American League Coaching Movements

A recap of some of the recent changes across the American League coaching ranks.

The MLB brass prefer that major announcements not occur during the playoffs so focus is not taken away from the on-field action. Nice idea, but based on the flood of personnel changes that have swept across MLB since season's end, it clearly isn't working.

 

This column recaps some of the recent changes across the American League coaching ranks. I'll be back tomorrow to look at the Senior Circuit.

 

Macha relieves himself

 

No, it's not that kind of movement. As far as I know, Oakland's Ken Macha has not been out bar-hopping with ESPN's whiz kid Gary Miller. That is a good thing.

 

However, in recent days, the past and future manager of the A's was involved in a major-league pissing match with general manager Billy Beane. With Macha's contract up, he and his representative Alan Nero began talks with the A's on a new deal. While there was agreement on the duration of the deal, three years, the two sides were about a million dollars apart on the money and on the option.

 

As a result, Beane made a quick announcement that Macha wouldn't be coming back in 2006. Sort of like, "I am going to break up with you before you can break up with me". With Macha's Oakland career seemingly toast, Nero tried to hook the jilted one up with the girl next door, his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates. That didn't work out, so Macha was next hoping to interview with Tampa Bay, where he was viewed as a long shot candidate. Next on his list was rumored to be the San Diego Gulls.

 

Beane was also busy on the dating scene. He wooed two of his current staffers, bullpen coach Bob Geren, considered the front-runner, as well as third-base coach Ron Washington, said to be the players' favorite.

 

Everyone's favorite bulldog, Texas Rangers pitching coach Orel Hershiser, was given permission to interview for the job as was another managing newbie, Colorado Rockies bench coach Jamie Quirk. The name of one recycled manager, Larry Bowa, a former Beane teammate like Quirk, also surfaced. Bowa would have been a fun choice.

 

However, all of the sudden, out of the blue, an announcement just as surprising as the first occurred. Beane and Macha decided life with each other was much better than the prospect of life apart. So, they made up – perhaps because Nero decided enough cash to burn Rome in return for Macha's services was no longer required.

 

Or, maybe it was because Macha called up Beane and swallowed his pride. Somewhere, Billy Martin looked down and smiled and wished he still had The Boss' phone number.

 

While Beane honored his commitment that his coaches would get consideration for Macha's job, one member of the staff apparently didn't get that memo. Instead, hitting coach Dave Hudgens got the pink slip, as the team announced his contract would not be renewed.

 

Troy Percival signed by Tigers

 

OK, so that was last year. But the clueless owner Mike Ilitch and general manager Dave Dombrowki continued their trend of bringing in more tired iron to the rust belt when they hired Cardinals' superscout Jim Leyland as their new field manager. Leyland received a three-year deal.

 

Leyland's predecessor, Alan Trammell, a hometown legend, was axed after three losing seasons. With wasteful signings such as Fernando Vina, Percival, Rondell White, and even Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, the deck was stacked against Trammell. He was given the chance to stay on as a special assistant to Dombrowski, but will interview elsewhere because he wants to stay in uniform.

 

Leyland is a fine manager, having won 1,069 games in 14 years as the skipper of the Pirates, Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies. But, exactly what did he see in Detroit that led him to think this team would be a winner anytime soon? And, what are the odds he will hang around three years, anyway?

 

Leyland, 60, walked away from all three of his past managerial jobs, the last time citing burnout and a desire to spend more time with his family in Pittsburgh. Granted, his Marlins were parted out after the 1997 World Championship, but Leyland just up and quit after one year in Colorado in 1999. Other than him being six years older, what has changed?

 

Completing the Pirates' reunion, Leyland named his coaching staff. They include Gene Lamont (bench and third base – apparently not at the same time), former Cardinal Andy Van Slyke (outfield and baserunning), Rafael Belliard (infield), Don Slaught (hitting) and everyone's favorite, deposed Buccos skipper Lloyd McClendon (bullpen).

 

Sweet Lou on the loose

 

One of the poorest-kept secrets on the planet was confirmed about 30 seconds after his Tampa Bay Devil Rays made the final out of the season when manager Lou Piniella bolted one year prior to the conclusion of his contract. Publicly criticizing his ownership's commitment to winning may have had something to do with it.

