Friday, March 02, 2007
These days Williams is running the Phillies spring training and will be contributing, along with First Base coach Davey Lopes, to the Phillies development this season behind Charlie Manuel. I wonder how Manuel feels about having two former coaches sit on his bench with him (and very nearly three, had Art Howe stayed with the team), ready to step into his shoes should the Phillies falter. I noted the other day that Lopes, in addition to being a speedy player years ago, was also a head coach with the Brewers, an ill-fated prospect if there ever was one. Williams actually has a more extensive record of coaching, having led the Toronto Blue Jays from 1986 – 1989 (before being let go in the ’89 season to allow Manager Cito Gaston to take the team to the playoffs), the Boston Red Sox from 1997 – 2001 (before, again, being replaced, this time by Joe Kerrigan in 2001), and finally with the Houston Astros from 2002 – 2004. Gillick worked with the Blue Jays during the late 1980's, so Gillick know what Williams can do as a manager.
At every job Williams had a winning record:
Toronto: 414-352 (.540)
Boston: 215-197 (.522)
Houston: 281-241 (.538)
Career: 910-790 (.535)
I hope that Williams, along with his associations with the Braves will bring a culture of success to the Phillies bench and replace some of the cloud of pessimism that permeates the Phillies … along I would note that it has been a long, long time – dare I say since 1993 – that the Phillies have been this confident, this at ease with themselves, and have been this optimistic about their future.
The focus on fundamentals might clear up something that was an issue last season with the Phillies as well. As I’ve noted … well, ad naseum … the Phillies led the major leagues in Plus / Minus rating for Fielding, coming in at +108, meaning they were 108 plays better than the average, which was tops in the majors. Last season they slipped to -33, a swing of 141 plays, or nearly one per game. The shift was massive and had to have been a massive drain on the Phillies post-season chances. If they had played defense to the level that they played at in 2005, they almost certainly would have made the playoffs. I’m not sure if the drop-off was natural, a product of guys playing over their heads in 2005 and coming to earth in 2006, or if it was a product of guys playing sloppily in 2006 … maybe both … but Williams focus on having the Phillies relearn and practice techniques for fielding grounders and the like will be a big, big benefit. Certainly, it should prevent the Phillies from going -33 in Plus / Minus again.
Check out WPEN Sportstalk 950 tonight at 11:00. They are broadcasting about local pod casts on the internet and featured will be a pod cast I did with Philly Sports Talk Now with Jim and Rich. So hopefully you’ll get to hear me on the radio. Enjoy the weekend!