Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#381 Ray Miller

Card thoughts: I liked this card as kid—Miller’s five o’clock shadow and working class demeanor reminded me of my dad. This would be Miller’s only manager card as a Twin. He would not last out the 1986 season.

The player/manager: Miller pitched 10 years in the minors, with the Indians and Orioles organizations, without ever making it to the majors. His best season was at Reno in 1968, when he went 16-8.

Miller was player coach at Rochester in 1973, his last as a player. He would remain in that role before being offered the pitching job for the Rangers for the 1978 season.  But #21 George Bamberger, the incumbent Orioles pitching coach, was hired unexpectedly as the Brewers manager that season, so Miller was allowed to accept the newly vacant Orioles job. Like George Bamberger before him, Miller was credited with keeping the Orioles pitching staff consistently strong, allowing the team to almost always be in contention in the late 70s and early 80s.

By 1985, Miller was considered the best pitching coach in the game. His philosophy was simple: "Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds" (with the greatest emphasis on changing speeds). He got a chance to manage the Twins after Billy Gardner went 27-35 early in the year. Although the team went 50-50 the rest of the season under Miller, the team was in a transition period, with terrible pitching. Even Miller’s presence couldn’t add depth behind Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola, and he was fired on September 12, 1986.

He returned as a pitching coach for the Pirates (1987-1996) and the Orioles again (1997) before getting another chance to manage after Oriole manager Davey Johnson resigned. Once again, Miller proved to be a better pitching coach that manager, as the team went 10 games below .500 when he was managing. A final stint as the Oriole pitching coach (2004-2005) ended when he had an aneurysm in 2005.

Rear guard: The glaring omission here is Dave Meier, who played 71 games with the Twins as a reserve outfielder. He played less games with the Twins in 1984, yet was assigned card #356 in the 1985 set.

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