Mark Cootse spent much of his first spring training as a big-league manager fielding just about everything he lost.
Cotse hired Bob Melvin on December 20 to replace the Oakland A’s 19th manager, certainly feeling that his team would be dramatically different from his predecessor. There was speculation about a looming roster reset at the behest of owner John Fischer, designed to rid the team of big salaries, while a stadium in Oakland or elsewhere waited for the deal.
Sure enough, executive vice president Billy Bean and general manager David Forst carried out Fisher’s wishes. Payroll was slashed to about $33 million – a figure that 11 current major league players (not teams) are due to meet or exceed in terms of 2022 salaries.
Yet when Coates steps into the dugout on Friday, when the A opens the 2022 season on the road against the Philadelphia Phillies at 12:05 p.m., no negativity will be allowed.
“I think you prepare for a season with the mindset that there will be no change,” Kotse told reporters in Arizona. “And once change happens, you do your best to manage it and understand where it will lead you, and in the end, you’re better off for it.”
The message from the first day of a brief spring training following the end of the 99-day lockdown imposed by Swami is about opportunity. The spring trades of mainstays Matt Olson (Atlanta), Matt Chapman (Toronto), Chris Bassit (New York Mets) and Sean Manea (San Diego) mean there are some jobs up for grabs.
The same goes for the pitfalls of free agency like Mark Canha and Starling Marte (both Mets).
“I think everyone in that locker room knows they have the opportunity in front of them,” Kotse said. “I don’t think there is a need to raise that group. We focus on our preparation for the season. It happens in this sport.”
Opportunity knocks for Kotse too. Becoming manager for the first time at age 46, he will be seen as a miracle worker if he can replace the manager venerated as Melvin and somehow create a competitive team with many new faces and little big league experience. can do.
Chad Pinder was a rookie in 2016 when Melvin hired Kotse as coach. He believes his first-year captain is up to it.
“I’ve said for a long time, Coates is a manager,” Pinder said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to play for him in his first year and just get out there and fight for him.”
Kotse has focused on establishing an identity early in the season, but highlights other nuances in addition to an emphasis on alert base-running and maintaining some semblance of power even without Olsson and Chapman on the corners.
The goal is to take a perceived negative – the detriment of established players – and treat it as a positive. Kotse will insist on what he calls “patience”, and will not accept excuses.
“We’ve gone through a lot with change in a very short time, and change is very hard,” Kotse said. “Not everyone accepts change. There’s a lot of fear behind it. We’ve got the mindset that when things start happening, we’re going to have the next man-up mentality.
“I think this group has made an identity out there that it doesn’t matter who’s here. We’re here together and we’re going to compete to win.”
Melvin, for one, thinks Kotse is over it. Kotse was on Melvin’s staff for six years and offered continuity and familiarity when his boss left Oakland to manage the San Diego Padres.
Five assistant coaches were retained and three new coaches were hired, including bench coach and former major league manager Brad Osmus.
“I love that Mark Cootse has to manage here as he sets out to do it as well as he has a history with the organization and a history with me, so in that regard, I’m really happy,” said Melvin. Said on A. Cast ahead of Sunday’s spring training game between his current and former teams.
When Kotse came to Melvin under A, A won 69 games. He won 75 in 2017, then came back-to-back seasons of 97 wins as young talent including Olsen and Chapman.
Eric Byrnes, former A’s teammate, sees Kotse as an ideal replacement for Melvin.
“He has inherited a team that has been chosen to finish last and has no hope, but I also think it’s not a terrible way for him to break up,” Bayerns said in a phone call. Because there is no pressure on him to win a hundred games.” Interview. “He will be able to go out and teach the game and develop a lot of players that he will bring in. I can’t think of a better man to lead A’s next stage.”
Although Kotse, believed to be Melvin’s possible successor, did not believe anything.
“He came into the interview as if he never knew us,” Billy Bean, executive vice president of A, said on the day Kotse was hired. “I don’t think he assumed he knew us and that he’s been here that long.”
For 11 seasons with the A, Melvin was calm in the midst of the storm, fostering personal relationships with players as well as clarifying their respective roles behind the scenes. He rarely lost his temper in public, and it seemed like there was always a solution without pretending to have all the answers.
Kotse’s dugout and clubhouse persona would take shape as he went, and when he saw Melvin up close, he would forge his own path.
“You don’t understand the magnitude of a situation until you get into it,” Kotse said. “Bommel handled the situation with ease about it. Experience helps, but the way he prepared for the Games helped me in my preparation and I thanked him for that.
Kotse played 17 major league seasons for seven teams, hitting a career-best .314 for the A’s in 2004, playing with enthusiasm and lead. His two-run in-the-park home season against Minnesota in the American League Division Series was one of the key moments of the season.
Bayerns, who played with Kotse in left field for two seasons, said of his former teammate, “His overall experience for the game was as good as any player I’ve ever been in. You can tell, it was something he wanted to do. He was going to be really good at it. ,
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Kotse earned more than $50 million in his playing career—which suggests center fielder Ramon Lauriano is serious about his manager.
“The love and passion he has for the game is 100 percent what he has for it,” Lauriano said. “He has no reason to be here, you know? He made so much money in the game. But how much does he love it.”
As a youngster with an A, Byrnes reached the infield at full speed for a rifling throw. A change at Kotse’s insistence resulted in a dramatic improvement and a career-best 11 outfield assists in 2004.
“He pulls me aside and says, ‘Look man, if you just take off a little and put a little bit of arc in that, you’re going to throw out so many people on the third and home because you’re giving them Opportunity to make drama as opposed to short-hop or something,'” Byrnes said. “That year I had more assists than ever. Those are the things he brings to the table. ,
Kotse has dealt with most situations his players will deal with and is still just nine years away from a playing career that ended in 2013.
“Many times I have spoken to him about my role and being a man who has been off the bench,” Pinder said. “He has played in many aspects of the game. He has been on both sides of the game. But one thing that has always been consistent is his energy and what he brings to the field every day.”
Chances are Kotse will be less subtle than Melvin if he doesn’t get what he wants in terms of mental and physical commitment. Kotse’s father was a 25-year-old police officer, and he once told the San Diego Union-Tribune “The law was followed in my house, and if it wasn’t, it was disciplinary action.”
In his first installment of “The Mark Coates Show” he told host Chris Townsend:
“There’s going to be some tough love. This group, they’re grinding in there, and that’s what I’ve always asked. Just go out there, make an effort. We’re not going to be embarrassed. We want to play the right way. If we If we beat, we beat.”
Staff writer Alex Simon contributed to this story.