 

While Piniella's name was linked with the Orioles and even his former team, the Yankees, there are a couple million reasons why Lou will most likely be spending 2006 somewhere else rather than the dugout. But, don't feel too sorry for him.

 

Somehow, Lou is going to have to get along on half of his 2006 salary of $4.4 million in return for doing nothing. He got a head start on idleness by agreeing to become that all-important third man in Fox Sports' American League Championship Series broadcast booth. At least, I was looking forward to Sweet Lou taking on Joe Buck and giving him a little dose of slamma-lamma-ding-dong!

 

Stottlemyre quits – honest!

 

After trying to surpass Sugar Ray Leonard's world record for retiring and unretiring, which for pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre occurred at the conclusion of the New York Yankees' season for each of what seems like the last five or six seasons of his ten years on the job, Mel finally quit – I think.

 

Mel apparently happily finally burned his bridges with the team as he blasted owner George Steinbrenner for his shabby treatment of his boss, manager Joe Torre - as if that was big news to anybody.

 

Stottlemyre was immediately linked to the open pitching coach's job in Seattle. Here we go, again.

 

One name that was surprisingly mentioned as a potential replacement in New York was the mad rocker, Atlanta's Leo Mazzone. However, he took the job in Baltimore. Really.

 

Other names thrown out in the press include Don Cooper of the Chicago White Sox and former Yankees Ron Guidry and Dave Righetti, currently pitching coach of the San Francisco Giants.

 

None of these candidates need worry about Torre's immediate future. Despite his and Steinbrenner's disappointment over the Pinstripers' ALDS loss, The Boss owes Torre $13 million on his current contract. That is a lot of money to eat, which is one big reason Torre is coming back for 2006.

 

Now we all have to learn how to spell "Perlozzo"… or maybe not

 

Continuing their confounding double "z" trend in manager's last names, the Baltimore Orioles selected their skipper for 2006. He was already in the chair.

 

That dreaded "interim manager" tag was formally removed from long-time baseball man but first-time MLB skipper Sam Perlozzo's job description. This "other Sammy" in Baltimore, the one that hasn't been in his job long enough yet for fans to dislike, was given a three-year contract. Fat chance he'll be around that long.

 

His predecessor, Lee Mazzilli, didn't make it more than a few days into August of his second season. It was said that he lost control of his team. Given Sammy Sosa's ineffectiveness, Sidney Ponson's resolve to drink himself out of the game and Rafael Palmeiro's… well, you know what… can you imagine how that might have happened? Oh yeah - Baltimore had six straight losing seasons before Mazzilli tacked on two more.

 

Maybe the O's should have kept that interim label on Perozzo, er Perlozzo, after all.

 

The Price is wrong and Baylor bears no more

 

Seattle Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price resigned after a 19-year association with the organization, including the last six years as their major league pitching coach. There is speculation that M's manager Mike Hargrove will go after Mark Wiley, who was his pitching coach in Cleveland and Baltimore. Wiley has most recently been pitching coach for the Florida Marlins, but that staff is out with Jack McKeon's retirement.

 

Other candidates reportedly include Jim Slaton, the bullpen coach who worked in the Mariners' farm system for the previous five years, Triple-A Tacoma pitching coach Rafael Chaves and roving minor-league instructor Pat Rice, not to be confused with Price.

 

In addition to Price, Jeff Newman, who was third-base coach until leaving in August with an Achilles tendon injury, will not be back. Also, hitting coach Don Baylor resigned, both expressing frustration with his Mariners' charges and expressing a willingness to manage again in the majors. He'll likely get an interview or two at least.

 

Welcome to Wal-Mart!

 

The Kansas City Royals, losers of 210 games over the last two seasons, allowed manager Buddy Bell to select his own staff. Bell was hired during the season after Tony Pena walked away. Bell's lucky chosen few for 2006 include Bob McClure (pitching coach), Fred Kendall (bullpen) and Bill Doran (bench).

 

Rumors the new coaches will be asked to don blue smocks and moonlight as greeters at Royals' owner David Glass' Wal-Mart stores over the winter months are totally unfounded.

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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