As the Philadelphia Phillies coaching staff prepares the team for the 2016 season, we are introducing those coaches to the fans in a series here at TBOH.
In continuing this spring training series from myself and Ryan Gerstel, this fifth installment will feature a man familiar to many Phillies fans. Former all-star 2nd baseman Juan Samuel, who will be Pete Mackinin’s first base coach, is the subject of my entry today.
Before his move into the coaching ranks, Sammy was one of the most well-liked players for the Phillies, a fixture in the team’s lineup for the majority of the 1980’s decade. A two-time National League all-star at 2nd base, his seven-year career in Philadelphia lasted from 1983 to 1989.
Sammy’s best year came in 1987 when he hit .272 while smacking 27 home runs and driving in 100 RBIs. He finished 13th in the NL Most Valuable Player voting that season, and took home a Silver Slugger award.
In the aftermath of Mike Schmidt‘s sudden retirement early in the 1989 season, the club was looking for a new identity with which to enter the 1990’s. On June 18th of 1989, Samuel was traded to the New York Mets for relief pitcher Roger McDowell and an exciting young center fielder named Lenny Dykstra.
Samuel finished his Phillies career with 100 home runs, 413 RBIs, and 523 runs scored while batting .263 in 852 games. He remains 9th on the franchise all-time list with 71 career Triples in a Phils uniform, and his 249 Steals is 8th in the club’s all-time ranks.
The Mets tried to shift the speedy Samuel to center field as a replacement for Dykstra, but he struggled defensively and was shipped off to the Los Angeles Dodgers after just one season in exchange for 1B/OF Mike Marshall and pitcher Alejandro Pena.
He earned a third NL All-Star nod during his second season in Dodger blue in 1991 at age 30, but never again returned to that level. Samuel spent his last six seasons bouncing between the Royals, Reds, Tigers and Blue Jays. Over a solid 16-year career, Samuel played in 1,720 games, belted 161 home runs, knocked in 703 runs and stole 396 bases.
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Samuel would jump immediately into coaching after the completion of his playing career, returning to the Detroit Tigers organization where he had spent much of 1995 as a player. He would serve as the Tigers’ 1st base coach from 1999 to 2002, and their 3rd base coach from 2002 to 2005.
From there, Samuel moved into a managerial role in the minor league ranks with the AA Binghamton Mets. He would lead the club to a second place finish in the Eastern League in his lone season as the skipper in 2006.
Sammy returned to the big leagues in 2007 to coach 3rd base for the Baltimore Orioles, and would remain in that position until 2010, when O’s manager Dave Trembley was fired in June and Samuel was named interim manager.
With the Orioles, Samuel inherited a club that had the worst record in baseball at the time and was off to the second-worst start in franchise history. His tenure wouldn’t last long however. Despite a pair of four-game winning streaks, the Orioles went 17-34 with Sammy in charge, and he was replaced by Buck Showalter on July 29th. He spent the rest of the season working as a talent evaluator in his native Dominican Republic.
In 2011, Samuel returned to the Phillies to coach 3rd base as a part of Charlie Manuel’s staff. He would also had the responsibility of working with the team’s outfielders. In 2012, he moved across the diamond to coach 1st base, but spent the final six weeks of the 2013 season back in the 3rd base box in response to Ryne Sandberg’s hiring as manager.
Now in his sixth season of coaching with the Phils, Samuel will continue to handle the outfield, as well as coaching the baserunners — an area in which the Phillies hope to increase emphasis in 2016. A prolific baserunner himself, the 2008 Wall of Famer holds the Phillies’ modern-era single season stolen base record, which he set in 1984 by swiping 72 bags.
Fans will often see Samuel recording pitchers’ delivery times to home plate with his stopwatch in hand. It’s important for him to have such knowledge of not only his own baserunner, but also the opposing team’s pitcher, catcher, and outfielders when deciding whether to send a runner to second base.
On the defensive side, he’ll help the outfield alignment throughout the game based on hitter tendencies and scouting reports. Samuel has that direct career playing experience with which to compare and advise young and still relatively inexperienced center fielder Odubel Herrera.
Along with ‘El Torito’, the Phillies have emerging prospects Tyler Goeddel, Nick Williams, and Roman Quinn all in big league spring training this year. Samuel will serve an important role in that he will get to instill some key pointers as these young outfielders look to improve their defense.
As one of the longest tenured coaches on the staff, he will be one of Mackanin’s go-to guys for advice throughout the 2016 season. And as always, Sammy remains among the most popular people in uniform to the fan base.