This one hardly rates as a surprise, given what’s gone on with the Mariners offense in 2011 and 2012. But hitting coach Chris Chambliss has not had his contract renewed by the ballclub.
All other Mariners coaches will return next year.
When I asked manager Eric Wedge pre-game yesterday about whether he wanted his coaching staff back in 2013, he obfuscated and said something about how he’d be talking to all of his coaches post-game, then would meet with GM Jack Zduriencik. It was clear that the answer was not a resounding “Yes, I want them all back” and so, here we are.
“We will begin an immediate search for a new hitting coach,” Zduriencik said in a release this morning. “As we go through the process of getting this team where we want it to be, the coaches are a big part of it.”
Chambliss, 63, did not have much to work with in 2011, but it was clear that some of the major steps back by cornerstone players like Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley this season were going to attract attention. You also had major struggles with right-handers by Jesus Montero, not to mention a big step back for Mike Carp. And struggles all season long by many fourth-outfielder types.
Then, there was the sudden step forward by Michael Saunders this season after he’d hired independent coach Mike Bard — brother of big league catcher Josh Bard — to help him revamp his approach last winter in Colorado. Chambliss was pretty open-minded about what Saunders did when I interviewed him last spring, but of course, when a guy goes outside the organization to reinvent himself, it never looks all that great for the incumbent hitting coach who could not get him going.
There’s also the fact the Mariners continue to be the worst team in baseball in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. They got over the 600-run mark this season thanks to the Angels taking the final two days off pitching-wise, but no one really looks at 600 runs as any kind of benchmark.
Most pundits agreed pre-season that, at the very least, a 650-run season was something the squad had to shoot for. And that would still leave it one of the worst-scoring teams in all of baseball.
Instead, the Mariners squeaked over 600 with two games to play, then padded it a bit primarily because the Angels — once eliminated — rolled over to the tune of 6-1 and 12-0 the last two days.
When the Mariners promoted Jeff Pentland to the big league club after his work as a Class AAA htting coach this year, the writing was on the wall for Chambliss. Pentland was a longtime big-league hitting coach fired by the Mariners — unjustly, I’d say — as part of the 2008 purge to find a scapegoat for a $117 million team that was going to eventually lose 101 games.
Will Pentland get the job now? Well, he can certainly apply for it. We’ll see what direction the Mariners want to go.
Seattle had a chance to hire current Oakland A’s hitting coach Chili Davis for the big league job last year, but did not want to go that route. Davis wound up selling his Seattle area home and taking the A’s job, where he is now working wonders for a playoff team scoring five runs per game in the second half.
It will be interesting to see which direction the Mariners choose to go in.