Six weeks ago after the Orioles season ended, manager Buck Showalter lauded his coaching staff, saying it was the best staff he had ever had. He was confident that all six coaches would be back.
Now, it appears that five will be back, but one won’t. Reportedly, third base coach DeMarlo Hale will soon sign a three-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays to become John Gibbons’ bench coach.
Showalter badly wanted Hale back, but he also had been busily promoting him as a managerial candidate.
A three-year contract is most unusual for coaches, and it’s something the Orioles couldn’t offer. Showalter is signed only through next season, and even if he receives a two-year extension, which could come before the end of the year, Hale wouldn’t get a three-year deal.
Hale’s work with the Orioles was widely lauded. He worked well with advance scout Ben Werthan on positioning infield defense. If Toronto’s defense and record improves, it puts the long-deserving Hale in position for a managerial job next winter.
Gibbons hasn’t always been popular with his players, and if his tenure is a short one, then maybe Hale succeeds him.
It’s time for the annual Orioles coaching search. Whoever succeeds Hale will be Showalter’s fifth third base coach since Aug. 2010.
Gary Allenson was coaching third then. He replaced Juan Samuel, who managed for two months before Showalter arrived.
Showalter wanted to replace the entire coaching staff after 2010 and bring in his own people. The Orioles did talk with Samuel about returning, but couldn’t come to terms with him.
John Russell was hired instead, but by June, he had been moved to the bench and Willie Randolph was moved to third base. Russell made some questionable calls, and the move was attributed to a knee injury.
Randolph wanted to be in the dugout, chafed at his role and wasn’t retained. Hale, who had worked with Showalter in Texas, replaced him.
The logical move for the Orioles is to replace Hale with Norfolk manager Ron Johnson. His work with an ever-changing team was widely praised, and he’s been a major league coach before. Johnson and Hale worked together in Boston under Terry Francona.
After last season, Showalter toyed with the idea of moving first base coach Wayne Kirby to third base. He could consider that again and bring in Johnson or another organizational favorite, Bobby Dickerson, who has filled in as Orioles bullpen coach. Dickerson, a roving minor league instructor, traveled with the team late last season.
Predicting Showalter coaches is often a tricky exercise. When he was selecting a new staff two years ago, the betting was that he would bring in Brian Butterfield as third base coach, Don Wakamatsu as bench coach and Mark Connor to be pitching coach.
Butterfield and Wakamatsu didn’t come. Connor did, but abruptly left in June. Bullpen coach Rick Adair replaced Connor as pitching. Adair remains though the Orioles have not officially announced that they’ve retained either him or hitting coach Jim Presley.
Hale will replace Wakamatsu as bench coach in Toronto. Butterfield has moved on to Boston. Wakamatsu could be coming to Baltimore, but his experience is working with catchers, not infielders. Russell has done a fine job with Matt Wieters.
The Orioles could consider Mike Bordick. He worked with the infielders last season, sometimes before broadcasting games. The downside is that Bordick has no major league coaching experience.
There are a number of experienced third base coaches looking for work. Larry Bowa, a former major league manager, who interviewed in Houston, and is currently working for the MLB Network and longtime Orioles coach and one-time manager Sam Perlozzo, who was let go by Philadelphia, are available, as is Pete Mackanin, who coached with Perlozzo with the Phillies. Mackanin briefly managed Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.