Yesterday, the Chicago Cubs dismissed hitting coach Rudy Jarmillo, who’d been with the team since 2010. The move was expected – at some point or another – by everyone who’s been paying attention, but that doesn’t stop folks from reacting with surprise, feigned or otherwise. Jaramillo is being called a scape goat and a fall guy by writers across the web, and, as I said yesterday, that’s just ridiculous. Jaramillo’s firing has very little to do, directly, with the Cubs’ poor offensive performance this season. It has to do with organizational turnover, a shift in philosophy, and a perceived inability of Jaramillo to be the guy to implement the necessary changes. He approaches hitting the way he always has, and it’s not the way the Cubs want to do things anymore. That’s really all this is. So I have mostly ignored the pontificating about the move.
I find the reactions of Cubs players to the be the most interesting, though, since they’re the ones who’ve been working closely with Jaramillo for a while now.
Bryan LaHair said what you tend to expect players to say. “It’s a sad day,” LaHair said. “He’s like a family member. Any time a player or a coach goes, it’s not easy.”
Alfonso Soriano, one of the hottest hitters in baseball since the start of May, was similarly sad. “I feel, every hitter here feels it’s our responsibility that he lost his job because we didn’t do the job,” Soriano said. “That’s hard when you see guys like Rudy, who like to work. He liked to work and we felt comfortable with him. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and made the game so difficult. It’s very sad to see him go.”
Darwin Barney, who also expressed sadness, spoke about Jaramillo’s approach to the gig. “Rudy was very individualistic,” Barney said. “He worked with guys on different things. With me, it was more the mechanical side of things early and I felt I had a pretty good approach to hitting and did my homework. With other guys, he talked more approach. You’re not going to really talk to someone like Jeff Baker about his mechanics. He’s been doing this for a long time, and he knows how to hit a baseball. You probably talk to him more about the approach. He worked with guys on different things and what they thought they needed.”
Geovany Soto’s quote, which came while he was rehabbing at Iowa, was very business-like (including its inclusion of the word, “business”). “It’s really unfortunate, but it’s a business,” Soto said. “I love Rudy, but sometimes you have to change. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”
The thing that strikes me about the player reactions? None seem particularly surprised by the move. Jaramillo was reportedly told a few weeks ago that the players’ approaches needed to change, or the Cubs were going to have to go in another direction (it kind of feels like that was going to happen anyway – a very businesslike firing). Maybe the players caught wind? Or maybe they could just tell, like we could, that it was time to move on.
Manager Dale Sveum, himself a former hitting coach, offered his thoughts on the dismissal, and they, too, took a dispassionate tone.
“We all have to suffer the consequences for the results,” Sveum said. “Rudy never changed, he worked as hard as any hitting coach I’ve ever seen. Mechanically, he’s as good as anybody I’ve been around. We’re just searching for a different message, different philosophy.”