Whenever someone like a hitting coach or pitching coach is fired, it’s really difficult to point to the exact cause of their removal. A hitting coach is probably better termed as an “approach coach;” most players have their own batting stances, but a hitting coach, in my mind, should be a problem-solver, a mentor, and a good observor. How good at these things were Eddie Murray? Having no access to the inner workings of the team, I have no clue.
“But!” you might say, “He was fired because the team wasn’t hitting!” While that may be partly true, you have to separate cause from effect. Eddie Murray cannot go up to the plate and swing the bat. He cannot make Ronnie Belliard take breaking balls in the dirt. He cannot only tell Ronnie not to do so; it’s ultimately up to the player to execute. But when players fail to execute, the hammer falls on the hitting coach, and despite past success, Murray was fired yesterday. The firing didn’t seem like a snap judgment; the offense was pretty decent by this season’s standards. So the issue becomes less about the team’s performance and more about Murray’s approach and communication with the players. I just can’t believe that he was let go because the team wasn’t hitting.
Anything I say is going to be speculation; I have no sources (real or imaginary) within the team, and since I have never been on or worked with a major-league club, I don’t know exactly how a typical hitting coach operates. All I can do is to guess the reason. And my guess is that Murray was let go because of a lack of communication between he and the players. Murray, by all accounts, is not the type of hitting coach to initiate conversations with players regarding their swing. His personality, which perhaps is the reason he’s in the Hall of Fame, could have been the reason why he’s out of a job today. This isn’t a knock Eddie’s ability to understand how to hit, but how he communicates his knowledge is just as important in today’s professional sports as the knowledge itself. It’s unfortunate, but true.
Blaming the hitting coach for the team’s stuggles at the plate is a conveinient and safe course of action. But at some point, you have to point at least some of the blame at the players or the person who procured them. The best hitting coach in the world could not make the Buffalo Bisons lead the American League in hitting. If you have inferior offensive talent, then there’s only so much you can do as a coach. When the top two hitters in the order are getting on base less than thirty percent of the time, you won’t be scoring many runs. When you have a hitter whose OPS is less than Ryan Ludwick’s slugging percentage, then your offense will struggle.
On a side note, I propose that if the Indians insist on having a hitter who hits like a pitching in the lineup, then at the very least, that hitter should “help his own cause” like a pitcher. If someone’s on base and there are less than two outs, he bunts. After the fifth inning or so, he should be lifted for a pinch hitter (double switch optional).
Which is why I’m proposing a trade that would help this club immensely. It’s with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies Get:
RHP Bob Howry
IF Jose Hernandez
The Indians Get:
2B/3B Placido Polanco
All of the players involved in this proposed trade are free agents at the end of the year. Polanco makes more than Howry and Hernandez combined, but not too much. The Phillies are looking for a “proven” setup man, and Howry fits that bill. The Indians need a competent third baseman and a top-of-the-order hitter, and Polanco fits that bill. If the Indians are out of the race by July, they could easily flip Polanco to another team for a prospect. David Riske would replace Howry in the setup role, and Fernando Cabrera, who’s been dominating AAA hitters, could be brought up to fill Riske’s previous role. Aaron Boone would get moved to the bench, or he could agree to accept an assignment to Buffalo, in which case Mike Kinkade would be brought up to fill Jose Hernandez’s role.
Essentially, both teams would get what they want without trading a prospect to do so. Will it happen? Probably not, because oftentimes the trades that seem to make the most sense don’t materialize because of other unknown circumstances.