The Rangers are making major changes to it’s organization starting next year in the development department.
The entire coaching staff from the Ranger’s AAA club in Nashville was informed they are not coming back next season. This includes manager Jason Wood, hitting coach Howard Johnson, pitching coach Brian Shouse, bullpen coach Eric Gagne and bench coach Geno Petralli. It’s not clear yet if strength and conditioning coach Al Sandoval or trainer Carlos Olivas will be retained.
Petralli has been reassigned as a roving instructor. Johnson will not return to AAA but still may have a role in the organization.
AA Frisco Manager Joe Mikulik has been informed he will not return next year either.
Wood has been a minor league manager in the Rangers organization since 2011. He began his coaching career after playing for 3 different major league teams with a career batting average of .245. Wood is known as a players coach and a true baseball guy.
Former Rangers player Brett Nicholas took to Twitter yesterday to voice his opinion. “We know that the business of baseball will always have change but Jason Wood is one of the greatest managers out there. Tremendous communicator and even better person.” He also went on to say, “A lot of really good managers and men in the Rangers Minor Leagues. Replacement will undoubtably be a good one!”
Shouse played for 6 different major league teams and a brief stint with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the former Nippon Professional Baseball in 1998. He finished his career with a 3.72 ERA.
Johnson, known as HoJo, is probably best known for his playing days with the Mets that won the 1986 World Series. He won another World Series with the Detroit Tigers in 1984. A 2 time All Star, HoJo played for 4 different major league teams and led the National League in home runs in 1991. Known as an old school hard nosed baseball player, he has proven valuable in hitters development during the 2019 season working with Willie Calhoun and Ronald Guzman during their time in Nashville before going back to Arlington where their hitting has continued to improve. A few weeks ago while talking to HoJo in Oklahoma City he informed me that this offseason he was going to coach in Venezuela for the winter. You can read my interview with HoJo here.
Gagne, was in his first season in AAA as bullpen coach. With his signature goggle glasses, Gagne was a dominant closer for a brief period of time for the Los Angeles Dodgers. A 3 time All Star and 2007 World Series Champion, he led the NL in saves in 2003. Gagne ended his career with 187 saves and 718 strikeouts.
Petralli played for the Rangers from 1985 through 1993. He had an up and down career from the minors to the majors and was a very serviceable catcher. Injuries plagued him throughout his career. Petralli was Nolan Ryan’s catcher when he won his 300th career game. In 1991 a back injury put him on the disabled list, prompting the Rangers to call up 19 year old Ivan Rodriguez. He coached for both Round Rock and Nashville for a combined 5 seasons.
Joe Mikulik started his coaching career in 1995. He never rose above AAA baseball but had a tremendous 1991 season helping lead the Tucson Toros first Pacific Coast Championship. He was the Riders manger since 2015 and with the Rangers organization since 2014.
What does this mean for the Rangers Farm system? It looks as though the Rangers are moving more in the direction of current manager Chris Woodward and the analytics side of the game.
No one I have talked to that has knowledge of the team thinks this is about the managers and coaches themselves rather a change in the way they develop players. For most of the 2019 season the Rangers minor league teams have had the best total combined record of all farm teams. Nashville and Frisco both had losing records however. Win loss records doesn’t really have any important significance in the world of minor league baseball. Yes, of course it’s nice to win but player development is the number 1 priority.
Managers and coaches have no control over transactions and do the best they can with what they have on a daily basis. 250-300 transactions per year are common on a AAA level, depending on injuries etc. Front offices also have final say on where players play and how much. Pitch counts and at bats are monitored closely.
I want to take the time to say during my 2 weeks spent covering the Sounds this season when they came to Oklahoma City I was treated exceptionally. All the coaches took me in and gave me all the access and interviews I wanted. As a fan and blogger this meant the world to me. They didn’t have to give me the time of day, instead just the opposite. Jason Wood, HoJo and Geno Petralli spoke to me daily not just about baseball but life in general. Getting to know these men was a privilege. All 3 of them gave me their contact information to stay in touch, and of course talk about BBQ. Both visits to OKC, I treated them with my home made Compete Team BBQ as a thank you.
Petralli, “Greg, these are the best ribs I’ve ever had. Can you tell me how you make them?”
HoJo, “Best BBQ ever!”
Wood, “These ribs just fall off the bone. It has the perfect mix of sweet and heat but doesn’t overwhelm you.”
Baseball is ultimately a business. But baseball brings people together also. In many different ways. As I continue on with my baseball blogging career, I will always remember my first year of doing it and with these guys. I will for sure stay in touch with all of them and will be rooting for them in their future jobs.
Who is in the mix to become the new mangers for the Rangers AA & AAA teams? That’s not yet been determined and we can give opinions but there is a lot of time to determine that in the offseason. My opinion? They will bring in coaches that are more in line with Woodward’s coaching style and development. These moves happened the day after their seasons ended, which tells us they had a plan for this all along. Which means the Rangers Front Office knows which direction they want to go.