By Dan Connolly
2:20 PM EDT, October 18, 2012
Orioles third base coach DeMarlo Hale is interviewing for the Boston Red Sox managerial job today. Hale, 51, has nine years of managerial experience, but none in the majors. And that might hurt his chances, especially considering the favorite is John Farrell, the current Toronto Blue Jays manager and former Red Sox pitching coach. For Farrell to get it, though, the Blue Jays would demand compensation.
No such problem with Hale. The Orioles want him to go to Boston. They’d happily pack his bags and buy his ticket to Logan Airport. That’s not a bad thing. Orioles manager Buck Showalter loves Hale; he trumpeted his hiring last offseason as one of the organization’s best moves of the year. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was in charge of the Red Sox while Hale was a minor-league manager there, and he too heralds Hale’s abilities.
Showalter and Duquette think it’s long overdue that Hale lands a big league managerial job. And though they’d prefer it not to be within the division for obvious reasons, neither man would stand in the way of Hale’s dreams.
It’s tough to gauge the importance of a third base/infield coach. Really, if you don’t notice them, then they normally are doing their jobs. Let’s just say, there’s been a lot of focus on Orioles’ third base coaches over the years; and that wasn’t the case this season with Hale.
He has tremendous instincts at third and rarely made a wrong send call. Most of the baserunning mistakes at third this year were botched by the runners who missed signs (though there was a play in Seattle in which Hale may have been a little late on his hold sign). Overall, Hale was without question the Orioles’ most efficient third base coach since Sam Perlozzo – and maybe even better than Sammy.
Hale was also in charge of the infielders, and when the infield defense started out disastrously, there were some internal criticisms about Hale, a former first baseman and outfielder, being the infield coach. But, as I’ve said for years, all a coach can do is work with the players. These guys are supposed to be professionals, and it’s up to the players to execute in the games. Hale became a much better infield coach when Manny Machado arrived and Mark Reynolds began to thrive at first base – showing again it’s mostly about personnel.
Hale put in a whole lot of work with Reynolds, who made it a point to refine his game at first base, taking countless grounders and throws before games. So Hale deserves some credit there.
My lasting image of Hale as an infield coach was on June 30, when the Orioles weren’t taking batting practice and a bunch of the players and coaches were headed to the Earl Weaver statue unveiling. But Hale stayed behind, grabbed a fungo and hit grounder after grounder to rookie Ryan Flaherty, who was starting at third that night for the first time in six weeks.
I never asked, but I’m sure Hale would have preferred to have been at the statue unveiling instead of hitting grounder No. 6 billion of his career. When you are in Baltimore and on a coaching staff, honoring someone like Weaver is a real cool part of the experience.
But Hale’s job that night was to help Flaherty. And he did. Grounder after grounder, occasionally interrupted by instruction. Flaherty, in fact, has to be considered one of Hale’s successes. He’s not the smoothest defensively, but he definitely improved as the season continued. He got to the point where he could be trusted at second base in key games.
From what I am hearing, Hale isn’t just a courtesy interview in Boston. There’s a sense that he could be the right man at the right time. He was Terry Francona’s third base and bench coach, so there’s a connection to the Red Sox glory days. But he isn’t Francona; he is his own man.
Bottom line: Hale may not get hired. And that would be a plus for the Orioles. But those who have worked with him in Baltimore hope he gets it, even if it would mean competing against him 18 times a year.
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