How will the hiring of Don Mattingly and Mike Maddux alter the American League landscape?
Two formerly successful teams lately fallen on hard times have made coaching changes that are a statement of their intent to recapture their mojo.
The Toronto Blue Jays have tasted the bright lights before. Indeed, the back-to-back World Series Champions in the 90s transformed into the principal rival of the Yankees for AL East dominance, a position that they have threatened to reoccupy in the 2010s.
The Texas Rangers managed to win division titles around the same era, building on their early taste of excellence when they caught the waning years of the Ryan Express, and then riding on the back of such stars as Juan González, Pudge Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and A-Rod to within spitting distance of glory. Similarly, they had another run at the brass ring in the 2010s, but the big prize eluded them.
Both teams have now fired a warning shot across the bows of the league with important coaching changes, signalling their intent to get back into the fray of Fall ball.
Toronto Blue Jays pick up Don Mattingly
Toronto Manager John Schneider may not be Bo Duke, but like his namesake, he is a good old boy. A former catcher from New Jersey, he is deeply versed in baseball strategy, particularly the pitching, and will tolerate no nonsense in the organization. He got his coaching bona fides in the Blue Jays organization as a bench coach, and now that he has the top job, he has replaced himself with a former player cut much from the same cloth.
Don Mattingly is twenty years Schneider’s senior, and having managed the LA Dodgers and Miami Marlins, will now be taking a step back to take over as bench coach in Toronto. A legendary first baseman with the Yankees, Mattingly is as knowledgable as they come about our beautiful game. He racked up 443 wins with the Marlins and prior to that spell, he was manager for the Dodgers for five years, where he picked up three division titles.
Having served as bench coach under Joe Torre in New York, Mattingly brings a wealth of experience to the position, something for which Schneider is rightfully grateful.
“It was great getting to know Don throughout this process and we are very excited about the experience he brings with him, from the variety of roles he has had over the years,” says Schneider. “The organization and I are looking forward to his impact on the players and staff, as we look ahead to an exciting 2023 season.”
Texas Rangers bring Mike Maddux back into the fold
When the Rangers signed Bruce Bochy as their head coach last month, one of his first statements to the press made clear that the focus in Arlington would be pitching. This free agency period has seen them chase big arms like Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom, landing Jake Odorizzi and Martin Perez already. Now that intent has been made firm with the hiring of Mike Maddux as pitching coach.
In Maddux, the Rangers have a prodigal son returning to the fold. He served with Texas under Ron Washington where they picked up back-to-back pennants, before moving to the Nationals where he coached Max Scherzer to two Cy Young Awards.
“Mike has a tremendous track record of being a successful pitching coach in the Major Leagues,” says Texas General Manager Chris Young. “He’s obviously been the most successful coach in Rangers history in my opinion, and I think that all of his attributes and skills are going to serve us extremely well.”
With the staff now in place, the free agency market could really begin to heat up, and some of the big arms on offer, specifically Carlos Rodon, may choose to come join a Rangers bullpen that promises great things. And while the Rangers have expressed interest in many players, including Aaron Judge, the attraction of a coaching duo like Maddux and Bochy could be enough to bring their dark horse status into the light.