Scapegoat Fired, Replaced by Scapegoat

We have, as you may be aware, reached the latter weeks of June.  It’s a time when a young man’s fancy lightly turns back away from love.  Youths of all ages escape from their brick-lined educational prisons, and celebrate their freedom by devoting themselves to console video games and working at fast food restaurants.  Finally, it’s that magical time of year when hitting coaches are lined up at the guillotine, sacrificed in the name of organizational change and statistical deviation.

Three men have already been led into the abattoir this season.    John Mallee lost his post with the Florida Marlins, replaced by a man in Eduardo Perez who has no coaching experience on any level.  Former corporate mouthpiece Edwin Rodriguez described him thusly: “…he doesn’t have much experience at teaching, as a coach, but he played in the big leagues for 13 years, so I think that’s good enough.”  Logan Morrison was so enraged by the move that he devoted more than 140 characters to his wrath.  Fortunately, as we can all agree, the move solved all of the Marlins’ problems instantly.

The next day Thad Bosley was fired by the Texas Rangers.  They did so despite the fact that the Rangers are hitting the ball well; in a surprising precedent, the team justified the move by reporting that nobody really liked him.  Josh Hamilton agreed in an interview, during which he was seen giggling sporadically and rubbing his hands together.

Finally, this weekend saw the end of Joe Nunnally’s reign as hitting coach for the Cleveland Indians.  Nunnally was fired mainly because the Indians have started playing the way everyone thought they would in the first place, teaching everyone a valuable lesson in the perils of heightened expectations.  Manny Acta defending the move by saying that “we needed a new voice,” and gave replacement Bruce Fields a rousing endorsement, noting, “Hopefully, he can make us better.”

Of course, he won’t.  Hitting coaches, as we all know, exist for two reasons: because they’ve been around for fifty years, and because it’s mandated that a team in freefall must fire its hitting coach before it may fire its manager.  The mystery is why people even apply for the job.  Among the thirty MLB teams, the average hitting coach has held his position less than three years, and only three (Mickey Hatcher, Greg Walker, and Joe Vavra) have held their post more than five years.  At best it’s a repository for wizened, dilapidated managers collecting a paycheck while waiting to interview for head coaching positions with perennial basement dwellers.  Lloyd McClendon is waiting for your call.

So who’s next?  Randy Ready has Petco to blame for his potential failings, but at three years’ service, his expiration date may be nearing.  Minnesota’s recent impersonation of a good team has probably saved Vavra’s job for now.  Seattle could fire Chris Chambliss, but the Mariners already pulled that trick last year with Alan Cockrell.  The house money is on Jeff Pentland of the Dodgers, who will likely take Don Mattingly’s warning shot to the chest if the Dodgers continue to underperform.  But don’t worry too much for Pentland; Los Angeles is already his fourth stop on the coaching carousel.  Expect to see him sitting in the Marlins dugout in 2012.

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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.

3 Responses to “Scapegoat Fired, Replaced by Scapegoat”

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  1. manbearpig says:

    I didn’t realize Thad Bosley was still in baseball…He and Len Randle (another ballplayer) were in a funk band called “Ballplayers” An EP of theirs was recently reissued by PPU Records from Washington DC.

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  2. In timely fashion, Bardball posted an ode to this issue today:

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