Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball Debates: A new series of posts that raise debatable questions about the wide world of baseball. Each post will pose a question, argue both sides of the debate and then let you, the reader, have the final say. Here are the previous installments about moving in the fences at Target Field and the save stat. Let’s get to it!
Welcome back to another installment of Baseball Debates. Up this week is a debate about where an organization should place its best, most experienced coaches. Managers and coaches at all levels play a big role shaping what their team and players look like, but the most emphasis (and thus money) gets put on the coaches at the highest level of baseball. Much like prospects themselves, up-and-coming coaches typically start lower in the minors and get promoted once they have proved their coaching abilities. For example, Paul Molitor was promoted to the big league coaching staff this offseason after coaching in the Twins minor league system from 2005-2013. The Major Leagues is the end game for aspiring coaches and it is mostly seen that way from an organizational stand point as well. But maybe that idea is backwards since players lower in any team’s system could eventually be their most important players and need the best coaching. So the question Puckett’s Pond would like to ask is, Should the Best Coaches in Baseball Actually be Coaching in the Lower Minors?
- More often than not, coaches throughout the minor leagues are veterans with many years of experience (though have never made it to the Major Leagues), or fresh faced retired players, turned coaches. Doug Mientkiewicz had one season of coaching experience as a hitting coach in the Dodgers organization before being hired as the manager for the Twins’ Advanced Class A Fort Myers Miracle. Mientkiewicz ended up coaching the Miracle to the best record in the league but the Twins handed the job to a former player without any managerial experience. Imagine the pushback/outrage that would have emerged if the Twins had fired Ron Gardenhire this offseason and hired a new manger without any experience to speak of. Why is it ok to do something like that in the minors?
- Another simple reason for why the best coaches should be in the lower minors is prospects. Think about the most important Minnesota Twins players for the next five years and you would be hard pressed to create a list with more than 2 or 3 players who are actually on the major league roster. Prospects should be getting the best coaching available when they are young, impressionable and still putting all of their tools together. Take Mientkiewicz again, in 2013 he coached Miguel Sano for the first half of the season and then got Byron Buxton for the last half. Those are the two most important players for the Twins rebuilding efforts and they were coached by a first year manager (nothing against Doug, who by all accounts seems to be a great manager and is just the victim of this arguing point). Put simply, the best coaches should coach the most important players.
- The best coaches should be in the lower minors because a player that reaches the MLB has already learned almost everything that they can learn to improve their game. Players can spend 3-5+ seasons in the minors before they even reach the MLB, at which point they just need a manager who knows the rules and can call a good game.
- Each MLB team needs to have its best coaches in the Majors because every other team has their smartest, most experienced coaches at the top level too. Even if your players have had superior coaching in the minors, it won’t matter if your so-so top manager and coaching staff can’t get the best performance out of their players to compete with other teams.
- A player should always be learning no matter what level they are playing at so the MLB level needs experienced, well-paid coaches to teach younger players. This is especially true because prospects are finally playing against the best talent around, which will expose holes in their games that weren’t evident against lesser opponents. This requires great, talented coaches to continue to work with young players so they can prosper at the top level, instead of getting picked apart by advanced scouting reports that can pinpoint player deficiencies.
- Any odd manager could probably successfully manage a team where each player came up through the same minors system with great coaches at those levels. But an experienced, talented coach is needed at the Major League level because free agents or traded players wouldn’t have been exposed to the same organizational thinking. A great coach is able to integrate new players to their system on the fly, sometimes in the middle of a playoff race, in order to get the best performance out of a player.
- Revolutionizing the coaching system wouldn’t work because the best Major League coaches would think of it as a major demotion to be sent down to the minor leagues. It would be impossible to hire the most respected coaches for lower minor jobs, even if coaching there might most help the organization.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in! Leave a comment to support your decision or to let me know if I missed any important supporting or opposing points!