Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mark Shapiro's coaching conclave gives Indians faithful black smoke

Another weekend goes by in the early part of the hot stove season, and the Cleveland Indians still only have a manager and a pitching coach to lead them. In a normal baseball town, with a normal front office, this would seem strange. The Indians fired Wedge before the end of the season, had a manager in place prior to the World Series, and hired Tim Belcher relatively quickly. It was believed the the Indians would start rolling out their staff, even given the statement that the staff wouldn't be finished until the early part of December. Of course, on the North Shore, Mark Shapiro runs his front office much like the Cardinals conclave in choosing a new pope. Thus far, Shapiro's secret meetings have only given off the black smoke of no choices made yet.

Let's put some perspective on the process, shall we?

The Indians hired their coach, Manny Acta, on May 25th. He was the first coach officially hired for next season, and it was no doubt a pre-emptive strike to keep the Astros from hiring him. The Astros, who had two solid candidates at the top of their list, hired Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills two days later, on May 27th, to take over their top slot.

The Astros then went on the offensive. Al Pedrique was hired three days later to take over the bench coaching duties for Mills. They had interviewed Pedrique for their manager's slot, and Mills thought highly of him. That same day, the Astros extended an invitation to Sean Berry to remain their hitting coach and Dave Clark to remain as their third base coach. Clark had replaced Cecil Cooper as interim coach, and was the third candidate behind Acta and Mills to stay on as manager. All three had been in contact with Mills since the hiring. Even later that same day, the Astros hired Bobby Meacham as their first base coach. Meacham is a friend of Mills, and had coached with him several times in the minors. Following the Meacham hire, the Astros announced that they had hired Brad Arnsberg as their pitching coach. Arnsberg had pitched for Mills in triple A several years prior, and they had remained good friends since. Arnsberg had been the Blue Jays pitching coach the previous five seasons. The final piece of the puzzle was hired the following week, when they announced Jamie Quirk as their bullpen coach.

A complete staff to move the team ahead during the offseason.

The Indians have hired Tim Belcher.

I'm not saying you need to hire a staff quickly. I'm not even saying that the Astros necessarily hired the right people. What I AM saying is that there seems to be decision makers in Houston, while Mark Shapiro is pouring out the black smoke from his conclave meeting. I wouldn't say Shapiro is indecisive, but you can certainly question his decision-making process. Let's not forget that the Acta hire came after Houston had not only offered him the job, but had spent the night trying to sign him.

As for who the Indians are looking at for their coaching jobs, your guess is as good as mine. There was a boatload of speculation that the Tribe was looking at Clippers hitting coach Joe Nunnally for the same position in Cleveland, that Torey Lovullo would be brought up as the third base coach, and that Clippers pitching coach Scott Radinsky is also being looked at as a possibility as the Tribe bullpen coach. With Belcher, that would give the main Acta Lieutenants a distinct Shapiro flavor. The Indians would then likely hire outside the club for a bench coach. I can't imagine this would be possible with the Shapiro, Dolan and the Indians front office making statements about looking outside the organization for their staff. Of course, as we wait for the white smoke of movement from the Shapiro conclave, this could be Shapiro's way of hiring "outside" the organization. Grab a coach that has your philosophy, then hire the rest of the staff from the minors. This could be Shapiro's dream team of coaches.

Of course, where did Belcher come from? So, the coaching staff could be up in the air until December. B3 will be waiting outside the Sistine Chapel watching the smoke signals until then.

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