Well here’s an odd bit of news given everything we’ve ever heard about the Jays’ supposed wizard of a hitting coach: per a team release, neither Dwayne Murphy nor Chad Mottola will be returning to the Major League coaching staff of the Blue Jays in 2014.
Murphy, who moved to first base this year after being the club’s hitting coach since 2010 (having been promoted from the role of roving hitting instructor) is retiring as a coach.
Mottola, the hitting coach, who had worked his way up through the organization, and long been praised for his work with the club’s minor leaguers– having appeared to have been specifically groomed for the role, even joining the big league staff in September of 2012– according to the release, “will not return to the Major League staff in 2014.”
That’s all that’s specified by the release, pertaining to those two, so it’s somewhat unclear if Mottola is being reassigned– perhaps they felt he works better with up-and-comers?– or if this is a straight-up firing. My inkling is that they would have announced a reassignment, or at least made mention of it, were that the case, but that’s all the information we have at the moment.
John Gibbons’ other staffers– bench coach DeMarlo Hale, pitching coach Pete Walker, third base coach Luis Rivera, and bullpen coach Pat Hentgen– will remain in their roles next season.
No replacements for the departing coaches have been named.
The overwhelming reaction among certain Jays fans is, of course, to ask why the hell it’s the guys on the hitting side, when the club’s hitters generally performed fairly well, and not the guys on the pitching side, when the club’s pitching– outside of the bullpen– was its Achilles heel.
There is a pretty easy explanation for all this: WE CANNOT ASSESS THE JOB A COACH HAS DONE JUST BY GRABBING THE NEAREST CRAYON AND DRAWING A LINE BETWEEN HIS NAME AND THE RESULTS PRODUCED BY THE PLAYERS HE WAS IN CHARGE OF.
It’s really, really stunningly simple– hard as it may be for some to grasp. Ignoring everything but the result is a hopelessly poor way of analyzing anything, and anyone who is upset that the Jays actually understand that needs to take a deep breath and have a little think about how the world actually works, and what reasonable expectations for a coach or manager should be.
Pete Walker can be smart, respected, proactive, inventive, easy to deal with, a good motivator, and still not be able to make Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow and R.A. Dickey not suck when they’re pitching hurt, or turn Ramon Ortiz, J.A. Happ, Chien-Ming Wang, or Sean Nolin into chicken salad.
Conversely, hitters can be seen to improve, and some players can be positive about their relationship with Chad Mottola, but that doesn’t mean we have the foggiest fucking notion of how fit he is for the job, how well he works with the ones not praising him, or with the front office, and what fraction of the improvements seen can be reasonably attributed to his work and his insight, or to the players themselves.
We just don’t know. But it sure feels good, for me, that the Jays here are not panicking and pandering to mush-brains who can’t grasp the concept of good process leading to bad results, and potentially vice versa.
That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right in making these moves– believing that Luis Rivera is going to improve as a third base coach seems, for what marginally little it could be worth, at least iffy– but on first blush I like it as a giant “fuck you” bomb of cognitive dissonance to the mouth breathers, who surely would have been thrilled to see anyone associated with the pitching go, just as long as he wasn’t a great player on an old Jays team, which to them suggests he has some magical powers of coaching and passing along winningness like a contact high, which he just can’t quite manage to do from out in the bullpen.
It isn’t, at the very least, the sort of bullshit scapegoating sports fans have grown so accustomed to that they’ve lost the ability to see how genuinely dumb it is. Some are calling it that, but I’m not sure how they figure; the GM talks nonstop about issues with pitching and defence and then fires the hitting coach, and he’s a scapegoat??? Rather, it would seem, much like the vote of confidence to John Gibbons, to simply be an acknowledgement that things are complicated and not always as results make them seem.
Or… shit, for all we know, maybe it’s quite a lot simpler than that.
Mike Wilner tweets that, as we’ve known all along, Mottola and Murphy worked in tandem. He suggests that once Murph’s decision was made, the Jays felt their situation was less than ideal, so decided to change Mottola as well. We can only speculate about that stuff, but maybe the worry was that the faction of the team used to working with Murphy may not have been so amenable to switching over to Mottola, or that having to add so many more hitters to his profile would end up spreading Mottola too thin, or that finding a hitting coach just to work with a select group of players would be difficult, and would create a fucked up dynamic.
It’s impossible for us to say. Though yes, it’s hard to believe after the praise that had been heaped on Mottola by this organization during his time in Las Vegas, and his promotion to the coaching staff last winter– late as it was, given the late hiring of John Gibbons, which may make us think twice about its significance. And, of course, being an internal candidate, he may not have been Gibby’s guy in the first place. But… whatever the reason, it happened. It isn’t the first coaching decision at odds with public perception that’s ever been made, and it won’t be the last. Especially because said perception is built on, almost literally, nothing.
I mean, it’s hilarious– hi-lar-i-ous– to hear people bemoaning this like they have anything close to the slightest clue about what these guys actually contributed or what Mottola did to justify keeping his job. We don’t know what the did to justify losing it either, but that doesn’t mean we can simply point to some batted ball luck for Colby Rasmus or Brett Lawrie making the most obvious changes to his setup in the universe and then say that he’s some kind of genius who the dummies running the club have now thrown to the curb. Not any more, at least, than we can point to the staggering regression of J.P. Arencibia, or the lack of success of Anthony Gose in Buffalo to say that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Life is bloody complicated. Ignoring that and trying to reduce its complicated questions into the most dull-headed binary ones imaginable does nothing to bring you closer to The Right Way. Posturing like you’re damn sure you know what’s going on in a room when you’re only able to look in through the keyhole is ridiculous.
In other words, you don’t have to like this, but you damn sure can’t expect anyone to actually take you seriously about it.
Shi Davidi tweets that the Jays say they will not make any public comment on their coaching changes tonight.