THE San Francisco Giants Blog

What Makes Up a Good Coach?

Posted in Uncategorized by Flavor on February 11, 2013

When I was at Fan Fest, one of the things that sucked was the sound system. The players were getting interviewed at a KNBR stage set up around the pitchers mound and there was a lot of feedback that made it hard to hear everything that was being said. So when I got back to my car and turned on the radio, the first player interview I really got to hear was Ryan Vogelsong. It’s really a treat to listen to Voggy talk. He’s not one of those pro athletes that goes on auto-pilot when he’s interviewed. He speaks from the heart and gives his honest feelings about the question he’s asked or the point he’s trying to make. It’s refreshing.

He said something about coaches that wasn’t a new idea but it got my attention. He was talking about how much he loves having Mark Gardner and Dave Righetti as coaches. He said that, between the two of them, there’s literally no situation on the mound they haven’t been through or that they couldn’t help him with. And then he goes, “How the hell am I supposed to sit there on the mound listening to some pitching coach who never pitched above a-ball tell me how to get Albert Pujols out?”

And then he let out a big laugh.

And while it’s not a new concept of working best with a coach who’s “been there, done that,” it made me wonder just how important it really is. I’m not going to go through and check how many mlb pitching coaches ever pitched at the major league level and/or compare the success rate of those who did vs those who didn’t. That takes up a lot of time and I still need to scour the internet for an acceptable BBOTD.

But it’s a good conversation to kick around as we sit here but two short days away from spring training starting……

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  1. willedav said, on February 11, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Communication and understanding the best approach to take with an individual also have to account for a lot of it. Gardner and Righetti have been amazing, and I think having a mgr. who has been a C is also a big help in understanding who they have/what they can do/what they need to work on and control. There have been and always will be many talented players who aren’t necessarily good coaches. In some ways it’s a hindrance.
    I would think Vogs quote applies more to mgrs. than to PC–how is kirk gibson going to help a pitcher in trouble get Posey out? His catcher, though, I think would be the most important guy to listen to. He should know what’s working and what’s not, what the umpire is giving/taking away, what hitters are sitting on/spitting at on that particular day.
    The match up of every pitch and AB is one of the things that makes baseball so unique. Cody ross hammering philly aces, Pablo pounding Verlander, romo vs. cabrera, lincecum out of the pen…who is boss today? Like Andujar said, youneverknow.

  2. chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Yeah…glad you have your priorities straight…get that BBOTD taken care of….insert gay-assed smily face…

  3. twinfan1 said, on February 11, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Rick Adair, Juan Nieves, Don Cooper, Mickey Calloway, Jeff Jones, Doug Brocail, Dave Eiland, Mike Butcher, Rick Anderson,Larry Rothshild, Curt Young,Carl Williis, Jim Hickey,Mike Maddux, Pete Walker,Charles Nagy, Roger McDowell, Chris Bosio, Bryan Price, Bo McLaughlin, Rick Honeycutt, Chuck Hernandez, Rick Kranitz, Dan Warthen, Rich Dubee, Ray Searage, Darren Balsey, Dave Righetti, Derek Lilliquist, Steve McCatty…

    First thought: Who are these guys and who invited them to the barbeque?

    Actually ,they’re the current MLB pitching coaches and the list answers the question as to whether pitching success at the Major League level is essential to being a good instructor. Using Vogelsong’s query: Jim Hickey( best season was 1984 for Single-A Appleton Foxes, he never pitched in the bigs) , pitching instuctor for the Rays, last year’s team best ERA in baseball- would probably tell Vogey that Albert can be best handled with a mix of curves and cutters- as the numbers show that that might at least minimize the damage. Pitching coach Nolan Ryan would advise throwing 155 MPH fastballs….

    • pawliekokonuts said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Quite a list. And you are right. It’s not the level of play the coach got to, it’s the level of wisdom, insight, and pedagogical wizardry. I for one have always maintained here the importance of a good coach. Hensley, I assert, made a palpable difference. I compare coaching to professional ballet training. In my daughter’s classes at School of American Ballet or with Suzanne Farrell, when she was 15 and then later and even now, if she were ignored by the teacher, that’s not a good thing. They want to be “corrected,” in whatever meaningful way. Of course, they are teachable. Pro athletes may not always be so teachable.

