Since their season ended, one of the questions for the Red Sox to answer while they wait for the offseason to really get going was to decide what they coaching staff would look like in 2020. It’s been made abundantly clear that Alex Cora’s job is safe even with a new general manager (or President of Baseball Operations or whatever title they hire) coming in at some point, but it seemed like anyone else could be let go. Assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett was let go in a surprising move last week, and on Tuesday more changes were announced. Most notably: Dana LeVangie is no longer the team’s pitching coach.
Now, this is not the same as saying he was fired, as LeVangie will remain with the organization. He is being reassigned to the pro scouting department. This actually makes me feel a little better because LeVangie has been a fixture in the organization literally my entire life. He joined the Red Sox after being drafted in 1991 — the year I was born — and has been with the team under many roles since. He had just finished his second season as the team’s pitching coach.
Although it’s nice to see him staying with the organization, I don’t think many people will be too surprised by this turn of events, either. Everyone knows pitching was this team’s fatal flaw, and right or wrong someone has to take the fall. It’s a lot easier to fire (or reassign) a pitching coach than trade David Price and Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi, ya know? That’s not to say it’s not the right move, either. I don’t think any of us have as good a read on the internal workings of this pitching staff to know how much of the blame goes on LeVangie, but he’s certainly not blameless in this situation. We’ll have more on the search for a new pitching coach in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Brian Bannister was also reassigned. After serving last year as the assistant pitching coach as well as the vice president of pitching development, he will only perform the duties of the latter role in 2020. Again, I couldn’t begin to tell you whether or not Bannister failed in his duties as assistant pitching coach last year and will not pretend otherwise.
That said, I’m happy he is also staying with the organization in a role that will focus on the development of minor-league pitchers. Bannister serves a very key role in modern baseball that will only become more important as time goes on. In essence, he is the liaison between the front office and the players. He helps identify and track trends on the analytic side of things and communicate them properly to the players. The Astros are known as perhaps the smartest team in baseball, and that may well be the case. Listening to the players who have gone there and thrived, though, it’s clear the big key is the way they are able to convey information to their players. Bannister was known as a rising star as recently as last winter, and I certainly wouldn’t want to move on from him because some key veterans underperformed and struggled to stay healthy for one season.