coaches with plenty of big league managerial experience to surround their lameduck manager? Hmm...I think there could be some long-term implications to these hires, no?

What Does the New Coaching Staff Mean in the Long-Term?

I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself in my evaluation of the new coaching staff to get into this, but I'll bring it up here as the last thing I do not like about the hirings. I don't like the idea that Charlie Manuel should be feeling pressured into getting off to a hot start because of the presence of three former big league managers on his staff; more to the point, I don't like the idea that any one of Jimy Williams, Art Howe, or Davey Lopes is in position to take over for Manuel should the Phillies start off cold in 2007. If you aren't a fan of Charlie Manuel, that's fine - it's a legitimate position to hold after the disappointment of his first two years in Philly. However I warn any fan that is anti-Manuel to take a long look at the three new hires - if it is your wish that Manuel get fired in-season only to be replaced by one of the members of his new staff, then I hope you know what kind of mess you are getting yourself into. Charlie Manuel may be the frying pan, but the trio of Williams, Howe, and Lopes collectively make up one roaring fire.


Post a Comment

<< Home