Angels tab Baylor as new hitting coach
Former All-Star returns to Halos after playing six seasons with organization
The Angels have reached into their past to fill one of their coaching vacancies, plucking former All-Star Don Baylor from the D-backs and bringing him on as their new hitting coach.
Baylor, who won the American League Most Valuable Player Award with the Angels in 1979, spent the last three years as a hitting coach with Arizona and has nine years of experience as a Major League manager, serving as the Rockies' skipper from 1993-98 and the Cubs' from 2000-02.
Baylor, 64, replaces Jim Eppard, who was dismissed along with bench coach Rob Picciolo on Oct. 8. Baylor is the club's third hitting coach in the last 17 months, dating to Mickey Hatcher's dismissal on May 15, 2012.
"Experience, presence and his ability to communicate" are the traits Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto believes make Baylor a good fit. "He's probably one of the most renowned in a generation as a player, and that resonated equally as a manager and a hitting coach. He's had a number of different teams he's worked with through the years, and the one constant is his offense has produced, and we've seen his ability to help players take that next step."
The D-backs announced last week that Baylor would return to his role as hitting coach, while dismissing pitching coach Charles Nagy and first-base coach Steve Sax. Baylor, however, opted to leave, marking the Angels' first move as they look to round out manager Mike Scioscia's coaching staff for 2014.
The organization is still searching for a new third-base coach and an additional coach, perhaps an assistant hitting coach for Baylor.
Dipoto played for Baylor -- nicknamed "Groove" -- in Colorado from 1997-98 and had Baylor on his staff while serving as an executive with Arizona in 2011. Asked what he likes most about the way Baylor teaches hitting, Dipoto said: "That it's easy for players to understand. Don doesn't have to say a lot of words to get a message across. He's very clear, does not muddle things. It's very black-and-white with 'Groove.'"
Baylor will be entering his 22nd season in either a managing or coaching capacity. He was a hitting coach with the Brewers (1990-91) and Cardinals ('92) before becoming the Rockies' first skipper and winning the National League Manager of the Year Award in '95, having already led the franchise to its first playoff berth as the NL Wild Card winner.
After a six-year run in Colorado, Baylor was a hitting coach for the Braves in 1999, became the Cubs' skipper from 2000-02, served as the Mets' bench coach for the next couple of seasons and then had additional hitting-coach stints with the Mariners ('05), Rockies ('09-10) and D-backs ('11-13).
Baylor compiled a 627-689 record as a manager and led 11 All-Stars, including an NL MVP in Chipper Jones, during his 10 seasons as hitting coach. In six of those years, his teams finished among the top 10 in the Majors in runs scored.
"When the Angels called to ask for permission, I told them how much we value Don as a coach," D-backs GM Kevin Towers said. "But we also understood that this was an organization where he had some of the best years and memories from his career. I felt the right thing to do was to ask 'Groove' if he had an interest in talking to them, with the understanding that he was still welcome back with us."
Baylor, a member of the Angels Hall of Fame, was an All-Star, an MVP and a three-time Silver Slugger Award winner during a 19-year career as an outfielder and designated hitter spanning from 1970-88. He posted a .260 batting average, 338 homers, 1,276 RBIs and 285 stolen bases while appearing in three World Series and winning one, in 1987.
Baylor suited up for the Orioles (1970-75), A's ('76 and '88), Yankees ('83-85), Red Sox ('86-87) and Twins ('87), but it was his six-year tenure in Anaheim that was the most decorated of his career. He joined the Angels as a free agent in November 1976 and posted a .262 average, .337 on-base percentage and .448 slugging percentage, collecting 141 homers and 523 RBIs while leading the franchise to its first two playoff appearances in 1979 and '82.
During his MVP season in '79, Baylor made his only All-Star team and hit .296 with 36 homers and 139 RBIs while appearing in all 162 games.
Baylor and his wife, Becky, reside in La Quinta, Calif., and since 1978, he's helped raise more than $5 million for Cystic Fibrosis while hosting an annual celebrity golf tournament in Southern California.
"There's a certain identification that goes with the Angels and Don Baylor," Dipoto said. "And when you think of Don Baylor, the first place you think of is the Angels. I don't think that's lost on Don. I know it means a lot to him to return."