It took a little time to digest, but yesterday’s surprising coaching change has sunk in: first-year hitting coach Bill Mueller is no longer a member of the Chicago Cubs’ coaching staff. That news came one week after the Cubs parted ways with Mueller’s assistant hitting coach, Mike Brumley.
And it turns out, according to Mueller, losing Brumley was a factor in his own decision to resign. You can read about that in this Tribune piece, which includes Theo Epstein’s response to Mueller’s decision. Fortunately, it sounds like the Cubs knew this was a possibility, so they weren’t caught by total surprise. There may have also been some family considerations in Mueller’s decision to move on.
It is my understanding that the Cubs may have been putting out feelers on the hitting coach situation – both lead and assistant – for several days now, knowing that this could happen.
The name I’ve heard as a possibility is John Mallee, who currently serves as the hitting coach for the Houston Astros, and who previously worked with Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde when he was with the Marlins. The Astros recently parted ways with manager Bo Porter, so it’s conceivable that Mallee’s status there in Houston is up in the air.
Mallee, who is from Chicago, also worked with Cubs front office member Anthony Iapoce when the latter was a minor league hitting coach with the Marlins, and Mallee was the Marlins’ minor league hitting coordinator. Iapoce is currently a Special Assistant to the GM, who oversees the Cubs’ minor league hitting program. Having an alignment in instruction from the minors through the majors would obviously be an important part of the Cubs’ long-term success with their young positional talent.
Sahadev Sharma is also hearing Mallee’s name, reporting that Mallee is the “top candidate” to replace Mueller at this point, and actually interviewed with the Cubs two years ago for a minor league hitting coordinator position.
But Mallee’s isn’t necessarily the only name out there. Epstein told Cubs.com that the Cubs will find an “experienced” coach to fill the lead hitting coach position, and, per the Tribune, the Cubs have already received permission from two other MLB teams to interview certain candidates. Other names tossed out by Patrick Mooney as possibilities include Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan and A’s hitting coach Chili Davis.
As for the assistant hitting coach gig, throw in another conflicting report about whether Manny Ramirez is under consideration (if he retires from playing). Jesse Rogers reports via a source that Ramirez is still a possibility for the job.