Some of these guys you know, but who are the others?
So I was in Peoria Sunday for a Mariners spring training game, sitting behind third base, and I noticed that the third-base coach was some guy named Datz. “That’s nice,” I thought. “They’re letting some minor league manager log some time in a big league game. Good on you, Mariners.” Then I checked my roster. Turns out “Datz” is actually going to be the third-base coach! All year!
It dawned on me that what I know about the Mariner coaches couldn’t fill a single page, even if I double-spaced it and used “Impact” font 18. I’m betting you’re in the same boat, so let’s use today’s space to learn a little more about the M’s coaching staff.
Pitching coach Carl Willis: Willis has come a long way since sporting maybe the worst mustache in history as a major league middle reliever. Now the 49-year-old North Carolina native has a trim goatee and seven-plus years under his belt as a major league pitching coach. Willis is a holdover from last year–he served the last two months of 2010 as the M’s pitching coach after the Wakamatsu regime was deposed. Coincidentally, he was Eric Wedge‘s pitching coach in Cleveland for seven years. So it’s a nice match.
Hitting coach Chris Chambliss: After rocking some sweet sideburns early in his career, Chambliss delivered one of the most dramatic homers in postseason history, a walk-off shot in the 1976 ALCS that sent the Yankees to the World Series. Things started going downhill pretty much as soon as he hit the ball. A crush of fans storming the field knocked Chambliss down–he never did make it to home plate. Chambliss played 11 more undistinguished MLB seasons before settling into a career as a hitting coach.
Third base coach Jeff Datz: He’s not quite Moonlight Graham, but Datz can claim one of the briefest major league stints ever–seven games with the 1989 Tigers. I like him mainly for the headline possibilities. After he waves home 15 or 16 runs: “Datz entertainment.” After he makes a key decision to send a guy home: “Datz the way I like it.” After he’s fired: “Datz all, folks!”
First base coach Mike Brumley: Another holdover from last year’s staff, Brumley benefited from being the first base coach last year. He is therefore absolved of any blame. A first base coach has about as much impact on a baseball team’s season as a peanut vendor. Brumley is the only ex-Mariner on the staff. He hit .224 in 62 games with the 1990 M’s.
Bench coach Robby Thompson: To comply with the Truth in Advertising Act, baseball really needs to properly label the “bench coach” for what he is: “assistant manager.” Maybe they’re embarrassed, as managing is one of the easiest head man jobs in all of sports, you shouldn’t need an assistant. Anyway, Thompson you’ll probably remember as the Giants’ second baseman for a decade, including their World Series year in 1987. When he stopped playing, Thompson went into coaching and was Wedge’s “bench coach” in Cleveland briefly.
Bullpen coach Jaime Navarro: The former Brewers starter, who ended his career playing in the Italian League, was pitching coach for the Rainiers last year. Every major league team needs a native Spanish speaking coach, and Navarro is that guy for the Mariners. He has also worked with several M’s minor leaguers, as he’s been in the organization for three years now, rising from A-ball in ’08 all the way to the big club this year. Navarro bears a slight resemblance to Carlos Silva, especially in a Cubs uniform.
Bullpen catcher Jason Phillips: Once upon a time the M’s bullpen catcher was just some guy off the street who showed a knack for handling major league pitching. But now, the bullpen catcher is a legit former MLBer! Phillips caught 279 MLB games over parts of seven seasons, mostly as Mike Piazza’s backup. Around here, he’s more famous as the guy who got married at Safeco Field last season to a lady he picked up while bullpen catching. He threw her a ball with his number on it. Smooth!
In other news…
Mariners fifth-starter candidate Luke French got battered in a 6-5 M’s loss yesterday, further cementing Michael Pineda’s status as the likely fifth starter.
The Cougs advanced to the semifinals of the NIT, next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, with an OT win over Northwestern. I used to go to the NIT semis when I lived in New York, it’s a fun event. If any Coug fans are reading, I strongly suggest snagging an airline ticket and heading over.
Cougs C DeAngelo Casto played despite being charged with marijuana possession, since the legality of the search that led to the charge is in question.
M’s catcher Miguel Olivo is on track to start opening day after feeling no pain catching three innings in a minor league game. Olivo even threw out a runner on a steal attempt!
Former Husky Jon Brockman can make awesome trick shots.
Seven days closer to a championship…
Thursday, March 24
Baseball: Mariners @ Kansas City, 1:05 p.m. (no local radio, check MLB.com)
Friday, March 25
Soccer: Sounders vs. Houston @ Qwest, 7 p.m. (FSC)
Baseball: Mariners vs. Dodgers, 7:05 p.m. (FSN)
Saturday, March 26
Baseball: Mariners @ Milwaukee, 1:05 p.m. (710-AM)
Sunday, March 27
Baseball: Mariners vs. Texas, 1:05 p.m. (710-AM, also delayed broadcast at 2 p.m. on MLB Network)
Monday, March 28
Baseball: Mariners vs. Colorado, 1:05 p.m. (710-AM)
Tuesday, March 29
Baseball: Mariners @ Colorado, 1:10 p.m. (FSN)
Wednesday, March 30