Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Sunday, August 21, 2011
Big names on D-backs' coaching staff

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

During an interleague series against Arizona in June, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sat in the visitors dugout while the Diamondbacks coaching staff took their team through batting practice.

"Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Matt Williams -- that's a @#&%*$# All-Star team over there,'' Guillen said. "Who's the pitching coach? Chuck Nagy? @#&%! They've got a great coaching staff!''

Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson (left) and bench coach Alan Trammell had their fair share of success as players.

And Guillen left out batting coach Don Baylor and first-base coach Eric Young. Add up their baseball-reference pages and you have 9,662 career hits, 5,445 runs, 4,910 RBIs, 1,235 home runs, 1,323 stolen bases, 509 times hit by pitches, eight Gold Gloves, 127 wins, 1,242 strikeouts, two MVP awards, two MVP runner-ups, a fourth-place Cy Young finish, 16 All-Star appearances, 11 World Series appearances and an Olympic gold medal.

If the Diamondbacks need help down the stretch, they can always add their coaches when rosters expand in September.

Has there ever been another coaching staff with such accomplishments on the field? That's hard to answer, though when Jayson Stark put the question to readers, no one could find another staff that had two former MVPs and two MVP runner-ups. Among comparable staffs were the 2006-07 Yankees, who had two MVPs (Joe Torre and Don Mattingly), a runner-up MVP and Cy Young winner (Ron Guidry) and a third-place MVP (Larry Bowa). Another great staff was Torre's 1995 Cardinals, who had Torre (MVP), Bob Gibson (Cy Young, MVP and Hall of Famer), Chris Chambliss (Rookie of the Year) and Red Schoendienst (Hall of Famer).

Does success as a player matter when you're a manager? "To a certain degree, yeah. But I think from my experience, that it's nice to have that credibility but it only goes so far,'' said Trammell, Gibson's bench coach. "You have to continue to work and teach. You can't just use that [big league success] and say, 'Listen and do whatever I tell you.' You have to develop relationships.''

Young says that the staff's credentials helped the coaches get their foot in the door with the players. "What helps with our coaching staff is, we were able to establish that respect when we walked into the room. The respect was there, and the tone was there. The players knew exactly where we were coming from. I was probably guilty of that as a player -- you don't respect some coaches as highly as others. It doesn't matter whether they played or not. There are some great managers and coaches who weren't great players.''

Trammell and Gibson know this particularly well, having both played for Sparky Anderson (.a 218 batting average in his only major league season); Gibson also played for Tommy Lasorda (no career wins as a pitcher).

"Sparky taught me how to play the game,'' Gibson said. "Tram, Jack Morris, Lou Whitaker … we came up together and he was adamant about us learning how to play the game properly, how to be professional. Tommy was awesome, a great motivator.''

Trivia question: Of the Diamondbacks coaches, which one was never an All-Star? Surprise answer: Gibson, though he served as a coach at this year's game in Arizona. Of course, he wouldn't mind managing the National League at next year's All-Star Game in Kansas City, Mo., an honor that comes with managing a team to the pennant first. If the Diamondbacks can reach the World Series, Gibson would be just the third MVP to manage a team to a pennant, joining Torre and Yogi Berra (if you count player-managers -- a very different category -- add Lou Boudreau, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch and Gabby Hartnett).

Arizona named Gibson interim manager midway through last season after the Diamondbacks fired A.J. Hinch when they were 31-48, in last place and 15½ games back in the NL West. Arizona went 34-49 under Gibson the rest of the way, but after a spring training reboot -- in which the coaches usually arrived at the ballpark by 5:45 or 6 a.m. -- the team is playing far beyond expectations this season.

Eric Young What helps with our coaching staff is, we were able to establish that respect when we walked into the room. The respect was there, and the tone was there. The players knew exactly where we were coming from.

-- Diamondbacks first base
coach Eric Young

"With our staff, I think the way we went about our business in spring training helped,'' Young said. "The players came in and saw us working out every day when they came in at 6 o'clock. They knew we weren't playing around. The respect factor is No. 1. If you get respect, then it's easy for them to listen to what you have to say.

"But once you get their attention, you have to keep it. If you keep saying, 'When I played,' you might lose it."

Gibson isn't keen on losing anything and he's been able to translate the energy, intensity and competitive fire as a player to his team as a manager. As have his coaches.

"I think in all our cases, we'll never forget how hard the game is,'' Gibson said. "We've known failure and learned lessons. We know the game is hard, and as much as you try to do something, the opponent is trying to not let you do it. We get frustrated, but we know we have to power through, that you have to keep making plays.''

And if all this doesn't result in an NL West title, well, the Diamondbacks can always count on an exceptional Old-Timers Game.

"Our days are over,'' Trammell said with a laugh. "It's fun to watch. It's fun to still be a part of the game. We're still young at heart. Obviously our bodies no longer function at the level they used to. We can still catch ground balls, but if it's a little out of our reach, we'll be exposed. We're proud of what we accomplished, but it's their time now.''

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Follow Jim Caple on Twitter: @jimcaple