Kevin Towers: I'm sure you all saw the announcement that came out earlier today. We've notified the coaches that we've asked back, and we met personally with Charles Nagy and Steve Sax over the last couple of days, to inform them that they wouldn't be coming back in 2014. Gibby's supposed to coming back into town next Monday: we're in the process of assembling a list, not only of internal but external candidates, and I'll be starting the process next week.
Why did you feel the need for changes?
KT: I don't want to get into a lot of the specifics. I will say that those two areas in particular, the base-running as well as our pitching staff, are a performance-oriented game. We sat down and looked at it, not only the last year, but the last two or three years, and we think it's areas we need to change. Maybe a different voice. We're not putting everything on Charles Nagy and Steve Sax for us being .500 the last two years, but those are two areas of focus that we want to be better at. I haven't been happy with the results in both areas, and decided that we needed a change.
The coaching staff got a lot of credit a couple of years ago, Charlie among them. What do you think has changed?
KT: We were a much healthier pitching staff back in 2011, too. At that time, we had an Ian Kennedy that was at the top of his game, and a Cy Young candidate. We had Daniel Hudson, who won 16 games. We had a healthy staff, guys coming off good years. We haven't been as healthy, we had a few of our pitchers who have regressed, and looking at our staff as a whole, specifically since 2011, I think we've had more pitchers who have actually regressed than got better. Sometimes that's leadership, sometimes that's players just having poor years. There's things that Gibby and I have talked about, and things that we would have liked to have seen done, that we really don't want to make public, in areas that we need to improve on, and we felt change was important.
A number of times during the year, you came up with pitcher's mechanics being off. Is that one of the issues that might have happened to the staff?
KT: I really don't want to get into the specifics. It was hard enough having the conversation I did with Charlie yesterday - he was a great guy, a great team-mate. I shared with him the areas where I was not pleased with what went on with the staff. Philosophically, we probably weren't exactly on the same page, and there's areas we'd like to see change with our pitching staff. Maybe a different voice, a different way of doing things. Gibby and I kinda know what those qualities are, and as we assemble the list, they're hopefully going to be qualities in those individuals that we interview, and that share our vision.
After the season, you said that pitchers in San Diego were not afraid to pitch inside, and that you didn't see that as much. Is that an area the new coach needs to stress?
KT: I think it's pretty common with most ball-clubs. Yes, we could probably have been better at it, but I imagine in most organizations, you have to pitch in, you have to own the inside part of the plate. It's part of the game. If you don't, hitters are going to be able to lean out, get more comfortable out there. You can coach it, you can tell it, you can teach, but a lot of it falls on the product too, the pitchers are going to have to be able to execute it, and want to do it. To me, it's not necessarily the pitching coach, it's getting out pitching staff to believe it's an important part of the game, and to be able to execute it.
Will the coaches be invited back in the same roles they were in this year?
KT: That's to be determined. There's a chance that, some of our staff members, clubs may ask permission to talk to, and rather than block guys in right now at their current roles, we've just told them they've been asked to be back. There could be some slight adjustments to particular roles with them. It's ongoing: find out what happens with the rest of our staff, as well as what people are out there, the people we plan on interviewing, what their qualities are.
How hard was it to make these decisions, given your relationships with both Charlie and Steve?
Kirk Gibson: It's always hard to do that. Those guys understand, and you're as honest with them as you can be. They're disappointed, obviously. For me, personally, I feel I let them down in a way as well. Both guys busted their tails, prepared as best they could. As KT has covered, we wanted to go in a little bit of a different direction in those two areas. I've had two different base-running coaches over the last two years, and it's an area I excelled at as a player, it's an area maybe that I haven't done as good as job as I might in helping those guys, leading them the best I can. But we're going to try to do that, with whoever we hire for the position in the future. We've gotten better in some areas, not as much as we need to. We'll correct it, and try and find a way to make it the way it needs to be, for us to be successful.
Is there anything specifically you're looking for, base-runningwise?
KG: An overall philosophy, I guess. It's being being alert, and aware when things are there. To do that, it's a timing situation, because one second it's not there, the next second it is there, and it's a huge commitment, a tough deal. With our base-running this year, we started out not very good, tried to force the issue a little too much, then we got settled down, and I think we were more successful later in the year. There are just certain things that are there, indicators that allow you to take a base, and understand whether it makes sense to do it within the game, like the score. And how to run the bases well, when to advance, when not to advance, implementing some of the more advanced things. You have to have an understanding and be alert at all times, and you have to execute at that time, you can't let it slip away.
Do you have specific criteria for the new pitching coach?
KT: You certainly want someone who is well-rounded, supply leadership to the staff. I think I've made it known that sometimes the pitching staff takes on a little bit of the personality of the leadership. At clubs I've had where we've had success, they've been a tough staff, we've been a staff that we're not going to get knocked around, we go in and face clubs, start making them feel uncomfortable in at-bats for them. To me, personality is very important, it's got to be somebody that Gibby's comfortable with, somebody that can communicate with Gibby. I think that pitching coach/manager dialog in game is vital. To me, I want someone that's going to get our pitching staff to take that plate back, at least that inner half. I think that's something we've lost and specifically in our ballpark, you have to pitch in.
Someone who knows mechanics, somebody that can supply leadership, somebody not afraid to chew a little rear end when it needs to be done. Somebody that'll communicate well in-game, give their opinions on things to their manager, and when it comes to making pitching decisions, someone he can trust and rely on, someone with a good gut feel for the pitching staff, and the way he likes to do things.
Did all the coaches express interest in returning?
KT: We do anticipate that there are some coaches whom other ball-clubs may ask permission to talk to. We have not started the contract negotiations with our coaching staff - they were all on the second year of two-year deals, so their contracts are up at the end of October. Will they all be back? With contract negotiations, you never know - there might be a situation where they're not comfortable, with a role or what the contract situations is, so they might want to go elsewhere. That's why it's being worded more as "being asked back," than "are coming back."
Have Washington asked permission to speak to
KT: I don't think it's right for me to discuss who has asked permission and who hasn't. Those clubs that have asked, if they want to make it public knowledge, that's fine. But most clubs that I've talked to in the past, they really don't want that out there in public, so I'm not going to talk about that.