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November 26, 2008 at 7:10 AM

Tidbits on new coaches

Fresh faces are coming to the Mariners from all corners. An entirely new coaching staff will be around next season from the one that began the 2008 campaign. But for some, the coaches coming to Seattle are not new at all. The folks in Dallas know Don Wakamatsu well from his five-year stint as a Rangers coach.
It is all but certain that Wakamatsu’s entire staff of pitching coaches will be coming out of Arlington as well. Dom Chiti (left) was the bullpen coach for the Rangers (until being fired in August) and will be the new Mariners pitching coach once the holidays are over.
Chiti was hired by the Atlanta Braves only a few weeks ago as a special assistant to GM Frank Wren. At the time, Wren was quoted saying: “Dom brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise, which complements our already strong staff of special assistants.”
Chiti’s father, Harry, by the way, was a former big league catcher and member of the 1962 expansion New York Mets. See his photo below.
And as this blog entry in today’s Dallas Morning News states, it is only logical that the team’s minor league pitching co-ordinator, Rick Adair, will follow Chiti to Seattle.
After all, the entry states, the pair have worked together since 1987 and have a personal, off-field connection as well. The blog states that the loss of the experienced Adair will be “a significant blow to the Rangers’ development program.”
Hmm. Well then, I suppose the Rangers’ loss is Seattle’s gain. Here’s a Q & A done with Adair just last month.
But it’s not entirely rosy from the outside view. Take new Mariners bench coach Ty Van Burkleo, who spent the past two seasons as a hitting coach with the Oakland Athletics.
Here’s an item from last July in The Bleacher Report, a blog written primarily by sports fans. What grabbed my attention was the headline: “Ty Van Burkleo worst hitting coach baseball has ever seen!”
Well, those blogs sure know how to write headlines. I personally doubt its assertion, though, having seen my share of truly awful hitting coaches. That’s the thing with some, though not all, fan blogs. You never actually have to really substantiate what you’re writing. And if you get it wrong, you simply ignore the issue and hope everyone forgets. The guy who wrote it, this dude right here , admits he’s “very passionate about my teams.” Yeah, no kidding. While it’s true the A’s had a poor group of hitters, that’s more the fault of GM Billy Beane. Not sure how a hitting coach is supposed to transform a collection of crap into solid gold.
But, for the sake of balance, I threw that in here. Hey, who knows? The author might even be right. If you’re really worried, you can rest assured that Van Burkleo is only going to be the Mariners bench coach.
If you want something a little more positive, you can read this one from Here’s a quote from A’s assistant GM David Forst on why he hired Van Burkleo: “It seemed like he was into some of the technology with breaking swings down on computers and had some impressive statistical numbers he did on some of his hitters with the Angels. He hit on all the things that we work on here.”
So, perhaps some additional advanced statistical thinking coming into the M’s dugout? I smell a trend.
Not only that, Van Burkleo can take over the Mariners “lucky row” pizza giveaways as well, given how he’s an expert in the field of all things flat, round and tasty. Though I’m sure “Garlic Jim’s” of Seattle will have something to say about that, since it’s their giveaway.
By the way, in my story this morning on the new additions, I wrote: “In essence, the experience-laden Mariners staff from 2008 will be replaced by a 2009 contingent with a rookie manager and a pitching coach, hitting coach and bullpen coach who have never begun a season coaching in the majors.”
This was poor phrasing on my part. Or, wrong, if you prefer. I should have written: “…who have never begun a season coaching at their current jobs in the majors.”
Chiti, after all, has been a Rangers bullpen coach in 2006, 2007 and for much of 2008. And Adair was the pitching coach for the Indians under Mike Hargrove in 1992 and 1993, and for the final three weeks of 1996 in Detroit. That’s the majors, last time I checked. Chiti just hasn’t been a major league pitching coach. And Adair has never been a major league bullpen coach, though I’m sure he can handle the job, given how he’s been a pitching coach. The paragraph did not refer to Van Burkleo, but he obviously brings major league coaching experience as well. Anyhow, the whole point was how this year’s staff will lack experience relative to last year’s. I guess it’s still sort of made, though not as emphatically as I originally wrote. Just wanted to clear that all up right away. Oh, those unreliable writers!
By the way, none of this will be official until after the holidays, which is why the folks in Texas are saying the Mariners have yet to ask for permission to speak to Adair. And why the people in Atlanta, where Chiti has worked for a few weeks, are saying the same thing. In Oakland, though, they do say the Mariners asked for permission to interview Van Burkleo. Hey, it’s progress. Just be patient. The official process will get done when everyone returns from watching football and eating turkey.



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