Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune , who seldom has a lucid baseball thought, has openly lobbied for longtime Texas Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to come to town.
The former Rangers beat writer wrote this in a recent article:
"Jaramillo is the absolute perfect man for the Cubs' situation. He has worked successfully in the past with both Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, the latter of whom is no guarantee to be eliminated over the off-season (unless general manager Jim Hendry releases him at a cost of $21 million). And he is well acquainted with manager Lou Piniella from the years Piniella spent in Seattle and Tampa."
Gee, thanks for curing all of our hitting woes, Phil, but before we go anointing Jaramillo as the answer to our prayers, it's important to realize some things about Jaramillo, and hitting coaches in general.
First, hitting coaches get too much credit when things are good and too much blame when things go bad. They are necessary and a good one can certainly help your team, particularly if his philosophies resonate with the players and follow the organization's desires.
For example, if a team values on-base percentage (and why should you not?), it is helpful to have a hitting coach who preaches patience.
It's also a benefit to have a coach that fits the needs of the team. If a team has mostly younger players, it's nice to have a coach whose strength is teaching kids and developing them. Likewise, if it's a veteran team, these guys have likely heard it all, so you need a different way to get through to them.
Hitting coaches are often the scapegoat for a bad offense when you can't fire the manager or the GM. In the Cubs situation, Hendry effectively found two scapegoats to help explain a season in which the Cubs made too many outs, particularly with runners in scoring position.
Was it Gerald Perry's fault that Aramis Ramirez got hurt and that Alfonso Soriano has no idea of the strike zone? Or that Geo Soto came into camp fat and high?
So, just because the Cubs are looking for a coach and Jaramillo may be available is no reason to rush out and purchase his services when his contract expires on Halloween. For, if you take a look at the man's body of work, you might find some scary surprises.
Jaramillo is a well respected batting coach in most baseball circles. Yet if you examine closely, you'll find that many of the players he is credited with helping are known or suspected steroid cheats. Juan Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and Ivan Rodriguez are among those whom Jaramillo gets credit for helping. But all are known or suspected (former) steroid users.
Did Jaramillo turn a blind eye to what was going on around him or did he even help enable this stuff? No one knows, but the rumors are enough to make me wonder.
Even the Rangers front office sees some blemishes. While they have offered Jaramillo a one-year contract to return, they have also indicated they need to see improvement from the offense.
Speaking of that offense, the Rangers ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of runs scored, and had a team slash of .260/.320/.445/.764. Their team OBP ranked 12th out of 14 teams in the AL. The Rangers' BABIP was .299. Their contact percentage was the lowest in all of baseball at 77.1 percent. All this, despite playing in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
Does this mean that Jaramillo is a lousy coach? No, but it gives one pause to reconsider.
Perhaps the Rangers should consider replacing Jaramillo with Jim Leyritz. He could help them with the hit and run. Ahem.
But seriously folks, all this maniacal clamoring for a hitting coach needs to just go away. Bottom line, we need to draft, develop and acquire players who have good plate discipline and not rely on a hitting coach to ride in on a white horse and save the day, come to think of it.