  4. chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I was busy as hell this weekend, and didn’t make it to The Flap (where does all the time go???), but was going back and catching up on the threads and posts. LOVED the DJ Loo post from Saturday (about wearing his Giant’s gear), how he felt, how the locals respondes. That was FUCKING MONEY. LOVED IT! I would cherish the opportunity to meet you at some point, Loo. Great stuff…

    • DJLoo said, on February 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      That is awfully nice of you Chi. I’ve always enjoyed your posts and your contagious enthusiasm. Who knows, maybe one of these days…

  5. willedav said, on February 11, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Every pic I see of Lincecum does crack me up a bit. He reminds me of Duke’s kid in doonesbury who is masquerading as the Red Rascal.
    I think this symbolizes a different type of dedication by TL and a realization success as an SP is going to require another approach. The off season conditioning etc. all bodes well. A lot of guys are ego driven to succeed, and that is not a bad thing. Having been at the top of his game and the entire league, I’m hoping his competitive spirit (body language of last year didn’t reflect that) drives him forward this season.
    Obviously, anything resembling the effectiveness of the old TL makes the rotation that much more formidable and helps to keep down pen innings.

  6. xoot said, on February 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Why do some poor players make good coaches while many great players don’t? Some guys study the game, understand the game, work like hell to play the game and watch talented players day in and day out succeed at the game, but they can’t do shit themselves. They know what it takes and they know, by watching so closely, how good players can learn to do it well. They probably also have a passion for the game that doesn’t get satisfied during their lack-luster playing time, and it propels them into coaching long term.

    Nice recap of the Vogelsong interview. Maybe he got used to dealing with intrusive questions because so many journalists probed into the details of his struggle to return to the big leagues. He certainly says things you don’t hear from other ASs. I came across this recently. At first I thought the writer had invented the entire thing, that it was a joke, but on further review I have to admit it does sound like Vogelsong. He’s proud of being able to rise to a challenge: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/asking-ryan-vogelsong-about-his-fip/

    • chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Good read. Thanks for sharing, xoot. Give me a double of VogelSTRONG.

    • blade3colorado said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

      Agree with Chi – good post Xoot!

  7. Salty said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Good article and discussion. Thanks.

  8. Salty said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

    He probably will start in Fresno, but another intriguing possibility for that last OF spot is Juan Perez. He’s 26, but he took a couple of years off after High School. Hit .302 w/11 hrs in AA last yr.

  9. twinfan1 said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:17 am

    It can be explained quite simply, IMO, and it applies to any field of endeavor- the art of teaching has very little to do with the art of doing. Think of your favorite teacher or professor- was he/she a great novelist, biologist, mathematician , *rocket scientist*… no, the greatest teachers are the greatest communicators and possess what they most want to instill in the student- the desire to learn and practice.

    • chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Excellent point, Michael. So true…

    • pawliekokonuts said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

      The art of teaching has everything to do with the art of doing, but the teacher does not have to be able to do it. (I don’t think we essentially disagree.) Adding to “communicators” I’d add the quality of convey in an imaginative way the tools to execute. (Well, that’s still communicating.) Going back to ballet again, I’ve been struck watching teachers who provide some sort of picture or metaphor to accomplish the right mechanics.

    • blade3colorado said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Agree with this as well Twin.

  10. Irish Kevin said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Also the really great teachers don’t have EGO’s. does anyone see Bonds, Rickey Henderson, or any other player that had a huge ego?? No, the really good teachers are ones that know that it is not about them. They can relate to anyone.

  11. Irish Kevin said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

    • chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Heard talk of this on KNBR during my morning drive, Kev, and wanted to see it. Thanks for sharing…that’s good stuff…really shows the chemistry and genuine appreciation these guys have for one another.

      I am SO AMPED for the baseball season…I’m about to come outta my skin!

      Pitchers and Catchers report TOMORROW! Full squad on Friday! BOO YAH!

      Let’s PLAY BALL!

  12. zumiee said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Not everyone has the heart for coaching and teaching. It takes a love for the process. And it takes thick skin- the ability to endure little humiliations. Or even big humiliations, like what Verlander did to his pitching coach in the World Series. Modern pro athletes are not easy to work with, they are super-rich and entitled. At the junior levels, the kids aren’t necessarily rich, but a lot of them feel entitled. Coaches are actually an under-appreciated group, overall. It’s a tough gig.

    • chipower9 said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

      Agree whole-heartedly, Zume. Some really good points made by many today.

    • xoot said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Yeah, I think coaching at the pro level is unique. At low levels coaches are often people who were far more talented in their playing days than the kids, or the vast majority of the kids, they’re working with. I think the scale tends to slide as you move up through the levels toward the pros.

  13. blade3colorado said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:35 am

    New blog post. I finally found WIFI that is faster than dial up and smoke signals.

    http://aroundtheworldwithblade.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/the-seedy-side-of-sydney/

    This is my take on the dark side of Sydney.

