The Orioles in their wisdom found the perfect time to finally finish their coaching staff hires. Flooded, I'm sure, with angry letters about the failure to sign Victor Martinez, the O's pushed the bad news out of the headlines right away. Look: Willie Randolph! John Russell! Shiny things!
In all seriousness, while these hires have all of the caffeinated power of a six-pack of NyQuil, the Orioles have brought in what looks to be a pretty solid group of coaches to work with their pretty solid group of youngsters. It took a silly amount of time for sure, but kudos to them for doing it right. And so, let me begin the introductions:
Jim Presley replaces the extremely popular Terry Crowley as the hitting coach after stints in Arizona (where he got his start under Buck Showalter) and Florida. I feel bad for Presley since his hiring is completely about getting rid of The Crow, but that's how it goes for hitting coaches I guess. There's been a lot written about Crowley and I've been personally annoyed at how a joke by Earl Weaver became the Little Red Book for the anti-Crow crowd, but you simply cannot deny that he was not getting the job done.
When the output is below par, you need to bring in a fresh voice. It's not just Crowley; you can say that about the entire coaching staff. The Orioles were a terrible team in 2010, and while bringing a totally new coaching staff doesn't fix that, but it's a heckuva lot better than not doing anything. It doesn't mean Presley will turn Matt Wieters into Joe Mauer with Power, but it's at least throwing a breaking ball instead of more fastballs.
Rick Adair comes in as the new bullpen coach, and if you know who he replaced then I tip my hat to you. Bullpen coaches are responsible for running the bullpen and being a kind of secondary pitching coach, and Adair is a terrific hire in that regard. Adair's last job was as the Mariners' pitching coach (he was fired along with manager Don Wakamatsu), and having a strong experienced voice in a relatively minor role is a nice get for Baltimore.
Wayne Kirby is your new first base/outfield/baserunning coach, and he is the only new staff member without big league experience. He does however, like the bulk majority of the rest of the coaching staff, have previous ties to Buck Showalter, having worked for the Rangers' minor league affliates during Buck's days in Dallas. One of the most obvious things Showalter has done with these hires is to bring in his guys for the job. This is good, since we were all dazzled with Buck's thumbprint on the team in August and September. Now we'll see what his footprint can do.
John Russell and Willie Randolph are some combination of the new bench and third base coaches, and they come packed with previous managing experience from Pittsburgh and New York, respectively. You'll hear some nice enough quotes from these guys about how they want to bring Baltimore back to prosperity and how it used to be impossible to get tickets to games. That's all well and good (if fluffier than my old cat, whose name was Fluffy), but I'm slightly disappointed that there aren't any guys who can offer fluff about how great it is to be back in an Orioles uniform. Just a minor gripe, but it's there, tugging at my jersey.
Russell will work with the American League's best defensive catcher on continuing to be the American League's best defensive catcher. Randolph will work with the infielders. Randolph in particular has a pretty solid reputation for his coaching, and I'll be very interested to see what he brings to what has been a middling defensive unit.
These are good hires. It's a lot of new voices and a lot of experience backing up those voices. It feels like this is really Buck Showalter's team now. Of course there is no statistical evidence that any one coach is different from another coach, and the success or failure of this staff is all going to come down to what kind of rapport they establish with the players, not to mention which players the warehouse puts on the field. But a change needed to be made, and if you're going to do it, do it right. The Orioles did it right.