Over the weekend there was a tidbit of news that broke regarding Baltimore Orioles’ minor league pitching instructor Rick Peterson. The Boston Red Sox and new manager John Farrell had asked permission to interview Peterson for their vacant pitching coach position, and the Orioles granted that courtesy. Rick Peterson is a name that we heard from time to time over the course of the major league season, however for the most part he stayed in the “shadows” in Norfolk. Peterson is credited with the revitalization of the arms of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and others. In the one year Peterson was the minor league pitching coordinator, he seemed to do wonders with the Oriole pitchers that came through Norfolk.
There are a couple of different ways to look at this. For once let me start with the bottom line: the Orioles are in a catch-22. Obviously they have to be happy with Peterson’s work this season; in fact, I don’t think they would have made the playoffs if not for Peterson’s tactics. Furthermore, the fact that your coaches and instructors are being targeted for positions on other teams means that you’re doing something right! However the Orioles certainly don’t want to lose Peterson’s potential services in 2013 and onward. (I say “potential services” because Peterson isn’t under contract in 2013, and I’ll get back to that in a moment.) Furthermore, this is a division rival that’s asking to speak to Peterson; him leaving the Orioles organization for Boston would be a double-whammy given that it would hurt the O’s and help a team against whom the Orioles will play 19 times in 2013.
The fact is that the unwritten code among teams in most sports is that if another team wants to interview one of your assistants (or an “instructor” in this case), you grant them that permission. The Orioles would be viewed as being in extremely poor form if they denied Boston the to interview Peterson. I don’t know, but I suspect that the Orioles are also getting together an extension offer for Peterson right now, because as I said his contract is up after this season. Which brings me to my next point; the best way for the Orioles to ensure that Peterson wouldn’t be back would have been to deny Boston’s request. Peterson is in effect be a free agent now that the World Series is over. Would you consider re-signing someplace where they tried to block you from moving forward in your career?
As much as it could hurt the Orioles, letting Peterson interview is the right thing to do. I say that in a moral manner, as well as strategic. If Peterson doesn’t go to Boston, I suspect the Orioles will make him an offer to remain with the organization. One would hope that Peterson would recognize that the organization stuck it’s neck out on the line in letting him interview with Boston. Ultimately this is all part of having a winning organization, which is what the Orioles were in 2012. If Peterson and Peterson alone was the only reason that the Orioles were competitive, then they’ve built things the wrong way. Many franchises in different sports have maintained their standards of winning while having their coaches poached from other organizations, including the New England Patriots, and Baltimore’s own Ravens.
Here’s another point worth making; Peterson was working with younger pitchers such as Chris Tillman while with the Orioles. If he was to be offered the job in Boston and he took it, he’d be working with guys that are well established in the league, and that more importantly have fairly large egos. Would his mechanical program be able to have the same success as what we saw with the Orioles in 2012?