Monday, October 10, 2005

Newman

Swept away in the first week of housecleaning this offseason, Twins 3rd base coach Al Newman said goodbye on Friday as he took a scouting job with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Fans who rooted for the '87 and '91 championship teams may be understandably sentimental about seeing Newman leave the organization, but my connections to the team don't go that far back. To me, he was just a reliably fun postgame interview on the radio, and a constant irritation as a 3rd base coach.

I know, fans of every team hate their 3rd base coach, usually because they think their guy has a penchant for waving around runners who never had a prayer of getting home safely. Just yesterday, Braves 3rd base coach Fredi Gonzalez may have cost his team a critical insurance run in the 7th inning. As Jeff Francouer doubled into the short LF corner in Houston, the slow-trotting Adam LaRoche looked quite content to coast from 1st to 3rd, setting up Ryan Langerhans to bat with runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. However, Gonzalez waved LaRoche towards home, even as the Braves held a 5-1 lead, and the relay beat the runner to the plate by several steps. That's usually the sort of move that gets the fans howling for a head on a platter.


I always thought Newman was the opposite kind of traffic cop: cautious to a fault. If there were less than 2 outs, you could count on him to hold the runner at 3rd unless he was sure his man could score without much of a play at the plate. Once on a radio postgame interview with the Dazzle Man, he openly admitted that he didn't even like to see a runner head for a play at home unless absolutely necessary, because of the risk of injury. To a degree, it's good to know he cares about protecting his players. But I've seen him hold runners when it was clear to anyone in the stands that his man could have scored doing cartwheels. I remember one time a few years back when he held the runner at 3rd while the ball was still being collected in the outfield, and the trailing runner was nearly caught in a rundown because he was forced to retreat 80 feet back to 2nd base. Like I said, I know that fans of every team hate their 3rd base coach. That was just Newmie's particular way of irritating me.

According to one of LaVelle Neal's sources inside the organization, Newman's bosses had issues with his performance in the 3rd base coach's box this season, and he had philosophical differences with Ron Gardenhire behind the scenes. I don't know, there's probably some office politics going on. Newman himself told Neal that he wonders if he's being made the scapegoat for the team's struggles this year. Pushing him out might also be a way to hire Paul Molitor as hitting coach, without firing Gardy's close friend Scotty Ullger. If that's all there is to the story, I don't like this way of doing business.

But, some radio listeners have said that Newman may have signed his own walking papers by going on the Dan Barreiro show last week, taking Torii Hunter's side in the Hunter/Morneau fight and criticizing the youngsters on the team. If that is the case, then I'm glad Terry Ryan did something about it. It shouldn't be acceptable for any of the coaches to go on the radio to gossip about the team and rag on the organization's developing talent. If that's what he did, then Newman was a problem. He had to go.

7 Comments:

At 10/11/2005 6:26 PM, Anonymous Drake33 said...

I heard the Barrerio radio spot. It WAS weird. He kept saying (although he was being pressed into it) that he was "only interested in being the best third base coach for the Minnesota Twins." and that he had "no interest in Gardenhire's job".

He went on for a while about a bunch of different things, including the Hunter/Morneau stuff. I don't remember all of it, but I wouldn't have said that he "agreed" with Hunter, but he did criticize the entire lineup for struggling or not playing up to their ability. He did criticize Morneau, but I don't think it was the same reason that Hunter did.

I mean, he blasted the entire team's hitting. It was a bit refreshing to HEAR it from a coach, but disconcerting as well.

I understand WHY they'd let him go after this interview. He was pretty critical of the team.

 
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