The Brooklyn Cyclones announced their 2011 coaching staff with the headline “Sweet Music on Coney Island,” on Monday.
The headline of course refers to new manager Rich Donnelly new pitching coach Frank Viola, who will begin his coaching career with the Cyclones.
Viola the pitcher, holds a special place in my consciousness. I’m too young to remember 1986, but I’m not too young to remember Sweet Music. The hometown boy coming home to save the Mets? What could be better?
First, I learned about how players age and a little bit of the business of baseball from Viola. His acquisition (for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani and David West) helped introduce me to the business of baseball where you could trade a truckload of players and prospects for one legitimately good one. It looked like a great deal for a year, when Viola was a stud in 1990: when he was 20-12, 2.67 ERA, 141 ERA+. Then a year later, Tapani and Aguilera helped lead the Twins to the 1991 World Series. (Despite the fact that I think I had like 12 David West Topps Rookie cards, he merely turned into a middling reliever.) The thing with Viola? He had a great first half in 1991 and then sucked it up in the second half going 3-10 with a 5.53 ERA and 61 strikeouts and 21 walks in 99.1 innings to finish up 13-15, with a 3.97 ERA, with an ERA+ of 92, his worst season since 1983. He chose Boston as a free agent, and pitched capably for the Red Sox for the next three years.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Viola’s nickname helped introduced me to the double-entendre. I’m grateful for both.
Since his retirement, Viola has taught high school and worked for NESN as an analyst. He’s never coached professionals. He’ll clearly be doing a lot of on the job learning this summer.
Viola is 21 years older than the Cyclones’ new hitting coach, Bobby Malek. Malek made it up to AAA with the Mets in 2006 hitting .179/.220/.214 before he was released. Malek played 28 games for AA Jacksonville in 2008, then a Dodgers’ affiliate, before retiring in May to begin coaching for the Mets in the GCL. He spent two years coaching for Kingsport, in the Appalachian League.
While Viola and Malek have a combined two and a half years as professional coaches between them, new skipper Rich Donnelly has 26 years in the big leaugues in a coaching career that began in 1972. He was a member of Jim Leyland’s staff for 14 years, and won a World Series with the magical Marlins of 1997. He’s been a roving instructor for the Pirates for the last three years.