Coaching Continuity

When the regular season ended the Arizona Diamondbacks found themselves at home watching as the Los Angeles Dodgers prepared to meet the Chicago Cubs in the National League Divisional Series. Arizona finished in second place having won 8 games less in 2008 than they did in 2007. They had gone from a team having the best record in the National League to one that barely finished 2 games over .500. Considering that this young team had another year of seasoning and experience and that they had led the National League Western Division from April 4 through September 5 the expectation was that they would retain the divisional championship. In fact there were many who expected the Diamondbacks to be the National League’s representative in the World Series. Instead they did not even make the play-offs.

When expectations are not met especially expectations as high as those placed on the Diamondbacks, we’ve come to anticipate that there will be changes made. Since it is much easier to change the coaching philosophy than it is to change the players I think the fans expected that there would be a shake-up of the Diamondbacks coaching staff.

This group has been together for nearly 3 years as a whole and while last year was very good, overall people were left wondering if the team had reached its potential. Nothing had come out at the conclusion of the season other than the fact that manager Bob Melvin would be meeting with General Manager Josh Byrnes to discuss the season and what needed to happen for next year. Both men were non-committal when it came to questions around the coaching staff.

Earlier this week it was announced that pitching coach Bryan Price would return next season. That should not have been much of a surprise considering the job that the pitchers have done during Price’s tenure. Although the bullpen struggled at times overall pitching has been the strength of this franchise. The same cannot be said for the other aspects of the game. There have been countless stories and opinions given about the Diamondbacks lack of aggressive base running, the increase in the number of errors committed in the field, and the lack of consistent hitting. The question becomes whether these problems are a result of the player’s youth and lack of discipline or if it is a philosophical difference in how the players are implementing the plans the coaches are giving them.

It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when the Diamondbacks announced today that the entire coaching staff has been retained and given contracts through the 2009 season. Considering that each coach was given just a single year is indicative that management is monitoring the situation closely and will not hesitate to make changes if the team gets off to a slow start or does not show signs of improvement over last year. It also should tell the coaches that they should not shoulder all of the blame. Each player should review the year they had and try to make improvements so that the inconsistency can be reduced or eliminated.

I was especially happy to see that Glenn Sherlock had been retained as bullpen coach. Sherlock is the one member of the Diamondbacks family who has been here since the inaugural season. He has survived each management change as well as a change in ownership. He has seen players come and go and even watched as several of the first Diamondbacks retired. I feel he has done a great job and I’m grateful that the Diamondbacks front office has agreed.

Hopefully this off-season will be spent with the coaches reviewing their various assignments and developing plans on how they will help these young players grow beyond what we have seen so far and become the types of players that will lead this team into the post season not just in 2009 but for several years to come.

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