If the hitters aren’t hitting is the coach really coaching?

By Editorial Staff

While making my morning rounds reading the entire Internet earlier this week I came across this interesting tidbit from John Perotto at Baseball Prospectus:

After averaging 4.7 runs in the first 62 games with a .264/.329/.431 slash line, the Rangers have averaged 5.5 runs in 33 games and hit .288/.333/.476 since Scott Coolbaugh replaced Thad Bosley as hitting coach on June 8. Said Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler: “You give him feedback and you take feedback. He understands our lingo. I want a hitting coach who will slap me in the face, who will tell me the truth. He does that and you listen.”

The powerhouse Rangers, as we all know, are running away with the AL West while the run-starved A’s are sharing last place with the Mariners. A hitting coach like Coolbaugh sure sounds good to me right about now because, overall, it doesn’t seem like A’s hitting coach Gerald Perry is getting anything vaguely resembling positive results out of the guys in white shoes.

I understand that Coolbaugh has a loaded lineup in a hitter’s park to work with and Perry is stuck with a thoroughly average group of hitters in a pitcher’s paradise but the main thing any coach needs to do is get the best out of his players.

From where I’m sitting Perry isn’t excelling in that department. Granted, he can’t go out there and hit for these guys but just take a look at the lineup the A’s sent out on Opening Night and see what each player has hit this season vs. their career average. Keep in mind that all of these career batting averages have been dragged down by the numbers each player has put up in 2011. If I had each player’s career numbers entering this season in front of me the performance gap would actually be wider.

Coco Crisp: .265 this season vs. .276 on his career (Currently trade bait)
Daric Barton: .212 vs. .252 (Banished to Sacramento, still not hitting., contemplating life after baseball)
David DeJesus: .229 vs. .285 (Currently trade bait)
Josh Willingham: .240 vs. .262 (Currently trade bait)
Hideki Matsui: .223 vs. .285 (Currently trade bait/release candidate)
Kurt Suzuki: .225 vs. .258 (Still part of the long-term plan but where did his bat go over the past couple of years?)
Mark Ellis: .238 vs. .266 (Granted his freedom and sent to Colorado)
Kevin Kouzmanoff: .221 vs. .255 (Banished to Sacramento, looking for good meatloaf)
Cliff Pennington: .247 vs. .254 (Just keeping the seat warm until the A’s can develop a better home-grown option.  Try not to dwell on the fact that the A’s drafted Penny ahead of Jacoby Ellsbury)

I don’t have any problem with a couple of guys having an off year. I kind of expect that to happen every season but I also expect it to be offset by most of the other players having an average year and maybe a couple having a career year. But in Oakland everyone is hitting below their career averages and I can’t help but turn my eyes to Perry and wonder what the heck he’s doing with these players.

Firing former manager Bob Geren was the right move and general manager Billy Beane pulled the trigger while there was still enough time left to salvage the season. It’s starting to look like he should have shown Perry the door too.

There’s nothing wrong with canning a coach during the season. The Rangers have been on a tear since giving Bosley the boot and the Detroit Tigers are residing in first place after firing their pitching coach earlier this month. Even the Dodgers, mired in red tape and last place in the NL West, showed their hitting coach the door this week.

I’m sure Perry’s an awesome guy and a hard worker. I’m sure Oakland’s across-the-board hitting slump this season has him up at night so I feel a little bad calling for the guy’s head but baseball is a brutal business. Either you get results or you get pushed out the door.  What’s fair often has nothing to do with it.

With more than half a season in the books it’s pretty clear that even though Perry may not be the entire reason the A’s can’t hit to save their lives he’s also not part of the solution.

There’s no reason the A’s have to ride out the rest of the year with Perry hanging out around the batting cage if he isn’t making an impact.

The A’s should pull the trigger and make a change so the club can move forward and build toward 2012. Promote Todd Steverson from Sacramento or bring in someone manager Bob Melvin wants on his staff. I’m working under the assumption that BoMel is going to stick around beyond this season and if that’s the case it’s highly likely that he’ll shake up the coaching staff anyway so why waste the rest of the year with Perry?

As long as I’m looking at one coach on the staff I’ll take a moment to look at all of them:

Joel Skinner, bench coach – For the life of me I have no idea what a bench coach does. What kind of coaching does a bench need anyway? Agonizingly lame jokes aside, I don’t see any reason for BoMel to bring back a guy who was hand-picked by Geren to be his right-hand man. It would have been nice if Skinner was able to be a peacemaker in the clubhouse before the Geren HateFest exploded when Brian Fuentes spoke out. It also would have been nice if Skinner could have found a way to get Geren to go with a set lineup for a few weeks and stop using Fuentes in non-save situations.

Tye Waller, first base coach — I was talking A’s baseball with a friend of mine recently and we agreed that we really like Tye … but we have no idea what he does. No one ever second guesses a first base coach because nothing they do gets someone thrown out at the plate. On the surface, a first base coach just claps his hands and slaps a guy on the butt when he gets a hit. As far as I’m concerned Waller’s doing a great job and there’s no reason not to bring him back.

Ron Romanick, pitching coach – The pitching staff is still one of the best in baseball even though longtime, well-regarded pitching coach Curt Young packed his bags for Boston last winter. Romanick has stepped in without skipping a beat and I can’t see any reason for him to wear anything other than green and gold next year.

Rick Rodriguez, bullpen coach – He’s a Bay Area guy who pitched for the A’s during his playing days and that always counts for something with me. I’m a sucker for former A’s on the coaching staff so Rodriguez has that going for him and since pitching remains a strength for Oakland he seems like a safe bet to come back in 2012. Then again, maybe a truly great bullpen coach would be able to spot it when Michael Wuertz just doesn’t have his slider during warm-ups. And maybe it wouldn’t have killed Rodriguez to stretch the truth a little bit and tell Geren that Fuentes wasn’t ready to come into games when he called the bullpen every night to see how things were coming along. “Hello.  What’s that Bob? Fuentes? Uh … nope, there’s no Fuentes here. No idea who you’re talking about. Gotta go now, bye!”

Mike Gallego, third base coach — If I’m a sucker for former A’s on a coaching staff I’m even more blindly devoted to former members of the Tony La Russa glory years. That being said, the infield defense has looked sloppy at times this season and there have been some bad calls coming out of the third base coaching box. That may be more than enough to get BoMel to bring in his own guy once 2011 is finally in the books.

While it may seem cold and cruel to make flippant calls on each man’s employment status, let’s not kid ourselves. The season has been a disaster and turning over the roster and coaching staff is a natural part of the process. All of these coaches will land on their feet because this is baseball and the good ol’ boys club takes care of its own.

How else do you explain Bob Geren managing the A’s for so long? As long as you have some friends in the game you’ll have a job if you want one regardless of the results you produce.