Sigh. After the lost season for the Cubs, I could have easily stayed away until the organizational meetings next month. But when someone delivers you a gift, such as the Cubs in signing Rudy Jaramillo to serve as the new hitting instructor, you're obligated to say "Thank you!"
Say it with me now. A hitting coach is now a panacea. A hitting coach is not a savior. A hitting coach is often only as good as the talent that he has to work with.
Okay, now that we have gotten this out of the way, here's what signing Jaramillo is though, in my opinion. First, it's an excellent organizational move that puts one of the league best coaching talents on to a Cubs staff that continues to be one of the best in the business.
And as important as the accolades that you'll hear about are: excellent communicator, record number of 800-run seasons under his tenure in Texas, virtually unprecedented Silver Sluggers awards, among others, is the fact that this is a guy known and respected for taking average talent, and maximizing their abilities.
Need an example? Look no further than Mark DeRosa, a good glove, no-hit infielder before arriving in Texas, who after working with Jaramillo for two seasons, became the solid everyday player that we know today.
Or Marlon Byrd, he of the career sub-.700 OPS before hooking on with the Rangers. He's since found both power and plate discipline, enjoying three straight .800-plus OPS seasons with the Rangers.
Hell, even Andruw Jones resembles a passable player again after only a season working with Rudy.
I could go on, but you get the idea. You'll hear some of the critics, who'll say that the strikeouts on Jaramillo squads are a major shortcoming, and that the bandbox nature of Rangers Ballpark puffs up his accolades, but this is still someone regarded as the finest hitting coach since Walt Hriniak. And he's with your favorite team now.
But the second, and arguably most important thing, is that this is a signal that the new ownership means to win, and will not be afraid to make smart expenditures. This level of commitment—three year, $2.4 million—is not only somewhat unprecedented for a hitting coach, but for any coach in baseball, as they usually work under a series of one-year deals.
Identifying the best, and locking them up is a move that serious people make when they're serious about winning.
The worst thing that the Ricketts family could do this first off-season is to even remotely suggest to fans that they aren't committed to winning, or refuse to spend the money indicative of the Cubs stature and media market.
Cheapskate owners can taint the fan base for years, and new owners need to be especially sensitive to the microscopic inspections of their initial moves, as fans and media search for guidance. From both a baseball and PR standpoint, they hit this one out of the park.
Welcome to Chicago, Rudy. Looking forward to seeing you at the Cubs Convention.