The Red Sox’s coaching staff has taken on a new look this season. Gone is first-base coach Lynn Jones, who is now an instructor in the Cincinnatti Reds’ minor league system. Taking his place is Bill Haselman, former Red Sox catcher, who served as interim first-base coach in 2004 when Lynn Jones got hurt. Last year, Haselman was the bullpen coach, and I have a feeling they preferred Haselman as first-base coach and not bullpen. You usually hear stories of how the bullpen coach helps pitchers as an auxilary pitching coach, but you did not hear that last year, and our bullpen was terrible last year. Put two and two together… The bullpen coach was to be Al Nipper, a favorite of Jonathan Papelbon, but he is now the pitching coach because Dave Wallace has undergone hip replacement surgery and is probably out for the entire season.
Let’s meet our staff…
BULLPEN COACH RALPH TREUEL
Treuel was pitching coach under Joe Kerrigan for September, 2001, replacing John Cumberland. Personally, I liked Treuel. I think he did a fine job despite the skid the team went through, and I also think that he was and is a better coach than Tony Cloninger, who is in his best element as a bullpen coach. He was elevated to that position on the recommendation of Kerrigan. Treuel was replaced the following season by Grady Little in favor of Tony Cloninger (bullpen coach of the Yankees for the eight seasons previous). Treuel has been in the organization since 1996, and served from 1999 to 2001 as minor league pitching coordinator. The last three years he served as the GCL Red Sox’s manager, and was to return to his minor league pitching coordinator duties before Wallace fell ill. He will continue his coordinating duties as well as being bullpen coach, so one of the two positions should have a new face in it shortly because he can’t possibly do both at once.
Treuel was the pitching coach for Sparky Anderson in 1995. His staff placed 13th out of 14 AL teams, with an ERA north of 5.00, so his only season as pitching coach was not exactly a success. However, he’s got something going for him, if he’s stuck around Boston this long and was entrusted with the GCL corps these last two years. A hire of Dan Duquette to serve as AA’s pitching coach in 1996, Treuel stayed with the organization after being fired by Little. Citing the fact that he enjoyed the organization and harbored no ill will towards Little for making a promise to Cloninger years ago to be Little’s eventual pitching coach, he became a roving minor league instructor, then pitching coach for the Spinners. Hopefully he can bring some much-needed advice to the bullpen.
FIRST BASE COACH BILL HASELMAN
Haselman spent 4 years of his 17-year career with the Red Sox. He saw significant time in 1995, 1996, and 1997 and then had a September cup of coffee in 2003 to wrap up his career, after playing the entire year for Pawtucket. In 2004, he briefly joined the Sox to be their first base coach while Lynn Jones was out, then resumed his duties as a major league scout and instructor. Last year, he served as a bullpen coach, and as I alluded to earlier, may not have been in the best position to succeed in that job. It’s not quite common for a catcher to be a pitching coach, for obvious reasons.
Haselman’s finest moment was probably in 1995, when he pinch-hit for Mike Macfarlane in the 11th inning on June 27th. The score was 5-5, the bases empty, and he broke his bat, but only after hitting Woody Williams’ pitch into the seats to give the Sox their first walk-off win of their division champion season. An interesting fact is that in college (UCLA) he was the backup quarterback to Troy Aikman. The Sox seem to think highly of Haselman, as they installed him as first base coach despite just having retired and serving as a scout. They then threw him in the bullpen to coach and decided to bypass Lynn Jones, who did a fine job as I’ve been led to believe, in favor of Haselman. I wonder if Boston is grooming him as a manager.
THIRD BASE COACH DEMARLO HALE
Hale joined the Red Sox in 1983 as a player, and played five seasons for both Boston and Oakland, only getting as high as AA. He then began his coaching career in 1992 as a coach at AA, then in 1993 became a manager, starting at High-A. In 1995, he won Manager of the Year with Michigan, and then was the All-Star Game Manager in AA in 1997. In 1999, he led the United States Futures team against the World during the All-Star festivities. He was also honored as the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America, The Sporting News and USA Today’s Baseball Weekly. In 2000 and 2001, he got a promotion by leaving the organization and managed the Triple-A club of the Rangers before joining the Rangers for four years as their first-base coach.
He now continues his progression towards a possible managerial job by moving across the diamond to third base. No one knows if he’ll send runners with impunity like Wavin’ Wendall or baffle runners like our departed friend, but we’ll find out shortly.
