What Roberto Kelly can learn from the legacy of Tim Flannery


Jun 4, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (left), first base coach Roberto Kelly (center) and third base coach Tim Flannery (right) watch the game during the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After longtime third-base coach Tim Flannery retired from baseball, the Giants stayed in-house when naming his successor. So far, former Major League All-Star Roberto Kelly has performed without serious incident during his first year coaching at the hot corner.

However, a slight mistake from the second game of yesterday’s doubleheader has some fans questioning his focus in crunch situations.

Admittedly, even I found myself a little tired of baseball as the top of the ninth rolled around late last night in Colorado. When factoring in the numerous rain delays and endless commercial breaks, it felt like the Giants could have squeezed three games in against their NL West rival. Trailing 5-3, the team had its back against the wall with one out and Gregor Blanco occupying second-base.

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Angel Pagan dispatched an uninspiring fly ball to center-field, which prompted Blanco to tag up and break for third-base. Rockies’ center-fielder Charlie Blackmon didn’t exactly throw a laser-beam in his direction, but the effort was enough to hang Blanco out to dry and suffocate the Giants’ attempt at a comeback. Curiously, the speedy outfielder made no attempt to slide on the crucial play at third.

So, who’s to blame here?

Baserunners coming from second are supposed to take their cues from the third-base coach, and Kelly was clearly gesturing something to Blanco as he arrived next to Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Flannery was famous for his enthusiastic methods of communicating with runners, often fiercely slapping the turf beneath him to signal a slide. In this instance, Kelly chose to point frantically at third-base, which was ineffective at alerting Blanco to the accuracy of Blackmon’s incoming throw.

When in doubt, it’s best to turn to the rambunctious masses on Twitter for guidance:

Opinions are clearly divided on exactly who’s at fault here, but it’s obvious that both Blanco and Kelly were a little sloppy on this play. Their miscommunication could easily be attributed to the fatigue of playing a double-header, or just as a momentary lapse of concentration. Although some on social media are complaining about alleged incompetence on Kelly’s part, he’s earned the right to grow into his challenging new role with the Giants.

Going forward, I don’t think Roberto Kelly will forget this incident soon. He’s still getting acclimated to the nuances of a difficult coaching position, and I’m sure he’ll process the mistake as a valuable learning experience. Comparatively, his beloved predecessor often looked a little unhinged during tense base running moments, but perhaps that was strategy rather than a display of raw passion.

If Kelly wants to get a point across to his runners, he might have to become more animated and demonstrative like Flannery was. Hopefully, The Flan-Man’s valuable example will help Kelly keep future baserunners safe as the team continues its impressive offensive production.