With the dismissal of first-base coach Dave Clark and the announced move of third-base coach Dave Trembley to bench coach, the Astros have a couple of important coaching positions left to fill. I’m not sure how actively the Astros are working to plug those holes, but I do have a few suggestions.
In addition, Bo Porter has made it known that he intends on bringing in a coach to help the young middle infielders with their defense. That particular job may be the most important of the lot. And the man who could be the best fit for that role is already in the Astros organization. Adam Everett was hired by his former team in January and spent 2013 working as a roving infield instructor.
Everett was one of the best fielding shortstops to play the game during the decade of the 2000’s. He ranked in the top four in the National League in defensive WAR for four straight seasons, (2003 – 2006) and should have won multiple Gold Glove Awards during his prime. If Everett can coach only half as good as he played, then he would have to be graded as nothing short of outstanding.
As a player Everett possessed that all-important intangible that made him an elite fielder. Some call it baseball instincts. I prefer to call it a high baseball IQ. Whatever terminology you prefer to use, neither Jose Altuve nor Jonathan Villar has it. So, here’s the 64 million dollar question. Can the Astros current double-play combination learn how to play smart?
Can baseball IQ, or instincts, actually be taught? Both Altuve and Villar are still young, but is it already too late for them to improve in this area? Some would argue that instincts are nurtured long before a player makes it to the big leagues. That may be true to a certain extent, but I’m still clinging to the hope that the Astros young middle infielders are capable of improving upon their baseball IQ. With an Astros roster void of veteran infielders, bringing in the right coach to help cultivate that quality is extremely important. Everett seems like the logical choice, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t throw a few other options out there.
The player with the highest baseball IQ that I have ever seen is Roberto Alomar. When Alomar arrived in San Diego in 1988, as a 20-year old, every aspect of his game was as fine tuned as that of a crafty veteran. Robbie went on to have a Hall of Fame career before disappearing into the great white north of Canada. I wonder if he would consider starting a new career as a coach.
Whenever the Astros have a position to fill, either on the field or in the front office, individuals that worked with Jeff Luhnow in the St. Louis Cardinals organization are always at the top of the list. Jose Oquendo has been the third-base coach in St. Louis for the last 14 seasons. A middle infielder by trade, and a good one, Oquendo posted a stellar .983 fielding percentage in 12 big league seasons with the Mets and Cards. A double-threat as both a third-base coach and an infield instructor, Oquendo might be the perfect candidate for the Astros.
The Philadelphia Phillies coaching staff is in a state of transition and long time base coach Juan Samuel may or may not be a part of new manager Ryne Sandberg‘s team. Samuel is a former colleague of bench coach Dave Trembley, working as the Orioles third-base coach while Trembley was the manager in Baltimore. Samuel actually took the reigns on an interim basis when Trembley was fired. Along with his brief managerial stint, Samuel has experience coaching both first and third-base. Having spent most of his 16 MLB seasons as a second baseman, Samuel could be a possibility to fill one or more of the vacant spots on the Astros coaching staff.
Another in-house possibility that would undoubtedly be a popular move with the fans is Craig Biggio. Currently working as a special assistant to the general manager, a post he has held since 2008, Biggio’s duties include the instruction of minor league players. He has also had a great deal of success as a head coach at the high school level. Now that both of his sons have moved on to play college ball at Notre Dame, Biggio might be willing to increase his workload and take on a job that would require him to put the uniform on again. Will we see that familiar number 7 back in Minute Maid Park this season? Stranger things have happened.