Published on October 9th, 2014 | by Thompson0
A Gonzo Look at the 2015 Minnesota Twins Coaching Staff
Coaches are underrated, underpaid and picking a coaching staff is hard. That’s what I’ve learned since attempting to dig into all the coaching candidates to fill positions on the 2015 Minnesota Twins coaching staff. Choosing a coaching staff is largely the manager’s job, but Terry Ryan will certainly play an active role in who the new manager hires, especially if the new manager is young and influential. Although recently it seems anyone Gardy wanted Terry allowed. Perhaps we’re seeing and feeling the effects of that now.
The right collection of coaches makes all the difference, but the problem with forming a staff is the coaches you want the most already have jobs they wouldn’t leave except for a promotion to manager, which forces promotion from within rather than seeking outside. There’s not enough money devoted to MLB coaching staffs, and too much devoted to owners and players. If the coaching market and players’ market had the same amount of money devoted to each, it would make this Twins’ rebuild even more interesting. But as it stands, it’s pretty damn boring, so in an attempt to spice up the search for Gardy’s replacement, here’s a Gonzo list of coaches I’d like to see on the Twins’ staff next season, some of which may be untouchable or a little too Gonzo, but I’ve provided runner-up choices as well.
Strength and Conditioning Coach/Assistant Hitting Coach – Julio Franco
I think Mark Berardino tossed his name out there on Gleeman and the Geek this week and I was immediately interested in what Franco’s been up to. Well, he most recently became the only person to play professional baseball in five different decades. He returned, at the age of 55, to act as a player/coach for the Fort Worth Cats, and is looking for an opportunity to get back into affiliated ball after some time coaching in Venezuela. Although he has no experience as a strength and conditioning coach, he obviously has a personal fountain of youth. This 2006 article describes Franco’s diet and exercise, saying he “stays fit and chiseled through intense workouts and cross training in the off season. In addition to regular cardio workouts, he lifts weights and uses plyometrics, exercises to maintain power and explosiveness.” If he’s fit enough at that age to swing a baseball bat and run to first base, I think he can hold the Twins together better than Perry Castellano has. He’d be a great addition to serve as an assistant hitting instructor for the young, Spanish-speaking Twins players as well.
Runners-up: Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter
If these guys don’t get contract offers this winter, they should both be strength and conditioning coaches in Major League Baseball. Their run has been more than impressive. Suzuki’s 41 years old and still looks 21, and Torii, 40, can still swing the bat. Hell, the Twins might pay either of them to play a little left field and do some instructing if the price is right. The language barrier may be a barrier for Suzuki, but the point is I’ll take anyone but Castellano. Either give me somebody who can make Mauer a horse or give me somebody who can make him bend so much he never breaks. I’d prefer the horse.
Athletic Trainer – Larry Bennese
I don’t know many trainers, but Bennese must be a good one. He won the Florida State League’s Trainer of the Year award five times, and he’s put in the time in the Twins’ system – 19 years with the organization. He’s only been in Rochester for two years, but he’ll be familiar with a lot of the bodies on the Twins’ roster and how to handle them, especially the pitchers. It seems like a move Terry Ryan would make.
Bullpen Coach – Marty Mason
Mason is an easy choice to be the Twins’ bullpen coach because he’s put in the time – 28 years as a coach, including 11 as Tony La Russa’s bullpen coach – and he knows the kids that will be pitching out of the Twins bullpen pretty well. I also think Mason was hired in 2012 as a possible replacement for Rick Anderson. He’s got quite the reputation for turning soft-tossing pitchers like Johan Pino and Logan Darnell into successes, and his pitching staff in Rochester was second in ERA and third in WHIP this season in the International League.
A negative may be his inability to right Vance Worley. Mason didn’t have much in the cupboard in 2013, either. And maybe Alex Meyer and Trevor May could have developed faster, but I think with the right cans in the cupboard, Mason can make a mean casserole.
First Base/Infield Coach – Paul Molitor
I’d like to see Molitor stay on the staff, but I don’t know if that’s possible if he’s denied the manager job. He could even end up in Milwaukee. I just think this is the best spot for him. He’s a baserunning and defensive shifting wizard. He belongs on the bases, but if he does get Gardy’s job or decides to walk, there are some options.
