KNBR San Francisco Giants Reporter Kerry Crowley on Coaching Changes, 2018 Season

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 02: Pitching coach Dave Righetti
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 02: Pitching coach Dave Righetti /
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JULY 26: Manager Bruce Bochy #15 of the San Francisco Giants looks on from the dugout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the fifth inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JULY 26: Manager Bruce Bochy #15 of the San Francisco Giants looks on from the dugout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the bottom of the fifth inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Q: Moving on to the coaching changes they just made, let’s ask the obvious. Why would they make all these drastic coaching changes to a staff that’s been so successful over the years–three world championships, love of the fans? What’s going on there? What do you think?

A: I think that the fan base expects better out of the San Francisco Giants. It was a team that went 64-98, and it was a team loaded with veteran players who had been there and done that. And I think San Francisco is starting to look around baseball and see the different approaches you can take to make it to the World Series. And you look at the way the Astros have done it. You look at the way the Dodgers have done it. You look at the way the Cubs have done it over the last two seasons, and you see that San Francisco might be falling behind a bit. So, I think the Giants want to get analytical in their approach. Some of these moves are to better highlight some of their staff’s strengths. I think Hensley Muelens would be a better bench coach than he would a hitting coach. I think Ron Wotus’ spirit will lift the Giants on the diamond. He’s a visible presence out there at third base. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hired a pitching coach with a strong analytical background to help their up-and-coming arms.

Q: The Giants did some shuffling. They let go of Phil Nevin as third base coach. Ron Wotus moved

from the bench coach to third base. I know there’s been some questions there since Tim Flannery left. I know you could see it. When Flannery was third base coach, there was a lot of energy, a lot of…I would say…more aggressive baserunning when they rounded third and tried to score. Do you think the Giants really saw that as a problem?

A: I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem, but I think that they offered a reassignment of Phil Nevin, and I don’t know what that capacity was and he just didn’t want to accept it. He felt that he was going in a different direction. The Giants felt they were going in a different direction. And perhaps the move they really wanted to do was put Ron Wotus on the diamond. He’s been such an important cog for this team in the past 19 seasons and in the dugout. And they thought that so many veteran players on this team with this franchise have great respect for Wotus, and to have him on the diamond, have him in that role to give them a little Flannery-like presence would be a good thing for the Giants. He’s kind of in the middle of Flannery and Nevin in terms of personality, and I think he could bring a lot to San Francisco from that perspective.

Q: So, why is Hensley Muelens being moved from hitting coach to bench coach? I know you recently wrote a piece on this. And I wanted to see if maybe you could elaborate on the reason for the move?

A: Yeah, I think with Hensley Muelens, you saw the Giants win those three World Series in his first five seasons in the dugout as the hitting coach. But over the past four seasons, San Francisco has really regressed. The Giants have not had strong OPS numbers. They’ve not had strong extra-base hit numbers. They’ve not had strong home run numbers. All of that goes together. And when you think about Muelens as a coach, he’s still well respected in the organization. He’s still viewed as a riser in the coaching profession. And he had experience coaching the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. He was the manager there who received very high remarks from what he was able to do. He was considered an excellent communicator. He’s got a good mind for the game. So, maybe hitting wasn’t his strong suit, but relating to players, helping players is, and I think that he can have more of an impact in that bench coach role for San Francisco. So, by shuffling Muelens and by shuffling Wotus, the Giants are still keeping two of their top coaches on the staff. They’re just highlighting their strengths as opposed to exposing their weaknesses.

Q: How much do you think the failures at the plate of some of their minor leaguers like Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson, Ryder Jones contributed to the ultimate reassignment of Muelens?

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A: I think it definitely played a role in Muelens’ reassignment. If you look up-and-down this roster, sure, the minor leaguers weren’t performing, but many of the major leaguers weren’t either. And when these guys were transitioning into the major league level, they weren’t having consistent success. Christian Arroyo really struggled. Ryder Jones really struggled this season. And these were prospects the Giants wanted to see do well. They had Austin Slater come up, and Slater performed reasonably well. But one thing that I noticed from Slater is he still has that Stanford approach at the plate, that college style where he’s not hitting the ball for power. He’s not driving the ball in the gaps. He’s going the other way, and that’s a really important quality for a young hitter. But when you look around the game, and the trend in power, you need power threats at the plate. And I don’t think that the Giants felt that Muelens as a coach would ultimately be able to get them there. However, I still think the Giants still have a whole lot of confidence in Muelens, and maybe, this bench coach thing is a test run to see if he can ultimately replace Bruch Bochy when Bochy decides to call it quits.

Q: And that kind of ties into my next question. What do you think these coaching changes signal in terms of the Giants philosophy going forward?

A: I think the philosophy going forward is they’re not going to accept losing as a part of this franchise. Brian Sabean has said it. They’re not last place people. They’re not a last-place franchise. They just happened to have a last-place season. So, as long as the Giants struggle, there are going to be changes made until they get it right. And I think that’s the philosophy that you have to have if you’re a losing franchise in any sport, especially if you’re a big-market team who has been used to success and experienced success with so many of the players on the diamond and the manager in the dugout. You have to have that philosophy.

Q: How long do you think Bochy has left as a manager of the Giants?

A: Well, that’s so tough to say, and I think a lot of it is up to him, but it depends on the 2018 season. I think if he doesn’t see the Giants can win in 2019 after their 2018 season, he might decide to step away. Then, the organization and Bochy might mutually agree that maybe it’s best if he turned over to someone else. But otherwise, I think that he lasts at least through 2019. That’s when the current contract runs through, and I don’t see the Giants pulling the plug on Bruce Bochy’s contract because he’s a Hall of Fame manager and because he’s earned so much and has such a say in this organization.

Q: Giants also made another move in their minor league organization. They fired Shane Turner, their farm director, and replaced him with David Bell. Why do you think the change?

A: I think that they felt that their players weren’t developing at the same rate as some of the players in other organizations. And I think that change at the top is always good when you have a season like this, when, you know, I mentioned that Christian Arroyo struggled. Ryder Jones struggled. I think the Giants chalk a little up to the development process. When you bring in a guy like David Bell, who has been through it all as a major league player; he was drafted out of high school. He’s had a really interesting career. I think that can help players because he’s a relatable presence. He’s not just an instructor. He’s a valuable peer to them. And I think that could be a positive.