Should the L.A. Dodgers Retool the Coaching Staff Under Don Mattingly?
Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti has already announced that his club intends on making a number of personnel changes in the offseason, but many folks around Dodgertown are curious to see if the current coaching staff will remain intact to compliment newly hired manager Don Mattingly.
Until some type of direction is established in regards to the verdict in the McCourt divorce trial, it's difficult to even guess the payroll parameters for next year. Once the team budget is established, the early formations should begin in terms of player personnel.
However, the coaching staff is a small part of the payroll, and could be one of the first areas solidified as the team prepares for next season.
Tim Wallach, who was the fan favorite to succeed Joe Torre as manager, has already expressed interest in coaching as part of Mattingly's staff. Wallach indicated to the media last week that he would rather assume a position in the Major Leagues instead of returning to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Whether Colletti and Mattingly decide to offer Wallach a spot with the Dodgers remains to be seen. Based on his managerial success in Triple-A, it's speculated that Wallach will be snatched up quickly by another organization if he doesn't land some type of job in Los Angeles.
It's already been rumored that Mattingly asked current third base coach Larry Bowa to become bench coach. There's been no indication yet from Bowa to confirm the offer, but the common thinking is that the bench coach position will be filled by someone with a reasonable amount of managing experience to help guide Mattingly during his first season.
Bowa is known for personality issues in his past, and has been involved in conflicts with several Dodgers' players this season. For the Dodgers to move forward and have any chance at a productive season, any such conflicts between the players and the coaches will need to be resolved immediately.
If Bowa does indeed vacate his current position, Wallach could be a very suitable candidate. It's also been speculated that Wallach could possibly fill Mattingly's previous job as hitting coach. Before becoming manager of Albuquerque, Wallach was the Dodgers' hitting coach in 2004 and 2005. He was the recipient of two Silver Slugger awards in his playing days, and certainly has the ability to help rescue Los Angeles from its 2010 power drought.
It's tough to guess the direction the Dodgers will take in terms of the pitching coaches. Current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has been with Los Angeles since 2006, and although the starting rotation has been phenomenal especially in the second half of the season, the bullpen was nothing short of dreadful for almost the entire year.
As a player, Honeycutt was always known as a control pitcher and a "nibbler," and it was evident, at least early in the year, that he was trying to instill some of those philosophies into hard-throwing starters Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Both Billingsley and Kershaw have improved tremendously this season, most likely as a result of mixing location skills with their above-average velocity and their abilities to challenge opposing hitters.
Nevertheless, the bullpen will need to improve. Current bullpen coach Ken Howell may be in a position to be replaced, as Los Angeles will definitely need a fresh look to guide the relievers. One name being tossed around for pitching coach or bullpen coach is Charlie Hough, the current pitching coach for Single-A Inland Empire, and former pitching coach for Los Angeles in 1998 and 1999.
Current Dodgers' catcher Brad Ausmus, who will retire at the end of this season, also has expressed interest in continuing with the organization in a coaching capacity, There's been no indication by the Dodgers or Ausmus if his coaching career would begin in the Major or Minor Leagues.
Regardless, whether there's an entirely new look or if most of the coaches return, the working relationships with the players are paramount. If Mattingly and company are able to create positive chemistry no matter what the roster looks like, there may be a chance for success.
But if any of the negative tendencies that were present in 2010 carry over to next year, it will be a very, very long season indeed.
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