I’ll admit that while we can get a pretty good sense of any given coach’s quality based on the circumstances surrounding his tenure in the big leagues in that capacity, we’re mostly working on the reputation he’s created for himself throughout the league with various teams and players.
Sure, we’ll sometimes hear what he thinks or how a certain proposed tweak in someone’s delivery immediately turned a guy into 2015 Jake Arrieta, but because not everything works for everyone, and that stats from their former playing days aren’t a good measure (at all), it’s just hard to be objective.
For the most part, then, I’ve simply come to take the word of people I trust – Theo Epstein brought Joe Maddon and Joe Maddon brought so-and-so. I think Epstein knows what he’s doing. I think Maddon knows what he’s doing. They’ve earned that.
All of which brings me to Chili Davis, the Cubs’ new hitting coach – a guy the Cubs specifically sought out to hire when he became a free agent, not because they were otherwise looking to replace their now-former hitting coach, John Mallee.
By all accounts – based on the philosophy I’ve heard him preach, the endorsement of the Cubs front office/Joe Maddon, and his experience with two very smart teams (Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox) – Davis seems to be an excellent hitting coach with plenty of work ahead of him, but all the necessary tools to get things done.
And while that isn’t going to change today, it seems his former boss in Boston – or his boss’s boss’s boss, I guess – Red Sox owner John Henry wasn’t exactly sad to see him go.
“From my perspective, people have talked about [how with the roster] we haven’t made a lot of changes in the last year,” Henry said via NBS Sports Boston. “In my mind, we’ve made significant changes to address some of the things that were brought up. I do think we had issues last year that … and we’ve addressed those changes.”
Okay, at first glance you might not think that’s necessarily about Chili Davis, in particular, but Henry continued: “We’ve made a lot of changes other than just the managers. You haven’t noticed? I think, who did we bring back? Dana [LeVangie], I think. Anyone else? I’m just saying, from my perspective at least, we’ve made a lot of changes. I think our approach last year was lacking offensively and we had issues that the players have already talked about. I don’t really need to talk about it …. I think these were significant changes.”
Again, Henry continued to say that 1) the roster, itself, was not the problem, 2) the manager swap wasn’t the only significant change, and 3) that the offense underperformed last year. It’s pretty hard not to connect the dots to new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis … but I also don’t know if it’s exactly fair, either.
Sure, in 2016, Boston’s 114 wRC+ led the Major Leagues and just a year later, their 92 wRC+ was among the bottom ten in baseball, but there’s a lot more to it than that. For one, the 2016 team had David Ortiz leading the way with a 164 wRC+, which was the second highest mark in baseball … and then he retired.
Sure, Mookie Betts took a big, perhaps unexpected step backwards from 2016 (137 wRC+) to 2017 (108 wRC+), but guys like Hanley Ramirez (128 wRC+ to 93 wRC+) and Dustin Pedroia (122 wRC+ to 102 wRC+) were not only over-performing the year prior, they also turned 33 and 34 years old, respectively. That’s just about the time when players naturally regress.
And perhaps most importantly … Davis was the Red Sox’s hitting coach in 2016, too.
In the end, it’s important to remember that John Henry is the owner of a baseball team, not the General Manager or President of Baseball Operations. While I’m very sure he’s well-versed in baseball and the team’s general perspective on things, this is a bit different than an actual baseball executive taking these sort of side-ways shots at him. Also: with a manager on the way out, it was pretty natural that there could be a lot of organic turnover on the coaching staff anyway. I’d hardly take this as a definitive sign that the Red Sox uncovered some horribly lacking aspects of Davis’ job performance and booted him, specifically, out the door.
Instead, I’ll continue to trust the opinions of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Maddon, and believe that Davis is the right man for the job at this time.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.