Bill Conlin: Pitching coaches need knowledge, not talent
WHEN I'M King of the World . . . Pitching coaches will not be required to have been great pitchers. They will, however, be required to have a great knowledge of pitching with emphasis on the basic mechanics that Hall of Fame-level pitchers have used for more than a century . . . The biggest salary spread in major league baseball is between superstar player and coach. That's why superstar pitchers don't often become pitching coaches.
HEN I'M King of the World
. . .
Pitching coaches will not be
required to have been great pitchers. They will, however, be required to have a great knowledge of pitching with emphasis on the basic mechanics that Hall of Fame-level pitchers have used for more than a century . . . The biggest salary spread in major league baseball is between superstar player and coach. That's why superstar pitchers don't often become pitching coaches. Of the Phillies pitching coaches during my time, only Johnny Podres and Claude Osteen had what you would call distinguished careers. Cal McLish and Vern Ruhle were solid starters. But journeyman Ray Rippelmeyer was the coach who, in 1972, induced Steve Carlton to junk his big
curveball and return to the withering slider, which arm miseries forced him to junk in '71. The rest is history.
As for styles? Osteen was a drop-and-drive exponent, particularly for righthanders of average height. His templates were Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Tom Seaver. Both wore their drop-and-drive credentials on their lower right legs. Their pants were usually brown from shin to knee from driving their "drive" leg at mound level from delivery to follow through. "But Seaver was the only one who
ever stayed low all the way through his delivery," Mitch
Williams says. "I never saw Roberts." I did. And Roberts was Seaver a generation before.
Joe Kerrigan was - and is - a champion of the delivery most of today's pitchers adopt. "Stand tall and fall," Mitch says. "Drive high to low with a long stride and a head that drives straight toward the target." He claims the ongoing problems of flawed stand tall and fall righthander Brett Myers are not due to sloppy legwork or armwork. "It's his headwork," Wild Thing says. "He throws his head to the left side, which leaves his arm out there all alone to muscle the ball. That's why he's up and down the middle with so many fastballs."
For the record, starting with the varsity's Rich Dubee and working down the minor league chain of pitching coaches through coordinator Gorman
Heimueller, Rod Nichols (Triple A), Tom Filer (Double A), Steve Schrenk (High A), Dave Lundquist (Low A), Bill Bliss (Short Season A) and Carlos Arroyo (Rookie Short Season), Dubee, Bliss and Arroyo never pitched in the big leagues. The five who made it to the show had a combined record of 40-62. Of that group, only Filer had a winning record, 22-17. That would seem to put a premium on "Do as I say, not as I pitched." You wonder at the organizational polemic. Top prospects Kyle Drabek and Tim Mathieson (twice) are recovering from Tommy John surgery. They followed Randy Wolf to the elbow repair shop. Myers, Ryan Madson and prospect Zack Segovia (Tommy John) all have had significant problems. Joe Savery, the Rice All-America lefty who was last year's No. 1 pick, is wallowing along at Clearwater - he should be dominant there - with a 2-5 record and a 4.79 ERA. Savery had some labrum issues while at Rice.
When I'm King of the World . . .
Russia's notorious Omon, the national paramilitary police/riot force, will be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for keeping the fans of Manchester United and Chelsea at truncheon's length during the Champions League
final in Moscow . . . I awarded assists to the late start and a driving rain that fell during the two 15 minute OT periods and the climactic penalty kicks. Tough to brawl soaking wet at 2 a.m. with attack dogs baring their fangs. But not so fast, my local "real football" conscience Don Horowitz says: "Sure the rain was a factor and the soccer team of choice for the British upper crust [those who aren't focused on cricket] is Chelsea. So a portion of their fans [e.g. former Prime Minister John Major] are occupying luxury boxes and are not [to paraphrase Mick Jagger] 'Street Fighting Men' " . . . It was dramatically correct that unnatural men
Sammy Sosa and Bret Boone announced their retirements on the same day . . . So what did the Mets give manager Willie Randolph behind that kiss of death disguised as a vote of confidence? My guess is Father's Day to turn around what appears to be a team whose flaws are so glaringly obvious that I'm amazed anybody is acting as if the Mets' sub-500 performance since midseason last year is a big surprise. Once the Phillies swept the four-game home series, then three more in the cheerless Shea mausoleum, the Mets were Dead Team Walking.
When I'm King of the World . . .
The Phillies will not select a shortstop from a Connecticut prep school in the onrushing June draft with their first pick . . . Say it isn't so, Baseball America. The aluminum-bat bible rates Anthony Hewitt, whom they project as a third baseman or leftfielder, as the best high school athlete in the draft. They also rate him the No. 41 prospect, which is sandwich pick or high second-round territory. Fortunately, the draft will be such a crapshoot by the time the Phils' No. 24 slot limps around, a lot of best-laid plans will have gone astray. Whatever, we are certain to hear, "He was the player we had targeted all along." Or, "We feel we got the best athlete available with the pick." A quick look in the rearview mirror: I already mentioned Joe Savery's struggle against Class A hitters, thanks in part to the slowest stretch move to the plate I have timed and a work-in-progress slide step that dilutes his stuff. Kyle Drabek (2006) might pitch late in the season. Mike Costanzo (2005), traded to Houston in the Brad Lidge heist, is now in Triple A for the Orioles, hitting .240 with four homers. Greg Golson, No. 1 in 2004, is batting .320, stealing bases at Reading and is enduring the Big Chill of the Service Clock Stonewall. *
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