Almost a couple of months after the end of the season, the Orioles are just now in the market for a new hitting coach. That's according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who reports that Jim Presley is being reassigned from the role for "personal ... not performance-based" reasons.
Who will be next is one big question. A second is: Why now? The fact that this is occurring at such an unusual time does support the idea that there's something that changed in Presley's personal life just in the last couple of months. We can figure if they knew about it sooner, they would have acted sooner. Not long ago, former pitching coach Rick Adair departed to be with his father, who was ill.
Connolly tossed out a list of five names the O's had been interested in for the role, though he said that time commitment was an issue for all of them. It's quite a varied list: B.J. Surhoff, Brady Anderson, Charlie Manuel, Jim Thome, and Raul Ibanez (hiss). Ibanez, of course, is a finalist for the Rays managerial position, so even if he misses out on that, it's hard to imagine him "settling" for being a hitting coach.
As baseball jobs go, hitting coach seems like kind of a crappy one. You're along for the long grind of a season, nominally responsible for the performance of the team in one entire area of the game, but no matter how great a philosophy you may or may not have, are many set in their ways veterans going to listen? Put anybody in a uniform and they're probably not going to get Adam Jones to lay off that ball in the dirt for long.
There are other responsibilities, of course, like playing swing doctor for a struggling player. Presley, for instance, was credited with helping Chris Davis make some changes to his swing and mindset that brought about his 2013 performance. Whatever he said or did doesn't seem to have lasted for more than that year, though.
This kind of stuff is just as important, and with young hitters like Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop on the team, getting the right kind of coach who can reach them is something that matters. It's also something that, whether or not it works, will probably never make its way into the awareness of fans.
Connolly reported that O's manager Buck Showalter will be interviewing candidates this week. I get the sense that none of the ones named above are actually getting to the interview process due to their own lack of interest. One guy who's been mentioned by multiple O's reporters is Jeff Manto, currently the Orioles minor league hitting coordinator. Major league hitting coach does indeed seem like a logical promotion for such a person. The others, believes Connolly, are all external.
The Orioles are not the only team in the division looking for a hitting coach. The Yankees hitting coach position opened up shortly after the season and they still have not hired a new one. The Mets hired the coach the Yankees fired. Maybe the Orioles can grab a former Nationals hitting coach for a similar kind of trolling.