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The New Hitting Coach?

By Garrett Monaghan

After sacking hitting coach Gerald Perry halfway through the season and then demoting his replacement, Von Joshua, at the end of the year; the Cubs are on the lookout for a new hitting coach. They might not spend that much time looking. The Tampa Bay Rays recently, and somewhat inexplicably, fired hitting coach Steve Henderson at the end of the regular season after a year in which they set franchise records for runs, home runs, OBP, and walks. Henderson was the Rays' hitting coach when Lou Piniella was managing there, and it wouldn't be a huge leap for the Cubs to re-unite the two.

The Rays cited a "concern with situational hitting" for dismissing Henderson, which strikes me as a bit absurd. The coach can only tell guys how to approach at-bats in critical situations and unless his advice is completely non-sensical, he shouldn't be faulted completely if the players fail to execute. If the team as a whole isn't hitting, that's one thing, but situational hitting has more to do with the individual players than it does with the coaching staff. Blaming a hitting coach for a lack of situational hitting is a bit like sacking a wedding planner because the groom got cold feet and chickened out. You can tell the guy to show up and do his best, but if he chickens out, whose fault is that?

Anyone who can come into Wrigley and preach patience has my endorsement. A guy like Henderson is used to working with younger players in a developing franchise, and the Cubs have a number of younger hitters who could benefit from working deeper counts and taking a few more walks. Without knowing the exact circumstances behind his dismissal from the Rays, it's hard to give Henderson an ringing thumbs up, but he's the best guy available as far as I can tell.

In other Cubs news, Bob Brenly has once again been interviewing for managerial jobs around the majors. Cleveland, Washington, and Houston are all looking for new skippers, and while Brenly has said he doesn't want a job with a rebuilding team, it isn't out of the question. If (and that's a big if) Brenly takes a job elsewhere, Cleveland makes the most sense. Brenly's a native Ohioan, and might not mind a full-time return to his home state.

The Arizona Fall League is getting another major influx of top Cubbies talent again this year. Top prospects Josh Vitters, Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, and Wellington Castillo will all be playing for the Mesa Solar Sox; as will John Guab, Blake Parker, and James Russell. Play kicks off next week, and it'll be exciting to see how some of the younger guys follow up their regular season campaigns.

Vitters and Castillo were both dogged by injuries at various points in the year, with Vitters struggling after a promotion to AA and Castillo scuffling for the entire season in AA. Castro, Cashner, Gaub, and Parker all had outstanding season in the minors; and I was particularly surprised not to see Gaub get a September call-up to Wrigley.

The final sale of the Cubs is still inching along, and should probably be completed officially by the end of the month. The sooner the deal gets finalized and the Ricketts take over, the sooner the team can start recovering from a sorely disappointing 2009.


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