Sports Opinion & Analysis

Indians Post Craigslist Ad Asking for Help Posting Craigslist Ad for Pitching Coach

In MLB on February 26, 2013 at 3:14 pm

By Jeff Gibson

Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson has made a career out of going with the flow. The flow of pitching coaches Cleveland hires and fires like they’re on reality television. Masterson has had a new pitching coach every year of his big league career, except one — astonishingly, it was his best season. He’s the Alex Smith of Major League Baseball. An underperforming talent that just needs the right coaching staff. Ahem, a coaching staff that lasts more than one season. But with the Cleveland Indians hiring manager Terry Francona this offseason, Masterson might be wishing he too was on the trading block just like the soon-to-be-prospected 49ers $8 million #1b quarterback. Although he’s too cool for that.


See, while Smith may have had a new coach and a new system practically every year he’s been in the NFL, he’s never had to deal with the turnstile of Niner coaches actually spinning back around and hitting him in da mouf for round 2.

That would be the left hook from Francona. Check it out: he’s got a history with Masterson. In May of 2008, Francona, then skipper for the Boston Red Sox, called up Masterson to serve as a replacement starter for an injury-plagued Boston rotation. Masterson went six solid innings of one-run ball for the Sox, impressive against an Angels squad that went on to win the AL West, and a noteworthy first big league stint with the club. But he was sent down to the minors two months later by Francona, to be transitioned into a relief pitcher. Francona thought his starting rotation of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, and Tim Wakefield could duplicate their collectively fluke 2008 championship season. That experiment failed. As it did again in the 2009 edition, where the Sox were swept by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs — too bad they’d traded Masterson to the Cleveland Indians three months prior.

Hey Buddy! Hey Guy!

Francona overlooked/misunderstood what he had in the young slinger from Indiana back then and I don’t think it’s too far out in left field to assume Francona, with his second stint with Masterson, still doesn’t know what he’s got.

It’s a shame, really. After being shipped from the Red Sox to the lndians, Masterson has been one of the only solid consistencies for Cleveland. The 6’6” 250-lb sinkerballer has been the Tribe’s ace for the past two seasons, albeit after suffering a setback in 2012.

But let’s look deeper. Masterson has had a different pitching coach every season he’s been in Cleveland. In 2009, it was Carl Willis, who’s three Cy Youngers in CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Felix Hernandez are more treasures that fell in his lap than young arms he’s groomed into big league talent. In 2010, Masterson worked under the guidance of first time pitching coach Tim Belcher. Masterson went 6-13. In the following year, Belcher coached Masterson to his best season to date (3.21 ERA,12-10), only to resign at the end of the season. In 2012 Scott Radinsky was promoted from bullpen to pitching coach for the Indians. Radinsky’s coaching helped Masterson to his worst ERA of his career (4.93) and the most losses he’s suffered (15). Radinsky also helped turn a near twenty-game winner in Ubaldo Jimenez into a 5+ ERA, 17-loss starter.

Something about rocking a mullet just screams pitching coach.

Luckily for the Indians’ starters, Radinsky is gone and this season the entire Indians coaching staff has been overhauled. Their new pitching coach is Mickey Callaway, after a brief offseason interim stint by Ruben Niebla. Callaway is the best pitching coach the team has had in years, and the guy hasn’t ever coached in the big leagues. I don’t know how Masterson has been able to keep a level head the last three years. He’s a testament to the argument that there’s still class left in baseball. He’s more Alex Smith than even Alex Smith is. Although I hope he’ll get a shot one day at proving his ability, because his ceiling as a starting pitcher is ten times what Smith’s is at the quarterback position. He just needs consistency in coaching.

The secret to being a pitching coach you ask? Well, you tell the pitchers things and those things help to make them better pitchers.

Just look at the Oakland Athletics, and what pitching coach Curt Young has done for the organization’s young arms over the past decade and a half. Bary Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson round 1. Dan Haren and Rich Harden round 2. Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez round 3. Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and Brett Anderson round 4. Will the list keep going? Curt Young and other great pitching coaches appear to be producing successful young starters out of thin air.

But it’s not thin air. Organizations like the Indians just think that it is. When the fact of the matter is they are investing in young arms without the most important piece in that equation: a veteran pitching coach who has proven he can coach young arms.

The Indians have the offense to compete in the AL central. And they have at least two All-Star arms to guide them if they’re coached properly. But they won’t be. And it’s going to be another long season for Cleveland fans. Unless Mickey Callaway learned a thing or two during his time in South Korea.


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