HITTING COACH RON JACKSON
Ron Jackson, who joined the club in 2003 as hitting coach, has seen the Red Sox explode as an offensive team. Prior to joining us, he had been the hitting coach for the Dodgers’ AAA clubs. After ending a 10-year career in 1984, a career where he hit .259/.314/.385, he joined the White Sox as a hitting and first-base coach for their AAA club, then moved to third-base, while retaining his hitting coach status down at AA. In 1991, he went to the Brewers, where he served as a minor league hitting instructor. He was then hitting coach for AAA from ’93-’95 and midway through 1995 becameme the first-base coach for Chicago. In 1997, he became hitting coach for the White Sox, and served in that capacity for two years before moving to the Brewers to be their hitting coach.
He led all uniformed personnel in community appearances in 2003 and 2004 (unknown for 2005 for now), and has been known to be very generous with his time. He broke the team record for fielding percentage at first with a .9943 percentage in 1979, breaking Rod Carew’s record. He played under Sparky Anderson, Dick Williams, and Jim Fregosi.
The White Sox’s line the year prior to Jackson becoming their hitting coach was .281/.360/.447. He became coach and then the White Sox in two years produced lines of: .273/.341/.417 and .271/.337/.444. The year after he left produced .277/.336/.429.
The Brewers before: .260/.325/.396
The Brewers during: .273/.350/.426
The Brewers after: .246/.325/.403
The Red Sox before Ron arrived (2002): .277/.345/.444
The Red Sox in 2003: .289/.360/.491
PITCHING COACH AL NIPPER
From 1983 to 1987, Nipper was a staple of the rotation. Out of his seven major league seasons (1988 the Cubs, 1990 the Indians) he only had four significant seasons, and retired with a 4.52 ERA and a 46-50 record. Since then, he’s been in an array of positions with the Red Sox (with brief forays into other organizations as well) and has helped tutor Jonathan Papelbon. Nipper was elevated to bullpen coach but now will be tossed into the role of pitching coach. As a bullpen coach, I don’t have too much of a problem with him, but I’m slightly wary of him as a pitching coach. It will be interesting to see how he develops.
Nipper had this to say when his bullpen coach duties became official: “I’m very excited, to put it bluntly. I’m really excited about being with the Red Sox, being a part of the Major League staff and, obviously, being back in the big leagues with the Red Sox. It’s really very gratifying, and I’m really honored and I feel like I’m very blessed to be able to be put in this position, to be on this staff and help the club.”
BENCH COACH BRAD MILLS
Not much to say about Brad Mills here. A close friend of Francona’s, Mills basically hangs around in the background. Bench coaches are usually there to help work the clubhouse, and bounce ideas off the manager, and allow the manager to use him as a sounding board. So far it must have worked out well, because we’ve had no complaints about Mills, nor any drama surrounding him.
Mills only got 168 career at-bats in 106 games in four seasons with the Expos. He hit .256/.311/.304 career and played 41 games at third base, two at second, one at first. Mills has served as minor league manager for many years, first-base coach (during Francona’s Philly tenure from ’07-’00) and left his managing job in 2002 when he won the championship with the Dodgers’ AAA team. On April 27, 1983, he struck out against Nolan Ryan to make Ryan the all-time strikeout king, surpassing Walter Johnson.
MANAGER TERRY FRANCONA
Francona is starting his third season at the helm of the Red Sox, and I see no reason why he shouldn’t be extended for another three. He’s gotten us a World Series and a co-divisional title. In his first two years. With a club who had a lot of baggage on their back. I don’t think you can say the Red Sox won despite Francona. We won with Francona’s help. I know there are some people out there who aren’t fans of Francona, but I’m a fan. Sure, sometimes he makes wrong decisions, but what manager is infallible? We laud Joe Torre, and we’ve seen him make blatant mistakes. We laud Tony La Russa, we laud Ozzie Guillen … but everyone makes mistakes, and I don’t see why Francona shouldn’t be lauded.
I understand the front office’s hesitancy to offer contract extensions – I’m not a big fan of signing extensions prior to the season because you never know what will happen over the course of the season, but if Francona’s not our manager next year, that’s just more upheaval that we have to deal with. It’d be nice to have consistency at the top, and Francona’s deserved to have job security. If things are going well by the All-Star Break, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be extended. Make no mistake about it – if he leaves Boston as a free agent manager, he’s going to have no difficulty finding a job as manager of a big league club elsewhere.