After the Tigers announced they would pick up the 2017 option on manager Brad Ausmus’ contract, they reported much of the 2016 staff would be returning, including long-time bench coach Gene Lamont and pitching coach Rich Dubee. In fact, the only name who wouldn’t be transitioning to the 2017 staff was hitting coach Wally Joyner. Joyner announced his intention to leave the Tigers in order to “pursue other opportunities in baseball.”
With the hitting coach position available, we wanted to see who might be a good fit for the role, taking into account the coach’s availability or potential to become available, rather than dream-drafting established hitting coaches. We picked a few likely candidates, and some a bit more far-flung.
Pros: Bonds is certainly the glossiest, most exciting name on this list. Recently released by the Marlins after only one season, he has yet to be snapped up by a team. Though his performance with the Marlins wasn’t the most noteworthy, it can sometimes take a little time for coaches to get their feet under them, and Bonds is new to the training aspect, having only briefly worked as a Spring Training instructor for the Giants in 2014 before going to the Marlins. Bonds is a career .298 with 762 home runs. He’s the kind of presence that might boost more average hitters to excel.
Cons: Great players do not necessarily make great coaches. If those who can’t do teach, perhaps those who CAN do should not teach. Greatness isn’t something that can be imparted with tips and observation. A player of Bonds’ caliber can’t simply transfer that ability to other batters. Like teaching, coaching is an art, and it takes patience and a deft hand. Though players seemed to be fond of Bonds in the dugout, his value as a coach wasn’t visible on the field.
Pros: Colbrunn was a former hitting coach and manager for the Yankees Class A affiliate Charleston RiverDogs, taking various positions with the team from 2007-2012. That shows him to be adept at both managing and coaching young prospects, something that could prove useful with up-and-comers like Steven Moya and JaCoby Jones, who the Tigers continue to have high expectations for. He went on to become hitting coach for the Red Sox in 2013 before having to step down due to a cerebral hemorrhage, which has since passed.
Cons: His health issues while on the Red Sox were enough to force him to step down from the team, which could prove problematic for the Tigers if they resurface. Additionally, he was once again coaching the RiverDogs in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and if he signs with them again for 2017, he wouldn’t be a viable candidate.
Pros: Newhan is the Tigers current assistant hitting coach, so he’s familiar with all the players, and with the work Joyner had already done with them. He’s at an advantage in this sense, if the bench wants to maintain the status quo and not shake up the coaching elements too substantially, as seems to be the case, with most of the staff returning. Newhan is also a former Astros teammate of Ausmus, which could help in the communication department.
Cons: Newhan has never been the hitting coach at a major league level. His previous experience before joining the Tigers as their assistant hitting coach was as manager of the Class A Vermont Lake Monsters for Oakland, and hitting coach for San Diego’s Class A Lake Elsinore team. He’s unproven in the big leagues which could be great or it could be a disaster. He’s also young, which could make it difficult for him to be taken seriously by players. The club doesn’t seem ready to commit to Newhan either, implying his status with the team will be determined when the hitting coach role is filled.
Pros: Magadan has previously been a hitting coach for the Padres, the Red Sox, and the Texas Rangers. He has a proven record on winning teams, and is known to be well-liked by players.
Cons: Magadan is currently with the Diamondbacks, but they’ve gone into a serious postseason housecleaning mode, firing manager Chip Hale and GM Dave Stewart. It’s not out of the question that they might eliminate the bulk of the coaching staff as well.
Pros: Davis has an established track record, having worked as the minor league hitting coach for the Pawtuckett Red Sox, before moving on to the Oakland A’s in 2012, where he remained for three seasons. This coaching acumen, combined with 10 seasons hitting over 20 home runs, would make him a great addition to the Tigers’ bench. Coming from the Sox, working with Ortiz and their powerful lineup, he’d have a lot of great insight for the heart of the Tigers order. Plus, his name is Chili, and I personally want to hear Rod say that as much as possible next season.
Cons: Currently with the Red Sox. Unless they decide to shake things up following their ALDS sweep, and bring in someone specifically to work with a replacement power-hitting DH, it’s unlikely he will be going anywhere.
Pros: Gibson is a former Tiger, and has been doing color commentary for the team during the last two seasons. He’s familiar with the players and has had the opportunity to observe them with an objective eye. This would make him uniquely qualified to step back into the hitting coach role, which he held for the Tigers in 2005. He won the 2011 NL Manager of the year award in Arizona, so he knows how to handle players, as well.
Cons: Gibby was also bench coach for the Tigers during the dreaded 2003 season, where the team went 43-119. Gibson also hasn’t coached at a major league level since leaving the Diamondbacks in 2014, when the team went 63-96. Additionally, Gibson was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so he may not want to take on a high-stress coaching role if his health is a concern.