Friday, October 2, 2009

Opportunity Knocks: New Pitching Coach on the Horizon

John Fay breaks some interesting news today: the Reds are parting ways with pitching coach Dick Pole.

The Reds renewed the contracts of every coach except pitching coach Dick Pole. The Reds will look at internal candidates. My guess is Ted Power and Mario Soto will be interviewed.

There’s also a chance that St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan will become available. That would be an interesting first meeting with Bronson Arroyo. Duncan was recently quoted about how much more input he had when Walt Jocketty was GM in St. Louis.

Pole left the park after being told of the decision by Dusty Baker.

Third base coach Mark Berry, first base coach Billy Hatcher, hitting coach Brook Jacoby, bullpen coach Juan Lopez, bench coach Chris Speier and bullpen catcher Mike Stefanski will return in their same roles.

Jocketty on the firing:

“I think it was just as an organization we felt Dick has done a good job to this point. But we felt going forward things needed to change. There’s no real specific reason.

“We don’t have a clear candidate. We’ll formulate the list. Find the guy that will be with this organization for a long time. We’ve got some good young pitchers coming along. We wanted to make sure we find the right guy to develop them.

“We’ll look at some guys internally. We’ve got a couple guys in mind.”

“It’s tough going into the last day.”

Baker on the firing:

“I told Dick when I got here today. Naturally, he was hurt. It was very difficult for me to tell him because you know how close me and him are. I’d be the one to tell him. Like Walt said it was a tough decision, an organizational decision. Don’t want to get into specifics. I don’t think that would serve any point.”

“It’s not fair to anybody to air anything publicly.”

Dusty and Dick

The first thing that strikes me about this article is the role of Dusty Baker. It's interesting to note that this move was made against Dusty's will. There have been questions about just how much influence Dusty wields in the organization. The questions were inevitable given the fact that Paul Bako, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Corey Patterson were all acquired during Dusty's tenure. Such acquisitions almost certainly bore the fingerprints of one Dusty Baker, who said he liked to have "options."

More recently, there was the acquisition of Willy Taveras. It's unclear where the responsibility for that particular acquisition should lie, but at the very least it has the feel of Dusty to it.

At the very least, it seems likely that Dusty and Walt Jocketty worked in lock step. Dusty had some measure of influence on the front office.

However, it's obvious from his quotes that Dusty was opposed to replacing his friend Dick Pole. Of Dusty's many personality traits, his unfailing loyalty to "his guys" may be the defining characteristic.

Dusty's loyalty hasn't changed, but his pull with the front office may have. That certainly wouldn't be a bad thing for Reds fans.

Now What?

Now that the Reds have parted ways with Dick Pole, who will be the replacement?

This is an opportunity for the Reds to make some serious noise. To really make a splash and regain some relevance in the baseball world. If they make the right choice, the Reds could really "move the needle." Over the last decade or two, the Reds have slipped into irrelevance. They are largely dismissed by the mainstream media and the baseball community at large. The only time the Reds have "moved the needle" in recent memory was the acquisition of Josh Hamilton. This is another opportunity to "move the needle," though admittedly on a smaller scale.

There are two elite options potentially available to fill the position. The Reds could turn to Hall of Fame pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who stands shoulder to shoulder with mentor Johnny Sain as the best pitching coach in history. Odd as it seems, Mazzone has expressed interest in returning to the game, but hasn't found much interest in his services. Still, what better way for the Reds to foster its homegrown pitching talent than to bring in The Pope of Pitching?

Mazzone combines the talent and the publicity that the Reds should covet. He would improve the performance of the Reds pitchers and give the entire organization a big dose of credibility. He should be at the very top of the list...scratch that....he should BE the list..... and would have more impact than any potential free agent.

The other possible option floating around is current St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. Duncan has expressed dissatisfaction with the Cardinals organization and has a long history with Walt Jocketty. Duncan has worked miracles for the Cardinals and his philosophy of emphasizing the sinker would play well in Great American Ballpark.

The best in-house option appears to be Ted Power. He's done a nice job with the young pitchers on the farm, but he may be more valuable shaping young prospects than fine tuning established pitchers at the MLB level.

Final Thoughts

The Reds have a real opportunity to improve the team, but they have to choose wisely. Picking the right pitching coach could both help get Aaron Harang back on track and the pitching prospects take a step forward. Adding the right pitching coach to the addition of Scott Rolen could significantly improve the Reds run prevention in 2010.

Personally, I think it's absurd that they aren't calling up Leo Mazzone and offering him a blank check to come to Cincinnati. Sadly, it's probably a real long-shot at this point, but it's also a no-brainer. He could really alter the fortunes of the organization like no other manager/coach in all of baseball. Leo certainly has my vote...which, of course, means it won't happen.


  1. good move, we needed a new pitching coach.

    wish they would have let jacoby go as well

  2. i'm not at all sold on mazzone. there's got to be a reason that nobody else will touch him with a ten foot pole. i personally think they should stay in-house and promote teddy power.

  3. Smitty,

    Yeah, I've heard quite a few people who share your opinion of Jacoby. But, for better or worse, he's with us for next year.


  4. Anon,

    Interesting. Personally, I don't put much stock into conventional baseball thought. In fact, breaking from conventional thought often yields significant advantages. That said, I find it mind boggling that the conventional wisdom would be anti-Leo.

    Still, how can you NOT be sold on Mazzone? What more can a pitching coach do than what he has already done?

    Personally, I like his Johnny Sain inspired philosophy to keeping pitchers healthy. Throwing more rather than less, but throwing only at ~65% effort. His emphasis on pitching o the outside corner and working off the fastball is a tried and true formula.

    If there is a knock on him, it's that he is rumored to work better with veterans than youngsters. I'm not entirely sure that's true, but I've heard the rumblings. Still, his overall success speaks for itself. Not even including guys like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery, you're still left with guys like John Burkett, Denny Neagle, Jaret Wright, Russ Ortiz, Jeremy Guthrie, etc, etc, etc.

    If the Reds are serious about building a first class organization, then I think this is an important first step.

    Anyway, my $.02. Thanks for the comment!!