Ed Orgeron is a one-of-a-kind coach in college football and MLB could use more personalities. So we’re going to do the impossible and figure this out: Who is the Coach O of baseball?
In 2019, the rest of America learned how much of a national treasure Ed Orgeron is. The college football world has known of this gravely voiced defensive line coach and recruiting phenomenon since the early 1990s. Born on the bayou, nicknamed Bebe and childhood best friends with THE Bobby Hebert, it was only a matter of time before Coach O stole all of our hearts down at LSU.
No, it was not an easy journey for Orgeron. After initially playing at LSU, he transferred to Northwestern State to reunite with Hebert. His coaching career hasn’t been smooth either. He got into some hot water down in Miami. His first stint as a head coach with Ole Miss was awful. He was also passed over at USC by Steve Sarkisian, despite a 6-2 record as the interim head coach.
Beloved by every player who ever played for him, Orgeron seemed destined to be a glorified position coach and a dynamite recruiter and nothing more. Then in 2016 he got the break of a lifetime. Orgeron was named LSU’s interim coach after Les Miles was fired mid-season. The tag was removed in 2017 and Coach O became a giant killer down on the bayou in the SEC West.
LSU has improved every season under Orgeron, going 9-4 in 2017, winning a New Year’s Six bowl in 2018 and then going 15-0 to win a national championship in 2019. Orgeron personifies perseverance, determination and mental toughness. Most importantly, he is 100 percent authentically him. His universal approval rating increases every time he utters, “Geaux Tigers!”
Overall, people like Coach O are what make college football so awesome. Everyone loves a triumphant redemption story, especially if that person isn’t exactly bona fide. Mocked for his voice and his boisterous eccentricities, it is Coach O who gets the last laugh down in Baton Rouge.
And what sport could really use an authentic personality injection more than baseball? So what we’re going to attempt to do today is answer this one simple question: Who is the Coach O of baseball?
Does this person exist? Who did this person used to be? What if baseball doesn’t have a Coach O? Is that a problem? It feels like a Gordian Knot of entanglement, but we’ll do our best. Which guy in baseball is the closest thing we have to Coach O? Let’s find out now.
David Ortiz (The Former Champion)
Without question, the former Coach O of baseball is David Ortiz. Big Papi had nearly universal praise during his Hall-of-Fame career with the Boston Red Sox. After being rejected by the Minnesota Twins early in his career, Ortiz emerged as one of the greatest hitters of his generation and the most prolific champion Boston baseball has ever seen.
Ortiz had raw power from the left side of the plate, as well as the clutch gene everybody would die for in October. Even though he had no clue how to play first base (it was the moon to him), baseball fans always got a kick out of him playing defense in a National League park. He was like Manny being Manny without all the perpetual drama that always came along with it.
Even though the Dominican native had no connection to New England prior to his arrival in the early 2000s, Big Papi was Boston. His “This is our f*****g city” speech after the Boston Marathon bombings made him even more of an icon. Ortiz will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. One could argue he was baseball’s Coach O before Coach O became the champion he is.
What eliminates Ortiz from being the current Coach O of baseball is that he’s not playing anymore. He still may be an impactful baseball analyst on TV, but he’s about to enter Charles Barkley territory if he’s not careful. Okay, maybe he’s Shaq because Ortiz is a champion and Barkley has no rings to speak of. If Ortiz was still playing, he would undoubtedly be the Coach O of baseball.
Aaron Judge (The Fresh Face)
If there is a current player who embodies the Coach O spirit, it would have to be Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees. Admittedly, it is next to impossible for a Yankee to have universal praise in baseball. You either love the Yankees or you don’t. But what Judge has going for him is a 6-foot-7 frame and a right-handed swing that makes us long for the Colossus of Clout.
No, Judge doesn’t have the larger-than-life personality to be a serious Coach O of baseball candidate, but he seems to be thriving in an environment that’s starting to feel more like home by the day. The puns on his last name and his mammoth blasts help him cut through the noise and into national baseball relevance. He is also everyone’s giant adult son and we’re so proud of him.
Judge is more likable than Bryce Harper and despite being soft-spoken, he’s thankfully not as boring as Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. In terms of overcoming adversity, he wasn’t a big-time prospect coming out of Fresno State either. Because of his size and No. 99 jersey, we weren’t sure if he was a right fielder, a tight end or a power forward, but Judge seems to have picked the right sport.
Overall, Judge taps into a lot of what makes Coach O so special. He’s overcome adversity to thrive on a big stage. He feels like a man of the people, even though he’s a Yankee. How is that possible? What hurts him from serious Coach O of baseball consideration is two-fold: His personality and a lack of championships. He could eventually have both, but he needs some more time to develop.
Brian Snitker (The Underdog)
The biggest underdog for the Coach O of baseball is Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker. No, he does not have the overly boisterous personality of Orgeron, but his climb to being the skipper in Atlanta is a remarkable one 40 years in the making. Besides having the cool nickname of Snit, his climb is why he at least deserves some consideration for this esteemed honor.
Since 1977, Snitker has been in the Braves organization, initially as a minor-league player and then as a coach. He had been an assistant coach on the big league club in three separate stints over four decades. But for the bulk of his Braves career, he had coached out of the spotlight in the minor leagues, managing clubs at seemingly all levels of their farm system.
Once Bobby Cox retired, Snitker was passed over in favor of former Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez, the man single-handedly responsible for almost completely ruining baseball for me in 2015. Snitker served on Gonzalez’s early Braves staffs before taking over the AAA club in nearby Gwinnett. But once Atlanta had enough of Gonzalez’s abysmal managing, Snit finally got his shot.
Snitker replaced Gonzalez in early 2016. He has been the full-time skipper since 2017. Atlanta has won back-to-back NL East crowns in 2018 and 2019. Snitker was named NL Manager of the Year in 2018. If he brings Atlanta its second World Series title, this will be a Coach O-level managerial accomplishment, one we should all celebrate. The way Coach O embodies LSU football, Snit is Braves baseball.
Joe Maddon (The True Contender)
We have arrived at the front-runner for the Coach O of baseball. It’s none other than the bespectacled, Mr. Defensive Shift himself, Joe Maddon. From bringing in gigantic pythons from the Tampa Zoo to mix things up in the Tampa Rays clubhouse, to wearing jersey numbers reserved for pulling guards, Maddon is one-of-a-kind.
Like Snitker, Maddon spent decades in one organization. Unlike Snitker, his Southern California team’s locale has changed several times. Maddon came up with the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angeles (of Anaheim?) in the 1970s and made the transition to coaching within in the organization. Among a number of positions, including interim stints leading the Angels in 1996 and 1999, Maddon was bench coach for Mike Scioscia in the early 2000s.
At 52-years-old, Maddon finally got his big break by coaching the most irrelevant team in baseball to relevancy down in Tampa. The Rays not only made the AL postseason four times in his nine years on the job, but they made it to the 2008 Fall Classic. But after former Rays general manager Andrew Friedman left for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Maddon opted to move north to the Chicago Cubs.
The Windy City was where Maddon spent the last five big league seasons. Chicago made the postseason the first four years, including, you know, winning its first World Series in more than 100 years in 2016. That should have given him a lifetime contract in Chicago, but general manager Theo Epstein and the crickety Ricketts had other dysfunctional plans up their sleeves.
Despite being the Mike Ditka of Chicago baseball, Maddon wasn’t brought back in 2020. He was replaced by his former backup catcher David Ross from the World Series team. Ross may do well with the Cubs, but Maddon finally has his day in the sun with the Angeles. He will manage Mike Trout and the Angels this year. How does this not end well for the current Coach O of baseball?