Giants ‘restart’ begins with coaching staff purge

The Giants brass were generally cryptic as they provided early-off-season solutions for a 98-loss team. But one message cut through the tension: the team wants to be more athletic and young on defense to support their strong pitching. To do that, the team would “restart,” but not “rebuild.”

A month later the Giants started the offseason “restart” by reshuffling their entire coaching staff.

  • Longtime pitching coach Dave Righetti was removed from his dugout post up to the front office as a Special Assistant to the General Manager.
  • Ron Wotus moved from bench coach to third base coach (he was a third base coach for the Giants while Dusty Baker was at the helm).
  • Hensley Muelens was moved from hitting coach to bench coach.
  • Third base coach Phil Nevin was let go after one season. He lost out on the Phillies managerial job.
  • Bullpen coach Mark Gardner moved to the front office to “serve in a Special Assignment role concentrating on pitching development and evaluation.”
  • Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker was moved to a front office role where he will “work alongside front office personnel in shaping the organization’s hitting approach and evaluating amateur hitters for the upcoming draft.”
  • The Giants hired former Oklahoma City Dodgers pitching coach Matt Herges as their new bullpen coach (Herges pitched for the Giants from 2003 to 2005).
  • Former Cardinals bench coach David Bell was hired as the new vice president of player development, previously held by Shane Turner (Bell was a part of the Giants’ 2002 National League Pennant-winning club).

Out of this mess, three spots remain. The powerless Giants have no hitting coach — or hitting assistant coach — and are looking for a new pitching coach.

Coaching changes were expected this offseason, but perhaps not to this extent.

The Righetti news itself ignites some blinding shock — how could the Giants rid themselves of baseball’s longest-tenured, and perhaps most successful, pitching coach? The Wotus-Righetti tandem, combined, groomed a two-time Cy Young winner and four Gold Glovers on three World Series-winning teams all within this decade.

Perhaps now we’re stating the obvious. The Giants’ overachieving success has taken a sharp plummet to the absolute pit of the league. Change is necessary.

The coaching shuffle — the “promotions” and hiring of Bell and Herges — is an attempt to shift focus back to player development as the Giants try to become younger and more athletic on the defensive side of the ball.

It’s hard to say how this will affect the lingering star power on this team. Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik have garnered success under the watchful eyes of Righetti and Wotus. Wotus almost seems overqualified for the third base coach position — which may be a good thing for a job that’s been an odd black hole since Tim Flannery’s departure after the 2014 championship campaign.

Muelens’ promotion to bench coach could be informed by his experience as manager of the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic. He’s well-liked by the players, has worked well within Bochy’s system since 2010 and speaks five languages (Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Papiamento and English).

The dugout overhaul marks the Giants’ unofficial separation from the Even Year World Series era.

San Francisco needs to adjust to baseball’s quick transformation to a power-happy spectacle. The real question this winter remains, perhaps now more informed given the Coaching Purge: how much is the front office willing to sacrifice to keep up?


Shayna Rubin is SFBay’s San Francisco Giants beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @ShaynaRubin on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Giants baseball.