“Pitchers who go on to coaching tend to be pitching coaches, and position players who go on to coaching tend to be hitting coaches or infield instructors or outfield instructors or bench coaches or bullpen coaches or first base coaches,” Cherington said. “Perhaps that could be part of it. Not many have gotten the chance, but the ones that have and have succeeded seem to have more broad-based experience.”
Black and Farrell both spent time in major league front offices, running other parts of the organization. Both were considered potential GM candidates, men who would succeed at anything they chose in the game.
Cherington, for instance, said that as pitching coach, Farrell “approached the job in a different way than often pitching coaches approach the job. He took a very comprehensive approach to the job, almost as a coordinator might.”
That was intriguing to the Red Sox. But for other clubs, a good pitching coach is such a rare commodity that they are often considered more valuable where they are.
“I think that if you get a good pitching coach, people want to take advantage and keep that good pitching coach,” Maddux said. “And sometimes they get overlooked by an organization because they’re good at what they do. ‘Let’s keep it that way.’ ”
Sometimes that’s what the pitching coach wants. A few, such as Farrell, want more.
As pitching coach of the Red Sox, Farrell said, he tried to understand offenses, too. Not necessarily because he was preparing to be a manager, but because he wanted to be a better pitching coach.
Yet when he got the job in Toronto, he realized all he didn’t know. So he had to ask. He had to listen to his staff. Farrell needed to formulate not only his own opinions but, as he called it, a mental “drop-down menu.”
Because of that, building a complementary staff becomes extremely important for a former pitching coach. The bench coach becomes crucial. It’s something that came up in discussions between the Red Sox and Farrell.
And something that came up in discussions between Farrell and Black, in terms of how to choose a staff.
“You’re a former pitching coach, you’ve got a pitching coach next to you,” Farrell said. “Do you start to over-weight the staff with former pitchers? Because how many staffs around baseball do you have more than two pitching people on it? And do you start to take away from the position player needs because of the set of experiences of the coaching staff?”
All this places some responsibility on Farrell’s shoulders. In a game that tends to jump on trends — young, analytical GMs; defensive metrics; on-base percentage — success breeds chances. Should Farrell do well in Boston, there might be opportunities for other pitching coaches.
“It’s almost like you’re waving the flag for your certain group of people that you come from,” Farrell said. “But opportunities are going to present themselves to guys who do well, and that makes other people take note.”
For now, the trend might be players fresh off the field, in light of the success of Mike Matheny’s Cardinals in getting to the NL Championship Series.
Mike Redmond is a leading candidate for the Marlins’ open job, and Robin Ventura just finished his first season with the White Sox.
But the Marlins are also interviewing Bryan Price, the Reds’ pitching coach. His is a pitching name that frequently comes up in terms of options for managerial jobs, along with Maddux’s.
Excellence in the role of pitching coach, though, hasn’t always been enough. There is a long list of well-regarded pitching coaches who have never gotten a chance to manage, including Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan.
“You can be a great outfield coach, base running, third base coach, whatever the case may be, and be a victim of your own success,” Maddux said. “Unless you market yourself, that that’s something you want to do, people may not know that.”
Maddux said he wants a chance, eventually. He has had discussions about becoming a manager, but for now the job doesn’t work with his personal timeline. He hopes that, when the time is right for him, some GM will be ready to make the leap.
“I think over time, if more get chances, if they succeed, then more and more will get chances and they’ll get second chances,” Cherington said. “If they don’t [succeed], then maybe it will stop.”