Soul Asylum: “Sometime to Return.”
This column is about various comings and goings in baseball this week. And since this blarg has been billed in some places as “rock n’ roll baseball talk,” I figured it was appropriate to include some rock n’ roll. I started out with the Beatles “Hello Goodbye” (BORING, OBVIOUS), then considered Soul Asylum’s “Endless Farewell” (great song, but PLODDING, INAPPROPRIATE FOR A ROCKING FRIDAY), and eventually settled on Soul Asylum’s “Sometime to Return” (AWESOME, one of the best songs on their stellar ’88 opus, “Hang Time”). The title is tangentially related to the subject matter, and it’s a GREAT fucking song. If you don’t own “Hang Time,” I strongly suggest you track it down.
But on to the matters at hand.
The highest-profile departure this week was obviously Bob Geren, the embattled (now-former) manager of the Oakland A’s. Our friend Grant called this the least controversial firing in history, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue that. We can only speculate on these kinds of things, but one suspects that Geren had “lost the clubhouse” – the Fuentes situation was perhaps the visible tip of a much larger iceberg. As fun as it might be to argue about this stuff on twitter and message boards, we’ll never really know the particulars.
What we do know is that the A’s had lost 9 straight games, and you can’t fire the 25-man roster, so you can the manager instead. So Geren was fired, Melvin was hired, and the A’s responded by … losing their 10th straight. Geren may have been A problem, but he wasn’t THE problem. THE problem is that the A’s pitching staff has sustained a shitload of injuries – three-fifths of their starting rotation is on the DL, fercrissakes – and their offense is GHASTLY.
(An interesting (to me, anyway) aside: Geren was canned after the 9th-straight loss, and Bob Melvin was immediately announced as his successor. That means that all the hiring-and-firing machinations had to have been set in motion before the 9th loss. When did Billy Beane and co. make the decision? Was it after the 4th loss? The 6th? These are the things I wonder about.)
So I don’t blame Billy Beane for firing Geren. It was probably time. The players weren’t in open revolt, but it looked like it was heading in that direction. You can’t sack the entire team, so you offer up Geren as a sacrifice, a scapegoat. It quiets down the fanbase for a while, and hey, if/when your offense starts hitting again and you start winning some games, you look like a genius. Maybe.
If you’re not ready to fire your skipper, the next best thing is to fire your hitting coach. Two clubs – the Marlins and Rangers – chose this tactic this week.
The Fish had lost 7 straight, 6 of them by a single run, so canning the hitting coach sorta makes sense. I say sorta because at the major-league level, the hitting coach really doesn’t have much impact at all. They might notice little mechanical things and offer corrections, but these guys are predominantly cheerleaders-slash-therapists – they help hitters stay focused, stay confident, stuff like that. But again, if you were a GM and your team lost 7 straight, you might feel compelled to make a move. So the Marlins fired their hitting coach and the team responded by … dropping their 8th straight game.
The most curious of the three moves was the Rangers firing hitting coach Thad Bosley. Curious because Bosley had only been on the job 2 months, and because the Rangers are hitting the bejesus out of the ball. There was no protracted losing streak – in fact, Texas was in 1st place and had won 7 of their last 10. As with Geren, the issue here is being reported as one of “communication.” Josh Hamilton was quoted as saying “he just didn’t fit in with us.” Texas promoted Scott Coolbaugh, their AAA hitting instructor, to the big-league job. Coolbaugh is now the Rangers’ 4th hitting coach in less than 3 seasons. The Rangers responded by … you guessed it … losing.
This post was also going to include some capsules on the notable big-league call-ups of the week, of which there were several, but I’ve already blathered on waaaaaaay too long. I’ll try and post something this afternoon about the debuts of Jemile Weeks, Dee Gordon, Anthony Rizzo, and the impending debut of Mike Moustakas. Thanks for reading this far. Phew.
Two musicians who love baseball, but don't take it too seriously.