Dave Duncan's lasting impact

Updated: January 6, 2012, 3:39 PM ET
By Buster Olney

From time to time, I've bumped into pitchers who worked under Dave Duncan, and I've asked for their observations about Duncan's teaching style -- and there is near-unanimity about what makes him good at what he does.

He doesn't work with a one-size-fits-all approach, they say; he'll take the skills you have and help you get better. He's direct and honest, they say, in how he gets his message across; you don't ever think he has an ulterior, or political, motive. He's not a bandwagon guy, they say; he's not someone who will abandon a struggling pitcher and give special treatment only to stars. He's not auditioning for favor with the media or his bosses, they say; he's not trying to take credit for the success of his pitchers.

Through the years, Duncan has had remarkable success, serving as the pitching coach for three championship teams and many more division and league champions. Four of his pitchers have won the Cy Young Award, and one was the MVP. But now Duncan is stepping aside as the Cardinals' pitching coach, to help his ailing wife.

Consider where his pitching staffs ranked in league ERA in his last 29 seasons as coach: In 19 years, his teams ranked in the top half of teams in staff ERA:

1 2005, 1990, 1989, 1988
2 2004
3 2001, 1983
4 2010, 2009, 2002, 1992
5 1997, 1987
6 1996, 1995
7 2008, 2000
8 2011, 1998, 1994
9 2006
10 1985, 1984
11 2007, 2003, 1999, 1986
12 (None)
13 1991
14 1993

The Hall of Fame has honored players, managers, owners, executives and umpires, and it could be time, now that Duncan is stepping down, to find a way to honor coaches. Duncan would be a worthy first recipient. It could be named it after a legendary pitching coach, like former Yankees pitching coach Jim Turner, longtime coach Frank Howard, or perhaps Don Zimmer, or Charlie Lau or Walt Hriniak.

Some coaches have no impact whatsoever. Some are good at teaching a particular skill, or a particular pitch. Some coaches, however, distinguish themselves, and Dave Duncan has undoubtedly been among the best.


Manny Ramirez intends to work out for scouts later this month, a source indicates. Regardless of what anybody thinks about him, what he's done in the past, how he's handled things or whether his ability as a hitter is related to the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the bottom line is that signing Ramirez now comes with zero risk. None.