(UPDATE: Anthony Iapoce it is. Original post follows.)
Late last week, the Chicago Cubs did what was largely expected after a disappointing, disjointed offensive year: they fired hitting coach Chili Davis.
Davis, of course, had been at the post for just a single season, hand-selected by the front office and Joe Maddon to replace seemingly successful hitting coach John Mallee after the 2017 season. That decision, and the philosophical offensive changes that it brought, was probably a mistake, but there was no sense in belaboring the mistake by sticking with the status quo for another year.
But what did Davis think of the decision? After all, he more or less did what the Cubs asked of him – work on improving the all-field, high-contact approach of the Cubs, even knowing that it would come at the expense of some launch angle and power. Of course, if it didn’t “take,” then even Davis would presumably concede a change was necessary, right?
Seems like the answer there is yes:
I talked with Chili Davis today. He wished the Cubs well and admitted things didn't always "mesh" easily or enough between him and the players. He said there are no hard feelings after being fired as the team's hitting coach on Thursday. https://t.co/K5my078qFs
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) October 12, 2018
It may well be the case that, even if the philosophical shift was a good one, if it just doesn’t quite fit/work with the player personnel you’ve got, then you’re going to have problems no matter what. And that goes double when there seems to be a disconnect between what the front office is wanting and what the coaching staff is deploying, given Theo Epstein’s launch-angle-is-not-a-fad comments after the season, and what we were previously hearing from Joe Maddon.
In any case, as the postseason winds down, we’ll see the Cubs set about finding Davis’s replacement. As we mentioned previously, and as other media analyses speculate, it’s possible the Cubs could go with a familiar face in the role, from former (essentially) minor league hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce (who is in flux as the Rangers hitting coach, with his manager out the door), to former Cubs assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske (who is in flux as the Angels hitting coach, with his manager out the door), to current assistant hitting coach Andy Haines (who replaced Iapoce with the Cubs, and then came up to be the assistant hitting coach when Hinske departed two years ago).
The Tribune adds current Cubs operations assistant Kevin Youkilis as a possibility, as well as long-time coach (and former Cubs/Red Sox player Dave Magadan).
Whatever direction the Cubs go, they will have to deal with the reality that their managerial situation is unsettled past 2019, so anyone who comes on board from outside the organization will know that his job might last only a year, regardless of how well he performs. (Then again, if the guy comes in and instantly connects well with the Cubs’ hitters, I’m thinking he’d be retained by the front office regardless of what happens at the managerial spot. Coaches have been retained through managerial changes before.)