Principled Price lands new job shortly after quitting as Diamondbacks pitching coach
Posted: 05/15/2009 12:53:39 PM PDT
PHOENIX - Bryan Price suffered a broken collarbone on a mountain bike ride with Bob Melvin a few years ago and joked they would never ride again. Yet there they were Monday, navigating the rocky terrain near their Cave Creek homes.
Their bond was never so great as nine days ago, when Price - a standout at Tam High in the late 1970s - quit as the pitching coach of the Arizona Diamondbacks after good friend Melvin was fired and colleagues on the coaching staff, most notably Kirk Gibson and Chip Hale, were passed over as manager in favor of A.J. Hinch.
Principled Price walked away from a six-figure contract that was among the best in the majors, saying simply, "It had to be done."
"There is an unbelievably strong connection to Bob and a loyalty to Bob. I feel his termination was unfair and uncalled for. They fire one of my friends, who I believe in firmly, and they replace him with somebody with no experience," Price said.
"To me it was a slap in the face not only to Bob but to Chip and to Gibby and to anybody who has actually managed or coached in the past. I thought it bypassed people who were more prepared to finish out the year."
Price, Baseball America magazine's major league assistant of the year in 2007 and one of most well-respected men in the game, was not out of work long.
World Series-champion Philadelphia hired him as a special assistant earlier this week, where he will evaluate the pitchers in the system and also scout pro and amateur pitchers for possible trades or as June draft candidates.
"Bryan Price - you don't find a friend or a colleague like that, ever, really. The pitching staff since he has been here has overachieved every single year. That's due to his talent and his hard work," said Melvin, who hired Price from Seattle in 2006.
The D'backs, 12-17 when Melvin was let go, lost five of their first six games under Hinch, who was elevated from being the player personnel director. Hinch has no previous managing or coaching experience at any level.
"The hiring of A.J., I thought, was a poor decision. A.J. has worked hard to get his credibility in the business in that (player development) side of the game, but he doesn't have any credibility between the lines as a manager. That, for me, just wasn't going to work," Price said.
"I didn't feel I was going to have his back as well as whoever they chose to replace me with. There was no way I could stay. It was really hard to leave the pitchers. They are a phenomenal group and very talented group. Great catchers. A really close-knit group of guys. It hurts to know that I left them hanging.
"In the same respect, I chose to support the manager."
Melvin, like Price a former college player at Cal, was the NL manager of the year in 2007, when the D'backs led the league with 90 victories and reached the NLCS despite scoring 20 fewer runs than their opponents, a first in modern major league history.
Arizona's front office traded for a rental outfielder in Adam Dunn (who had an expiring contract) for seven weeks last season but other than that have done little to improve an offense that entered Friday's games last in the majors in batting average (.232) and hitting with runners in scoring position (.192), 21 percentage points behind No. 29 San Diego.
"We didn't have a middle of the lineup," Price said. "If you played L.A., St. Louis, whoever it was, their 3-4-5 guys were guys that typically did some fairly significant damage. That probably wasn't our strength.
"So we were back to having to win the 3-2 game all the time, and we probably weren't built for that. Everyone is going to reference 2007, and 2007 was a special year, but it was also a year that hadn't happened since 1900.
"It can't be that this is how we are going to play and this is how we are going to win - we are going to be constantly outscored but we are still going to lead the league in wins. That was an anomaly that happened, and that was great, and we were all tickled to death to be a part of that club. In the same respect, it was also a team that was crying for probably a couple of other holes to be filled that haven't been."
Such a limited offense creates an extra amount of stress on both sides of the ball, Price believes.
"It sucks the life out of you," Price said.
"It's a constant mental grind to scratch out runs, and for the pitchers to try to hold on and minimize the damage with a very small margin of error. One-hundred-sixty-two games is hard enough to play when you play well. It's even harder when the ones that you win are so hard-fought.
"It's a draining process to have to be that locked in for nine innings every day in the games that you have a chance to win."