Frank Viola — the best pitcher in the history of Long Island — was all over the lobby down at the Winter Meetings last month. I figured it was just because he lives down in Florida and was meeting and greeting, but maybe he was there on the make for a job. He just got one: he’s been named the pitching coach for the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ Class A team. This is my favorite part of the story:
In addition to Viola and Backman, former Mets players Tim Teufel, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Randy Niemann, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling all have jobs in the organization or with the team-owned SNY cable network.
I know Viola wasn’t with the team then, but that factoid made me go back and check out the 1986 Mets’ Baseball-Reference page. One of my favorite time wasters is to figure out who the most obscure and/or most unexpected player to actually pitch an inning or make a plate appearance for a famous team. Call them the Eddie Matthews All-Stars if you will. It can be a Hall of Famer who made an otherwise unmemorable cameo with a World Series team like Matthews did with the 1968 Tigers. It can be some random former prospect for a team you root for who somehow stumbled forward several years to pinch hit five times for a winner after you figured he was selling cars for a living.
I think my vote for the 1986 Mets was former Tiger jack-of-all-trades, Tim Corcoran, who used to get talked up a bit in late 70s Tigers publications. There’s almost always one.
None of this has anything to do with Frank Viola, of course. But that’s how my mind works when it’s the offseason and nothin’ is going on.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.