Hitting coach? Who cares?
Baseball fans are like philosophers. If you encounter them one at a time, you might learn something interesting about baseball -- much as a philosopher may teach you something interesting about life. But if you should ever happen to see them grouped up with like-minded folks, then you should run as if your ass was on fire.
Way back in May or June, I began to lose my faith in Lou Piniella and suggested that he wasn't doing his job as a manager and should be fired. I caught a shit storm over that, because we love Lou, and a manager shouldn't be responsible for his team's success, and what does a manager do anyway?
Seriously, though. What does a manager do?
I think that a manager's job should be to keep his team focused, first and foremost. That means extra practice if necessary, that means recognizing problems early, it means starting the best guy on any given day and writing the best lineup. It also means knowing when to pull a tired pitcher and which reliever to turn to first -- and last. If your team is underperforming, it's the manager's job to figure out why. If a player's attitude is a problem, it's the manager's job to fix the attitude.
It turns out that a lot of baseball fans disagree with my assessment. The manager is not responsible for how the batters hit or how the pitchers throw. But if that's the case -- if he has no impact on, y'know, the baseball game -- then why have a manager?
Maybe major league baseball teams could save a couple million bucks a year by firing the manager and letting the hitting coach handle the hitters -- who starts and the lineups, for instance -- while the pitching coach could handle the pitchers. It's not a bad idea, right?
Except if you spend enough time with baseball fans, they'll eventually try to convince you that the coaches don't effect play either. The best hitting coach in the world won't turn a bad hitter into a good one, after all, right? And the best players won't listen to the coaches anyway, they're too arrogant.
So maybe what a team really needs is to fire the coaches too. Then hire a guy to book the hotels and airplanes, and another guy to handle the luggage. They could rely on a computer program to determine the best lineups and use the honor system for when starting pitchers need to be pulled. And maybe that day's starter should get to pick who relieves him. See that? More money saved, and the game would be even more in line with the ridiculous, bullshit concept that stats aren't just everything, they're the only thing. And any right-thinking douchebag would tell you that until Fangraphs finds a way to determine the win shares of a manager, then managers mean nothing.
Or maybe it's like this: good teams can have bad coaches, bad teams can have good coaches. But there's still a difference between a good coach and a bad one, and often times that difference is huge and essential. Lest we forget the impact of Dusty Baker.