Sunday, August 3, 2008

Firing an assistant coach 110 games into a season

The other day, I posted about how football teams have coaches who are responsible for various areas/positions (e.g., tight ends, special teams, defensive line, quarterbacks, etc.).  The point was that specialization makes coaches more accountable.

Baseball is the same way.  There are coaches responsible for various areas, including hitting, bullpen, bench, pitching, etc.

Well, the Texas Rangers recently held two of their coaches accountable when GM Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan (pictured above) fired the team's pitching coach and bullpen coach the other day.
Here's what the fired pitching coach had to say after getting the news:

"It was a challenge, no question about that. The injury factor, losing Jason Jennings, we figured McCarthy would be in our rotation out of spring training, that didn't happen. Mendoza comes out with the blister. It was one thing after another. We lost Millwood a couple of times. It's a tough league to pitch in and these young kids have growing pains. The experience will pay off, it's just going to take some time.''

"They've got good things going on there. It's a lot tougher for a young pitcher to come to the big leagues and be successful than it is for a young hitter. It's always been the case and it will always be the case. It's tough enough to break in one or two, but breaking in three or four compounds things. There are guys with some ability and it will come together for them.''

I don't know either of the guys who were fired.  Further, I don't follow the Rangers, though I do know the franchise has been a mess for a long, long time.  And because my sister lives in Dallas, I know the Texas heat can really wear down a pitching staff.

But the decision to fire the pitching and bullpen coaches when the Rangers are 110 games into their season, four games over .500, and 12 games out of first place seems a little strange.

The team's pitching staff has struggled.  But did those guys make player personnel decisions? Were they responsible for developing minor league talent?

Further, do they really think their replacements will be able to make a contribution this season?  Why not wait until the end of the season (which is next month), do a full evaluation of the staff, and make an all-encompassing decision at that time? 

I don't think it's fair to the new pitching coaches to come in on the fly this late in the season. Spring training and the off-season is the time for these changes. 

I remember the Bucks did this a few years ago thinking they would get a head start on the next season.  It didn't work out well for anyone. 

The legendary Paul Brown once said that a coach's first five minutes in front of his team is the most important five minutes of the season because players' antennas are up.  

I'm not sure their antennas are up after 110 games.