Amidst all of the rumors about the Dodger coaching staff, Ken Gurnick throws a brand-new name into the mix for bench coach, ex-Royals manager Trey Hillman:
Former Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman has emerged as the front-runner to be bench coach on Dodgers rookie manager Don Mattingly’s staff, according to baseball sources.
The 47-year-old Hillman, who managed the Royals from 2008 until he was replaced by Ned Yost on May 13, 2010, was seen with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and assistant general manager Kim Ng watching an Arizona Fall League game Wednesday.
Hillman’s tenure as KC manager was more or less a disaster, as he lost 87 games in 2008, 97 games in 2009, and was on pace to lose over 100 this year before being fired after 35 games. Of course, the KC rosters have hardly been overflowing with talent, so it’s hard to make that judgement alone. As Gurnick notes, Hillman managed in the Yankee minor league system for 12 years, providing a link to Mattingly, and was also a well-regarded manager in Japan prior to being hired in Kansas City.
I won’t pretend I watched anywhere near enough KC games to have an idea what kind of manager Hillman was, though he’d certainly fulfill the “managerial experience” the Dodgers are looking for with his time in the minors, majors, and Japan. But what I do know is that he was very highly thought of when he came to the Royals, and much of that luster was gone by the time he left. Let’s let quotes tell the story:
At the time of his hire in KC…
Royals Review, 10/22/07:
In the days since, we’ve had a seal of approval column from JoePo (not surprising) and lots of nice quotes from both unnamed insiders and blogosphere netizens thrown the Royals’ way. Here at Royals Review, the Hillman-is-Hired post swelled to 100+ comments, the vast majority of which were ranging from positive to giddy.
Joe Posnanski, 10/30/07:
Sunday night in Hillman’s Hangout, a whole group of Japanese people ate Texas food and watched the game on television. Waitresses wearing T-shirts with Hillman’s face on them scurried about. There wasn’t much for a Fighters fan to cheer, but when Hillman appeared on television, there was a smattering of applause. A woman at the next table asked me where I was from.
“Kansas City,” I said.
“Oh,” she said. “I am Kansas City Royals fan.”
“Really?” I asked. “Since when?” She smiled and pointed at a photograph of Hillman and said, “Since him.”
At the time of his firing in KC…
Rany on the Royals, 5/9/10:
Trey Hillman has crossed the point of no return in Kansas City.
Yesterday’s game was an exhibition of managerial malpractice almost unparalleled in the history of the franchise. Hillman could hardly have damaged the Royals’ chances to win the game more if he had tried. It is exceedingly important that every Royals fan understand the extent to which Hillman hurt both his team’s chances of winning last night, and his most well-paid pitcher’s chances of earning his generous contract for well into the future.
Gil Meche, who started complaining of a tired arm after throwing 132 pitches in a complete game last June, and who has been consistently awful since throwing 121 pitches with a dead arm last July, and who wasn’t pitching well so much as pitching lucky on this night, was allowed to throw 128 pitches – the longest outing by any major league pitcher this season – on Saturday night. He was left in to complete the 8th inning, despite a fresh bullpen, and despite the fact that he allowed the first three batters to reach base safely.
Joe Posnanski, 5/13/10:
None of the reasons why the Royals hired Hillman in the first place quite worked out. He was known for his sense of the game, but his Royals consistently played clueless baseball. He was known for his deep belief in the fundamentals — “there are no little things,” was one of his mottos — but the Royals were a terrible defensive team and a terrible baserunning team on his watch. He was known as a man who related well with players and the community, but his players often didn’t seem to get him, and his appearances in public were often just bizarre.
Of course, every manager is loved when he’s hired, and hated when he’s fired, right? All in all, I’m okay with this move if it’s true. It may not have worked out for Hillman in Kansas City, but he’s still young (47), which I like, and you’d hope that he learned a lot from his trial in KC. That, plus the experience he’s gained from his years in the minors, Japan, and the bigs… well, look, I don’t think any of us would have wanted him as the manager, but as bench coach? Yeah, I can see that working out.
Update: Unrelated but worth noting, the details of Ted Lilly‘s deal have come out. Per TrueBlueLA, it’s heavily backloaded $7.5m in 2011, $12m in 2012, $13.5m in 2013. That’s great for 2011, but that could be an enormous nightmare come 2013.
Update 2: The hits keep on coming! Keith Law checks in with some news…
Scouting director Tim Hallgren is leaving the Dodgers to join the Tigers in pro scouting. Logan White will take over Tim’s duties.
Ah, better hope even more than before that White doesn’t get that Mets GM gig, right?