Runner-up: Jake Mauer
The man played every infield position except catcher and wasn’t terrible at any of them. He’s also got a ton of energy and a winning attitude. Plus, maybe Joe will smile a little more with his bro down at first base.
Third Base Coach – Gene Glynn
I don’t think there’s any way he’s not on the Twins’ coaching staff in 2015. He certainly deserves it. He’s been a coach or scout for 20 years, and most of it as a third base coach. It just makes sense to promote him given his success at Rochester, and I think he’s being groomed to take over as manager in a couple of years.
Hitting Coach – Tom Brunansky
Brunansky proved his worth this year, getting through to Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe regarding plate discipline. The whole team walked early and often until pitchers realized who they were throwing to. Dozier and Plouffe continued to excel, and I don’t know anyone else I’d rather have teaching young, Twins talent the importance of patience.
Pitching Coach – Jim Benedict
This is just payback. Benedict fixed Vance Worley; he fixed Francisco Liriano with three words – “right back pocket.” The special assistant to Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington should get just about anything he wants. I don’t care what it costs, just bring him to Minnesota. He’s obviously the best there is in the game when it comes to pitching. He’s been turning other teams’ garbage into Pittsburgh’s treasure for years now.
Runners-up: Dom Chiti, Frank Viola, Marty Mason
Chiti worked wonders with Baltimore’s bullpen in 2014 and certainly has impressive credentials. He’s been coaching since 1982.
Viola is coming off open heart surgery this spring, but rejoined the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets Triple-A affiliate, as pitching coach.
Bench Coach – Terry Steinbach
I wouldn’t mind Steinbach sticking around as bench coach, but I have a feeling he’s headed to Arizona. According to Mike Berardino, “Twins catchers have praised his work on their fundamentals,” but why is it that pitch framing has been largely ignored? Hiring him despite no major or minor league coaching experience was quite the shock.
Runners-up: Gene Glynn, Doug Mientkiewicz
Everybody seems to love Gene Glynn, or it could be a great learning opportunity for Mientkiewicz to do some of the manager’s grunt work. He’s never done that in his career, and it could change the way he treats his own bench coach.
Manager – Ozzie Guillen
Anybody who reads this blog knows Ozzie’s been my man for three years, and I’m not easing off the gas pedal now. Ozzie wouldn’t. Terry Ryan is interviewing the first minority candidate, Sandy Alomar, Jr., so the odds of Ozzie becoming “Don Piranha” are getting worse everyday. Terry Ryan doesn’t seem like an Ozzie kind of guy. He’s not one to put up with bullshit, so here are some backup plans.
I really like Rusty Kuntz, and not just because of his name. He’s regarded as the best outfield and baserunning coach by Nick Cafardo, and you can see it in Alex Gordon, Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain, and Jarrod Dyson. And what was one of the biggest problems for the Twins in 2014? Outfield defense. He looks good in the powder blue uniforms, and there aren’t many internal candidates with a specialty in outfield instruction, either.
Molitor seems like a good fit. I’ve heard Twins players respond well to him, and considering his willingness to shift defensively and ability to teach good baserunning skills, I’d say he’s an upgrade. And you can’t deny the awkward way he was brought in as the seventh coach on the staff in charge of baserunning, infield defense, and “in-game strategy.” Sure sounds like a manager to me. Funny thing is hiring Molitor was all Gardy’s idea. Seems to me Gardy wanted a way out.
Torey Lovullo has a reputation for being an encouraging guy, and maybe with all these young players coming up, the Twins could use more positive reinforcement than negative. I think this Twins team would be an ideal fit for Lovullo, and he would thrive in Minnesota.
Sandy Alomar, Jr. is an interesting candidate because he’s a former catcher who can teach both Suzuki and Pinto the proper way to play the game defensively. I’m not sure I want Steinbach to be the only coach in that role.
I think Glynn is going to groom Mientkiewicz into the job. Molitor may only stick around for a few years if he gets the job. It’ll be another Tom Kelly situation. Whoever inherits this team in three or four years is going to be given the keys to an old-fashioned, gas-guzzling, American muscle car with the power to get out of the parking lot in a hurry. Something tells me it’ll be Glynn or Mientkiewicz, but not this year.