Cubs: What’s behind the revolving door of hitting coaches?
By Cary Heinz
Seasons change. Every fall the leaves change into brilliant colors, shades of red, orange and yellow. Then the leaves die. And you have to rake or blow them and the like. The World Series comes along and the Chicago Cubs fire their hitting coach.
For fans’ sake.
I don’t have a problem with a coach or manager in professional sports. They are paid reasonably well, and get to do something many of us only dream of. My dad had the expression ‘you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.’ The problem is who is hiring and that entire process.
Cubs just can’t keep anyone in the hitting coach job any more
Hitting is hard, as hard as it has ever been. We’re back to 1968, which some have called ‘The Year of the Pitcher.’ That year, MLB batters hit a collective .237. This year, it was .243, the lowest since 1968. The best year during that stretch came back in 1999, when the league hit .271. Tonight we’re going to hit like it’s 1999?
My problem is continuity. The Cubs have had 14 hitting coaches in eleven years. I had to re-read it twice after I typed it. Chicago has had hitting coaches like Nick Cannon has children. Is this really good for player development? There were also seven different assistants during that span, too.
Ian Happ has struggled with consistency and finally put it together this year. Kudos to him for that. The problem is every spring he goes to Mesa and there is a new person telling him how to hit. Five coaches in his seven-year career.
It’s not just hitting a ball with a bat. Yes, now almost everyone throws hard, and you never see the same pitcher three times in a game. Hitting to the opposite field is a lost art, and then launch angle came along. As Charles Dickens opened in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
If you were listening, the White Sox went through complaints with pitching coach Frank Menechino last season. The underperforming pale house looked for a scapegoat and, for some, it seemed to fall upon him.
The Cubs’ numbers were very similar to 2021 in terms of batting average and OBP. Slugging dropped .020 and home runs declined from 210 to 159, but so did the guys in the batter’s box. At the end of the day it is about results, and remember the difference from failing eight times out of the in the batters box and seven out of ten is about $20 million a season.
I end this happily citing Mickey Mantle in Ken Burns’ Baseball. I am a happy person to have lived during a time with the creations of he and his staff. Let’s just say two of the greatest players of the mid-20th century, and all time, had a different approach to hitting. One very scientific, one not. The Mick recalled Ted Williams trying to talk about hitting with him. Poor Mick, he couldn’t follow the conversation, he says. Williams’s profound knowledge of their craft took hold of Mick’s mind, making him over-think at the plate. “I must’ve went 0-for-30 after talking with Ted,” he said while laughing at himself.
Good luck to Dustin Kelly who takes over. You may want to consider renting.