A lot has been made of the trade deadline and free agency signings, but what about the manager and coaching positions?
Joe Maddon is a young man's Dusty Baker. Yes, I said it. Both abuse young pitchers and love largely useless veterans. Their poisons may consist of different chemicals, but at the end of the day it's all the same chemistry; Baker allowed Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, and numerous others to throw when tired; detrimental to a pitcher of any age's health, not along a younger pitcher. Maddon neglects using young pitchers completely; Jae Kuk Ryu, Jason Hammel, Juan Salas for a time, and Chad Orvella all have felt the wrath of not being on the receiving end of Joe's right arm tap.
Baker had the `Lemons' and the `F Troops' guys like Jose Macias, Neifi Perez, Ramon Martinez, Todd Hollandsworth, Shawn Estes, John Mabry, Scott Eyre, and so on. Maddon has his `Good Face Inc.' crowd: Shawn Camp, Josh Paul, Casey Fossum, Ty Wigginton, and so on.
Now I'd stop there if I didn't notice the disturbing trend that both seemingly allow players they like (read: good guys) effect their job, which is setting a lineup, directing the bullpen usage, and at times employing a strategic ploy like stealing a base. The problem is Baker and Maddon often play their bench players in the oddest of situations. Take last night's game; Greg Norton over Jonny Gomes against Roger Clemens. Gomes is a fastball hitter, Clemens is a fastball pitcher, Norton was 6-13 against Clemens, although nearly all of those at-bats were more than seven seasons ago when Norton was with the White Sox, and again we're talking 13 at-bats, six hits, small sample size anyone?
Next take the 8th inning, rather than using Jason Hammel in a set-up role, something that was apparently supposed to happen, Maddon chose to keep the ever hittable Fossum out there for another out, the inning prior Fossum had been brought in after Jay Witasick walked a hitter and then threw one pitch, a ball, to the next. Those moves make no sense.
It's highly doubtful that Joe Maddon will return after this season, but who are some of the people that could, and should replace him? Here's my short list:
1. Bill Evers
2. Joe Girardi
3. Mike Maddux
4. Phil Garner
5. Charlie Montoya
Evers and Montoya are in the organization all ready, you know both, I'd feel comfortable with either. Girardi is the hot choice, but for a time I wasn't on his bandwagon, I think part of the success was more good luck than not, but hey the guy's a winner, and I'm not about to go on some slobbering rant, but maybe he's got the rabbit foot of Jesus, I mean Jeter in his back pocket. Maddux is the pitching coach for the Brewers, yes he's Greg's brother as well, but he's done a great job in Milwaukee. Finally Garner, there might be a chance Houston fires him, if so I expect old pal Gerry Hunsicker to call, the wild card? Jimy Williams, another former Houston mate who was with the organization last season.
It's hard to judge specialty coaches without knowing their exact effects; that leaves hitting coach Steve Henderson, first base coach George Hendrick, and third base coach Tom Foley without much criticism or credit, although I'd like to think that Henderson has helped with Carlos Pena's resurgence by helping him become more conscientious of center.
We arrive at pitching coach Jim Hickey, it's hard to truly judge his job, the personnel isn't there, but other than James Shields the young pitchers haven't really improved. I wouldn't be opposed to Hickey returning, but I'd be more interested in seeing Xaiver Hernandez get the job next year, he's the Bill Evers of pitchers and unless Dave Duncan, Maddux, or Larry Rothschild (just joking) are available it's doubtful there would be a better selection.