  14. Alleykat said, on February 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Billy Beane stunk as a player.But as a GM he found his calling card.
    Does the most with owners who give a rat’s ass about winning,and he ends up fielding a damm decent LU most every year with continueuos.trades that pan out.He gets.great value back to use for trade chips.

  15. Alleykat said, on February 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Billy Beane stunk as a player(could’nt hit a pinita down) but he found his calling card as a GM.
    He does the most with a shitty orq,and owners who won’t spend a plugged nickel,then anyone in baseball.
    Admire what he does with that lame ass payroll,getting trades done,and always picking up blue chip prospects in return,and getting them back in the playoffs last year.Quite a feat.

    • blade3colorado said, on February 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      I liked the movie they made about him. Yeah, I admire the guy too. The A’s are a paradox. I have no idea how they stay competitive almost every year on that shoestring budget. Obviously, him and his staff are doing some things right, despite the owners squeeking when they walk. Ha.

  16. Alleykat said, on February 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    My bad on the double post.Though not quite the same wording.:-)

  17. snarkk said, on February 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Vogelsong has his opinion, maybe that’s his experience given his travails. But, he’s all wet. As some of you have pointed out. A pitching coach or manager that paid his dues in the minors for years and years has the benefit of thousands of ABs witnessed, all manner of players seen, all types of arms throwing the ball and all types of guys hitting it in all types of situations. I’ll take him as a coach to help me as a pro player from a performance POV. These guys making lots of dough now like to be able to talk “business” with recent peers about agents, FA places to go, PEDs contacts, investment counselors, whatever. There are exceptions to my general rule about listening to the long-time grinder. For example, I’d clearly take Bonds first over Meulens if I had a batting issue. I’ve heard Bonds talk about hitting, he’s a genius at it. If he couldn’t help, THEN I’d go to Meulens. But, in most cases, I’d go to the grinder first…

  18. snarkk said, on February 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Here’s a link to a bit of fun. Sorry, if you’ve seen it before.
    Fan Fest — Pence and Timmeh impersonating each other.
    I almost wish the Giants were suspended in time now, everything is almost too dang good to want it to change. But, it will, like all of us.
    My team finally makes me cry for its success, now it makes me laugh, too.
    Pardon, to Harbaugh, but IT doesn’t get any better than THIS…

    http://www.csnbayarea.com/giants/pence-lincecum-impersonate-each-others-unique-styles

    • Irish Kevin said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Snarkk, I posted the video already. ha ha

      • snarkk said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        You’re quicker than I am.
        Good job, IK.
        I keep telling AARP to fuck off, but they refuse to stop mailing me shit…

  19. Giant Head said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Fluffy and comfy pillows….ohhhh coach, not couch…

  20. Irish Kevin said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Kate Upton is the cover girl for SI’s swim suit issue. Big Flav you should have some good pickings for the BBOTD!!

  21. Bozo said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    In my experience, a coach or teacher is best when they are very comfortable not only in the subject but also their own skin. On drums I’ve taken lessons from a guy who would be considered a HOFer and a couple of guys who would be considered top notch in some circles. Besides having the ability to play what they taught. they didn’t have anything to prove, so they were comfortable in their own skin. Roger Craig was a good pitcher but could teach the hell out of the split finger, I’m sure he taught it to people with better skills then him but he was both knowledgeable and had nothing to prove to anyone so he was good at it.

    Happy Lundi Gras Flappers, got a photo of me behind the bar at Tipitinas wearing the World champ hat next to a SF hat on a wig head(?) that was behind the bar. It’s pissing rain here but so far, the parades are still rolling.

    • dirtnrocksnomo said, on February 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      My wife has been a teacher both for kindergartners and doctors which she says are very similar in their mental capacity to act like spoiled babies. Anyway, she has also done corporate training. She and many of her colleagues have commented that often times you are a better teacher of things you have less confindence or mastery of. I always found that strange but have heard it from many teachers.

  22. gianthead said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    What is very odd, I sort of looked like the new Lincecum back in 1986 in my San Jose State days….me like Katie Upton…

  23. snarkk said, on February 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    A lot of A’s guys always raved about Wash helping them develop as defensive players. That helped them make a lot of coin. I hope they dropped some cash his way for that while he was grinding as an asst. coach, particularly Chavez…

  24. blade3colorado said, on February 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    This is my take (actually a Buddhist proverb/quote) on ALL teachers, instructors, coaches, etc.

    “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

    • snarkk said, on February 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Nice, Grasshopper…

  25. Flavor said, on February 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    new post.

  26. Nipper said, on February 11, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Good coaches learn to stay out of the way. Less is more.

    • Flavor said, on February 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Nipper, good coaches win, great coaches cover. The Old Pro taught me that. :)


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