In case you missed it earlier this weekend, the Dodgers announced two additions to their major league field staff as former big leaguers Brant Brown and Luis Ortiz will each serve dual roles of assistant hitting coach and minor league hitting coordinator.
(Photo credit: Jon SooHoo)
Up until the beginning of the 2016 season, from Joe Ferguson to Davey Lopes, every Los Angeles first base coach over the past 25 years has been a player for the Dodgers at some point in their careers. What’s more, the club has actually seen less first base coaches than managers during the exact 25-year time frame.
George Lombard, however, has never (officially) played for the Dodgers. Better still, Lombard has never coached in the majors prior to arriving in Los Angeles. Yet as his fellow coaches and players get to know him, they are quickly discovering that Lombard may be bringing more energy and enthusiasm than any of his predecessors.
There’s another new coach I don’t know much about in the Dodgers‘ dugout. Bob Geren will be joining rookie manager Dave Roberts as bench coach. Geren is filling the role left by Tim Wallach, who followed Don Mattingly to Miami.
Geren is a former catcher who spent 10 years in the minor leagues before making his debut with the New York Yankees in 1988. He stayed with the Yankees for four years, spent a year in the minors with the Pawtucket Red Sox, then played his final year with the San Diego Padres in 1993.
Geren has coached his way through the ranks, starting in the Red Sox organization at both the Rookie and Class A levels, before joining the Oakland A’s to manage their Triple-A team in Sacramento. He was promoted to bench coach for the A’s in 2002, where he remained through 2006. On November 27, 2006 he ascended to manager in Oakland, where he guided the A’s to their first losing season since 1998.
His time with Oakland was rocky — he received an extension on his contract, but his managing style was questioned after several players voiced their displeasure. Former A’s reliever Huston Street called him the “least favorite person I have ever encountered in sports.” He was fired on June 9, 2011.
On October 14, 2011 he was hired to be the bench coach for the New York Mets. Geren would go on to spend four years in New York, which included a run to the World Series last season. In December, he was hired by the Dodgers to be bench coach, after having interviewed for the managerial position in early November. Geren and his wife are from California, and have stated that the favorable location had weighed a lot in his decision to come to Los Angeles.
Geren has many good things to say about manager Dave Roberts. In an interview with Robert Pace of Fox Sports, Geren said, “His (Roberts) enthusiasm is infectious, his personality is off the charts. He’s a great pick, just a great choice.”
Geren also feels that he can be a good teacher for the younger Roberts, and that they can lean on and learn from each other.
Hearing that he’s been called the “least favorite person” that someone has met in sports in concerning for sure, but his years of experience and his willingness to be open to the ideas of the front office should provide a good sounding board for Dave Roberts as they strive to take the Dodgers deep into the postseason.
Geren, who was interviewed for the Dodgers’ managerial position last month, spent the last three seasons as the bench coach of the New York Mets. He has extensive experience as a field manager, having managed in the minor leagues for both the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.
After a stint as the A’s bench coach, Geren was promoted to manager in 2006. He was eventually fired in June of 2011, having had numerous, publicized disagreements with a few of his players and being openly criticized for his poor communication skills.
Despite the rocky past in Oakland, he is still widely regarded among his coaching peers as having excellent technical and fundamental knowledge, and a tremendous understanding of sabermetric principles.
Turner Ward’s MLB career spanned 11 years with 6 different teams. He was primarily a utility-type outfielder and designated hitter.
Ward began his managing career in the Pirates’ farm system in 2007, and eventually accepted similar roles in the Diamondbacks’ minor league system. He was promoted to assistant hitting coach for the Snakes in 2013, where he remained through last season. He is widely known for his involvement in the massive brawl between the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers on June 11, 2013.
While still not official, it is believed that Rick Honeycutt will return as pitching coach, and will be the lone survivor from the 2015 staff. Details of his contract are unclear, but it appears Honeycutt will return for two more seasons before being introduced to an executive role. He has been the Dodgers pitching coach since 2006.
Among all the primary coaching positions, the bullpen, first base and third base coaching spots still remain vacant. In the past, the Dodgers believed in promoting from within, but it’s highly unlikely this year after the front office did a thorough house cleaning of the farm at season’s end. The Dodgers did not retain OKC manager Damon Berryhill, hitting coach Franklin Stubbs or pitching coach Scott Radinsky following a season in which Oklahoma City posted the best record in the Pacific Coast League.
That being said, it appears that Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes appear insistent on choosing a brand new staff tailor made to their own technical philosophies and fundamental principles.
It was insinuated by several sources that Gabe Kapler was being considered for a coaching spot at the big-league level, but many believe that his strong performance as farm director would leave a very difficult spot to fill with his departure from that role.
The Dodgers hope to have the remainder of the major league coaching vacancies filled by week’s end.
Not long after the departure of former manager Don Mattingly, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman reached out to the remaining members of the coaching staff and explained there were no guarantees for positions in 2016. Friedman also relayed that the coaches were free to seek employment elsewhere while the front office regrouped and decided on a new direction.
Since that time, a few things have transpired that make the future at least a little bit clear. Dave Roberts will be taking over the managerial regime. Davey Lopes headed East and will coach first base for the Nationals. Ron Roenicke accepted a position to man the third base coaching duties of the Angels. And most recently, former hitting coach Mark McGwire was named the new bench coach of the Padres.
Many assumed that Tim Wallach would head to Florida and join Don Mattingly as the bench coach of the Marlins, but things have been completely quiet in the Wallach camp. One possibility is that Wallach may stay put in Los Angeles and work beside Dave Roberts on the bench.
A few outlets have already envisioned Gabe Kapler as a solid candidate for the Dodgers’ bench coaching job; however, the lack of experience between both Kapler and Roberts could prove to be detrimental in terms of the knowledge required of actually managing a game.
Some remember Mattingly running out of pitchers during the Peoria Saguaros’ 15-1 forfeit win over his Phoenix Desert Dogs during his initial season of managing in the AFL in 2010. Others recall when he stepped off the mound and back on again against the Giants after filling in for Joe Torre earlier that year. Things like these happen to a rookie manager, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone on the staff with at least some knowledge and experience at the Major League level.
The new sabermetric approach of the front office may prove to be beneficial to the Dodgers over the course of time, but Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will only be able to offer up so much from the press box in terms of the true nuances of baseball.
Tim Wallach is widely recognized among his coaching peers as being one of the most knowledgeable students of the game, and many attribute the managerial success of Mattingly to his presence. It goes without saying that Wallach would be a beneficial piece of the Dodgers’ puzzle moving forward, but the question remains as to whether he would accept such a role after being looked over rather quickly for the managerial position.
Dave Roberts and Tim Wallach are no strangers to having a working relationship, as Wallach was Roberts’ hitting coach in 2004 before being shipped off to Boston. It is unknown whether Roberts will be permitted to choose his own coaching staff; but if he’s so entitled, Wallach may be very high on the list to work by his side.
As perfect as it sounds on paper to remain with the Dodgers as bench coach, Wallach may have an entirely different agenda. He may decide to pair up with Mattingly and head to Miami. Or he could join Dusty Baker and Davey Lopes in Washington. He may even take a year off, or possibly join another team’s front office in an executive capacity.
Regardless of which course he follows, hopefully the Dodgers front office recognizes Tim Wallach as a valuable piece to the success of the franchise, and does everything within its power to utilize the precious leadership, knowledge and experience that he possesses.