Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
June 9, 2008 10:05 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Sorry for the late post. It's hot and humid in Toronto this morning and I needed some extra rest. As you may have heard, Jeff Pentland has been fired as hitting coach of the Mariners. To me, this is akin to firing the first officer aboard the Titanic for not spotting the iceberg before the captain plowed into it. Or, perhaps the ship's cook for giving the first officer a touch of food poisoning that led him to go for a glass of water before not spotting the iceberg that was rammed.
Pentland was a holdover from the previous Mike Hargrove era. He was the easy target to spot as to who would be the first to go amongst coaches when the team needed a sacrificial lamb. From a practical standpoint, this accomplishes nothing. It tells the players: keep on tanking and we'll keep on playing you.
Pitchers, hitters, defenders...all have underachieved. It's not the hitting coach's fault that all his middle of the order guys are hitting well below their regular averages with runners in scoring position. Pentland couldn't stand in the batter's box and get the runner home from third with less than two out. But hitting coaches are traditionally the first ones to bite it when a general manager is looking to buy himself some time.
Not to mention a team president and team CEO.
"Jeff has an excellent and proven track record, and those of us who have worked with him are well aware he knows hitting,'' Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said in a release. "Unfortunately, we have consistently, and for an extended period, underperformed at the plate and we are hopeful that a different voice might help the situation.''
Very astute observation. Some might say a different first baseman, DH and right fielder might help the situation. But that bullet is apparently going to be saved for later. That's what these types of firings are for, as I just mentioned. To buy time. The notion that anything will be fixed by naming Lee Elia as hitting coach is a little laughable. Elia told me before the season that he was not interested in getting back into baseball full-time. That his wife would never allow it. He said this half humorously, of course. But there is always some truth in every bit of humor.
Elia is not the solution. He's 70 years old and isn't going to be in this for the long haul, even if the team does luck out and finds Elia can "help the situation". He is a band-aid on a shrapnel wound.