Don Baylor is back! I've been waiting for this for over twenty years as an Angels fan. The Groove will be the Angels' new hitting coach, and I couldn't be happier with this decision.
I've been saying for a long time that Baylor should be back with the Angels in a coaching capacity. I even went so far as to cite him as the only other viable alternative (along with Joe Maddon) had the Halos not signed Mike Scioscia to be their manager in 2000.
In fact, had Mike been let go like many thought he might (or wanted), Baylor, and perhaps now Leyland, is probably the only skipper I would've accepted to replace Scioscia.
Baylor, at the very least, probably should've been the Angels' hitting coach a long time ago. What not a better replacement for Rod Carew? I can understand Scioscia bringing in Mickey Hatcher, and his loyalty to Mick. But hands down, if it's one or the other, I have to go with Baylor, hands down, in a landslide.
As the Angels' first Most Valuable Player, in 1979, Don Baylor cemented himself in Angels' lore. And he actually went through the same thing in his first year with the club (1977) as Josh Hamilton went through in his first go-around with the Halos in 2013. Then, Baylor turned it around en route to having his best years with the California Angels; and helped lead them to their first two division titles, and American League Championship Series'. With that progression (overcoming high expectations). and coming out on top, Baylor and Hamilton will have a lot to talk about.
There are many who have already said that Baylor could be the key to a Hamilton turnaround.
Baylor was one of those hitters with a great balance between being aggressive and being patient. He had a career .260 batting average, with a career .342 on-base percentage. That's a pretty good gap that suggests good plate discipline over a 19 year span. He was more aggressive in the first half of his career, but as his age went up, so did his walk rates. Baylor was one of the best at making proper adjustments, and that is key to the whole Angels' offense.
The Angels also could still use some more of Baylor's plate discipline, despite being third in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage. Six of the ten offenses Baylor's has coached have finished in the top 10 in the Majors in runs. The Angels were sixth in the American League in runs, so perhaps Baylor is the man to help influence closing the gap between where the team ranked in BA/OBP and in runs.
The hiring of Baylor also brings up an interesting idea. Baylor was General Manager Jerry Dipoto's manager with the Rockies in 1999 and 2000 -- JeDi was Baylor's closer. So there's the history factor. But there is one more thing: perhaps a plan b in case things go south sour again between Dipoto and Scioscia.
As soon as I heard the news, I was filled with joy; but as I began to think more, I saw a pattern and connected the dots to a Mike Scioscia firing. Not that I want (or wanted) Mike to be fired. There's just a little fishiness there, where you just have to go "hmm."
Did Dipoto have Baylor in mind to replace Scioscia before? Perhaps.
Is Dipoto actually holding Baylor as possible replacement for Scioscia? Maybe.
Whatever the case, the transaction works on all fronts. Things being as they are right now, it's still probably the best coaching decision the Angels have made in a long time.
And if, for some reason, he does end up managing the Angels in the near future, I'll have no objections. Nothing against Mike. I stand by Mike Scioscia as the Angels' manager. But I can't control his business relationship with Jerry Dipoto. That's between them.
Don Baylor is just the only man I can see as worthy of being an Angels' manager, and one of the few who are truly worthy of being an Angels' coach in general.
That's unless Brian Downing comes out of his cave; or if Wally Joyner actually wants to coach or manage with the Angels; or if Tim Salmon decides the quiet life in Arizona is boring; or if they can pluck Chili Davis away from the A's, or the green.
Right now, for me, the man for the Angels, in any coaching capacity, is Don Baylor.
And I stand by that.