When I played little league ball, the coach would usually stick one of the sad sack reserve playesr with no chance in hell at making contact with the ball as first base coach. It was usually an afterthought, too, like “Whoa, if one of these dweebs actually gets on base, there should be somebody over there to tell them what to do, and I’m going to be too busy screaming myself hoarse with racial slurs aimed at the opposing coach to follow the ball.”
Since then, I’ve seen the value of the position, and when you’ve got a guy like Davey Lopes out there, sending dudes and timing pitchers’ windups and generally just being a dagger in the thigh of pitchers and catchers across the NL, it’s even more valuable. Sadly, the Phillies don’t have a guy out there like Davey Lopes anymore.
If the season started today, like a week after it ended, our first base coach box would be nothing more than half a chalky white rectangle with no gruff former manager of a subpar team to populate it.
So let’s talk a walk through the backgrounds of the possible replacements.
Maybe the fact that I was distracted for the last 30 minutes reading a list of the “50 Greatest Animated Characters” means I don’t want to do this, but let’s give Mariano a fair shot. You probably remember him from those “Slam Duncan” headlines in ’93, when he kaboomed a HIGHLY uncharacteristic walkoff grand slam off (I think) Lee Smith on (I think) Mother’s Day.
Don’t worry, that’s not the last time you’ll be asking yourself, “What does that even have to do with this” during this post.
Well, Mariano’s been the 1st base coach of the Dodgers for a bit now, and considering that’s exactly where Lopes is rumored to end up, perhaps a switch is in order.
He’s (tied for) 416th on the all time steals list, so he knows how to steal a base or 174. As the Dodgers first base coach since 2006, he’s helped garner them an average 71.1% successful stolen base percentage, if my math is right, which in all likelihood, it is not.
At they very least, Mariano has had marginal+ success stealing bases as a player and a manager, and he’s got more World Series rings than the current Phillies, though with Pat Burrell having two, that statistic is almost meaningless.
Also probably soon to be an ex-Dodger is their third base coach.
If you’ve followed his totally nonfiction Twitter feed, Larry’s been a furious one-man riot since forever. Thoughts like this or this or this probably make him the opposite of Lopes’ calm, silenced dominator, and more like an enraged howler monkey, hopping up and down in mid-screech while pointing at second base.
The question is, would that be a bad thing?
No. But I mean, how awkward is it to come back to a team as a member of the entourage, and not the Vinny Chase?
Who cares. Larry would be completely unafraid of TV cameras and media inquiries. He would spit blood and roll his eyes in utter abhorrence of a call or player. Larry is a furnace of impassioned screams and horrific curse words that don’t even exist in this dimension.
And, despite his weaselish accusations at Mick Billimeyer’s binocular-having this year, Larry is of the Phillies. They would be keen on welcoming him and he would be keen on accepting. His passion, skill, and desire are there. So maybe Larry’s terrifying eyes are where it’s at.
I think I’ve already made enough “Ha ha John Russell sucked as a Pirates manager” jokes, because they’re pretty easy and give me an excuse to link to Rum Bunter.
In his Major League debut with the Phillies many years ago, Russell was part of a now ironic loss to the Pirates in the first game of a double header, striking out three times. In the second game, he pinch hit in a spot in the lineup in which earlier that day had resided both current Phillies staffers Larry Andersen and Greg Gross.
He’s also fit in several interesting years as a manager in the Phillies minor league system, when their triple-A team was the Ottawa Lynx for a quarter of a second. Actually, he could be the replacement fur Dave Huppert, too. We’ve got all sorts of John Russell-shaped holes in our organization, for some reason!
Pirates owner Frank Coonelly labeled Russell as “outstanding,” (Some people disagree with this adjective) and in the same speech, built an argument that seemed to say “This latest Pirates season was totally my fault, so I naturally fired the manager.”
So is he “outstanding” enough to be a Phillies first base coach? Let’s ask Rum Bunter (See I fit him in there):
"“Um let me think about it. Fuck. No. Lopes measurably improved the Phils. JR fired GV/JK and lost Perry Hill which was tragic.”"
Well, if you look at September 2010, or even any point since Buck Showalter became ringleader, the Orioles are the circus to have tickets for. No one’s shoveling over cash for highly preemptive playoff tickets in Baltimore, but you cannot deny that the O’s rocketed past your face in the latter half of the year. Part of that had to do with low, low expectations and reality being so very, very unkind, but still. Good–better–things are happening.
And Juan Samuel probably knows that, which is why his current ambition seems to be in Camden Yards.
The dual roles Lopes filled–first base AND outfield coach–are exactly the slots Samuel could leap into. He’s managed on the minor league level, and even on the Major League level, though it was under the shortly lit fuse of “interim manager.” As the Tigers first base coach from 1999-2004, Detroit had an average successful stolen base percentage of 63.7%. That doesn’t make him a Mariano Duncan, but at 71st on the all time steals list, I’d say things balance out.
Obviously, no stats from baseball history or even recent coaching can specify how somebody’s going to do coaching a whole new herd of players, it just means they are more than familiar with the art, specs, and timing of base stealing, which are all things we are trying to rival with Davey Lopes and his legendary stop watch being out of the picture.
But come ooooonnnn. How can you say no to a place with your face on the Wall of Fame?
Also his son’s name is “Samuel Samuel.”
I’m the GM? You’re hired.