SAN FRANCISCO – Before the San Francisco giants moved to the top of baseball 107 last year, spent eight years at the Los Angeles Dodger National League West titles and looked like experts, there was a seemingly bad idea that came along. a year ago.
What if, Manager Gabe Kapler asked his new boss, we grew the coaching staff? Like, really expanding, up to 13 coaches? Kapler, who was given the seemingly impossible task of replacing Bruce Bochy, explained his vision, comparing it with the importance of having a strong student-teacher ratio. The smaller the class, the more students benefit.
“And I think, this is a high school, this is the big league,” said Farhan Zaidi, Giants president at baseball games.
But the more pressure Kapler puts on, the better he feels.
“It was thinking outside the box because it wasn’t going to go one or two coaches more than it was,” Zaidi said. “Look, I had my doubts. I thought, ‘Will we have enough for all these people?’ But it turned out to be a very good illustration. ”
The Giants, of course, raised their staff to 13 coaches (including managers) in 2020. Instead of striking one and one throwing coach, they hired three jobs each: a batting instructor, a batting instructor / coaching assistant and a batting assistant; and a running coach, pitch coach and assistant coach. He has listed traditional roles (bench coach / painfield coach and first and third coaches) and non-traditional (well-certified assistant). There was a bullfighting coach, plus two assistants, one of whom was Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in Major League baseball.
For Bochy’s 13 years, as he led the Giants to the World Series three times in five years, he worked with what has been the standard of baseball for many years: six coaches. They were bench, batting, throwing, first base, third base and bullpen. By the year 2019, his final season, the Giants added a batting assistant and, in accordance with the new replacement rules, “a coach / video reviewer.”
This may not seem like it before, but depending on how the game has changed, it may be time to film the video before the digital age.
“It may be a little out of the box, but the outside of the box is inside the box,” said Larry Baer, president of Giants, a senior official whose approval of the training budget increase brought significant benefits last summer.
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In fact, in companies where success produces attractiveness, 13 teams list training staff in two groups this year. Cincinnati is similar to San Francisco with 13 coaches. The Phillies, Ana and Diamondbacks are 12 each; The Red Sox and Angels have 11.
“The teams are really looking at the support they can provide to the players and realize that we have more of our assets as organizations than they did 15 years ago,” said Chris Antonetti, president of the Cleveland baseball team, whose security guards recruit. eight coaches.
The title is not Kapler’s favorite, especially since he doesn’t feel comfortable being given a title because of an opinion that pervades the game. Yes, he said he could have 13 coaches, but he would like people to say his players have won 107 games.
In addition, for him, the idea of developing a teaching staff is very clear.
“You have a great team of players, and they all have different communication styles, they all have different traditions, they all come from different parts of the world and from different parts of the world,” said Kapler. “Our goal was to give everyone in our group someone to connect with and someone to connect with.”
The idea is to design a schedule to suit the needs of each player and to ensure that communication goes two ways. While Brandon Belt, Darin Ruf and LaMonte Wade Jr. taking the balls down in the first round, everyone may want to look at a different skill on a particular day. Maybe shortstop Brandon Crawford is looking for a lightweight job, but Mauricio Dubón wants to prepare for a more challenging game. Newly hired Pedro Guerrero employs a master Spanish-speaking coach to serve the players on the court during the game, ignoring the need for an interpreter.
The key idea is to make players “co-workers” in their careers, says Kai Correa, a bench manager and player, who added that the Giants want to be “cook as consumers” in their continuous growth.
“We spend a lot of time using our ears like anything else,” Correa said.
Only three of the coaches who played in high schools – Andrew Bailey (sports assistant), Brian Bannister (pitching director) and Antoan Richardson (first assistant). Only five of the 13 have been in a large group of teachers. Kapler has known some of his four years as Dodger’s player development manager from 2014-17. Some know them, either because of the popularity or reviews of five of their friends’ stars, and they decided to hire them.
“It was a long-awaited, first-time phone call,” said JP Martinez, assistant coach who was hired last year after Ethan Katz left to become the Chicago White Sox coach. “I was impressed with her performance, and I heard stories in small groups about her resilience and dedication to exercise and eating a healthy diet.”
Martinez added that after Kapler won in Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019, “His idea was that he was singing spreadsheets, and one of the things he strongly preached to Bails and me last year was that we should not be too closed on matchups to go anywhere. and what we hear from the players. “
Martinez came from a Minnesota organization, where the Twins linked former high school baseball men such as former managers Sam Perlozzo and Mike Quade with research experts such as Josh Kalk, the board’s director.
“When I got here there was a good gap between the two,” Martinez said. “You have a lot of ideas in this clubhouse.”
There are also a few faces to learn from players, especially for newcomers.
“You meet people at breakfast, lunch, coffee or so on,” said Alex Cobb, who signed a two-year, $ 20 million free deal with the Giants in the winter. “It’s not like a quick boyfriend when you hit every room and chat for a while.”
As for the former Giants, they just didn’t change – they did well.
Handmaker Anthony DeSclafani made the performance last summer, going 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA over 31 starts. He took advice on his twisting ball from Martinez, received advice on his transformation from Bannister and soaked in “Bails sends everything to the side of the mind.”
“They all had a great opportunity to give, and it’s great,” DeSclafani said.
Belt, who has long since entered his 12th season, said many players are skeptical of the new system at first. “But there is someone who is always there for you,” he said, “and you do not know how much that means until you have it.”
MLB rules allow one manager and eight coaches to enter the stadium for a game (when the schedule grows in September, clubs are allowed to have nine coaches). Offshore champion coaches stand in the courtroom or behind the barn in the indoor arena to assist where needed. Nakken, for example, makes sure those who can hit know which jars are warming in the bullpen. One of his tasks is to break the opponents’ soccer ball so that the giants send five people at the right time.
Everywhere, Kapler likens Nakken to a traffic officer who ensures that communication between teachers, as well as between teachers and players, is smooth.
“I don’t feel very stressed, except that we want to be as prepared as we can every day,” Nakken said of her role as a woman. “Therefore, it is my responsibility to come and do the job well.”
Before the start of spring classes in 2020, Kapler planned a two-day break, during which all the directors toured the fun areas around San Francisco, eating, talking – and connecting. This year, the courses went to the Bon Iver concert in Arizona.
As Correa said, it is a group that knows how to use their ears. “Talking is not always a matter of strength in baseball,” says former football player Mike Yastrzemski, “but knowing what is going on gives the boys peace of mind about what they need to do to succeed.”