The Orlando Calrissians have made a major shakeup to their coaching staff, and may be on the verge of an even bigger one. The team fired pitching coach Tyler Thornton and hired Hall of Famer John Smoltz to replace him. And according to team sources, manager Logan “Lobot” Bothan has been put on notice that if the team’s level of play doesn’t improve soon, he too may find himself on the unemployment line.
The Calrissians have been a major disappointment this season, posting a 10-21 record and remaining firmly in the Eastern Division basement for virtually the entire season. While the team has been weak on both sides of the ball, the front office chose to address the pitching performance first. Under Thornton, Orlando has posted a team ERA of 6.08, which is sixth in the league. Three-fifths of the team’s original starting rotation has either been demoted to the minors or exiled to the bullpen.
When asked for the reason behind the change, Calrissians owner Brian Aufmuth was blunt. “At this point, our pitchers couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet away,” said Aufmuth. “Their mechanics suck and they clearly lack confidence.”
Aufmuth made it clear that he hopes Thornton’s firing will send a message to the rest of the team. “It was time for a change,” said the owner, “and to show the whole team they better start playing like they are being paid.”
Smoltz is a pitching legend, having won over 200 games in the major leagues while compiling a 3.33 career ERA over 22 seasons. He excelled as both a starter and reliever, collecting over 150 career saves. It was Smoltz’s success and versatility that made him appealing to the Calrissians, despite his lack of coaching experience.
“Smoltz is a proven winner as a starter and in the bullpen,” said Aufmuth. “He is someone everyone on the pitching staff can respect and learn from.”
For his part, Smoltz is excited for the opportunity. “I’d always considered coaching as a possible career path,” said Smoltz. “To get in on the ground floor with a young organization… that’s a dream come true. We’ve got a young staff with a lot of potential. I see great things in their future.”
Some observers wondered why hitting coach Bobby Brunson was not let go, as the Calrissians offense has arguably been worse than the pitching. The team’s .235 batting average is worst in the league, and their .363 slugging percentage is ahead of only the Salt Lake Samurai. The scuttlebutt around the clubhouse is that Aufmuth has another big name in mind for that position: all-time hits leader and former manager Pete Rose. However, the league office is reportedly hesitant to allow the Calrissians to hire Rose, given his lifetime ban from Major League Baseball.
The team’s poor overall performance has severely dented Aufmuth’s confidence in Bothan. According to team sources, the manager has been stripped of his say in personnel decisions, and is reportedly on “a very short leash” to demonstrate improvement before his continued employment is in jeopardy.
Aufmuth declined to state how long Bothan would be given to turn things around. “I’ve told him I’ve altered our deal,” said Aufmuth, “and he should pray I don’t alter it any further.”