Report: Walker, Sox coaches staying put. Why?

Joe Cowley bears bad news:

Minutes after Williams spoke, a source confirmed that all of the coaches that had contracts up after this season — specifically hitting coach Greg Walker, pitching coach Don Cooper, bench coach Joey Cora and first base coach Harold Baines — had or were in the process of signing extensions thought to take the staff through 2011.

If you want a reason to not buy into this story quite yet — Torii Hunter. Shortly before Thanksgiving in  2007, Cowley wrote:

Sources both in the Sox organization and the camp of free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter have told the Sun-Times that the two sides could be signing a contract within the week.

And as we know, that didn’t happen. However, the circumstances around this story are different. There’s no third team that’s going to blow the doors off the place like the Angels did with Hunter. In this case, the Sox either extended their coaches, or they didn’t. I’d be willing to wager that they did, so let’s operate that it’s the case.

Thanks to Steve at White Sox Cards for scanning this for me.
Thanks to Steve at White Sox Cards for scanning this for me.
Re-upping Walker doesn’t make me angry, because one could cobble together a rational defense. As I’ve said before, I don’t know what difference a hitting coach can make. It’s a little rash to demand that somebody lose their job because the results don’t look right, when the causes are difficult to determine.
Look at Rudy Jaramillo, the Texas Rangers’ hitting instructor widely considered to be the best in the business.  One of his pupils is Ian Kinsler. Last year, Kinsler finished fourth in the American League with a .319 average. This season, he has lost 70 points off his batting average and nearly 100 points of OPS despite hitting a career-high 29 homers this season.
There’s a good discussion of his issues at Baseball Think Factory. His flyball rate has skyrocketed, and the Rangers fans there say Kinsler’s swing devolves into a severe uppercut for weeks at a time. Making matters worse, Kinsler isn’t alone in that Texas lineup, and they’re fading out of the playoff race as a result.
Sound familiar?
If you were to ascertain his duties from his quotes alone, you’d think his job description consists solely of waiting for players’ track records to win the day. [Name of hitter] is just being , and all players are as good as the back of their baseball cards say. But he’d be stupid if he were to describe in great detail any changes in approach, and he’d be arrogant if he took credit when the players are the ones who have to produce.
Walker isn’t without his fans — even if they’re all within the clubhouse. Scott Podsednik credited Walker with aiding him in his resurgence, and Paul Konerko remains a supporter. That’s not a bad guy to have in your corner, considering 1) he’s the captain, and 2) he’s been a consistent producer this season despite having a nagging thumb injury. Pitching coaches play a big role in keeping pitchers healthy, so it stands to reason that hitting coaches should get some credit for the same.
Toss in all the quotes about Walker being the first at the park, the last to leave, and the hardest worker for all the hours in between, and maybe you have somebody who doesn’t deserve to be fired.
That said… this move is tone-deaf as balls.
It’s not surprising, because Williams doesn’t particularly care about how he sounds. So much so, in fact, that both the Sun-Times and Tribune stories refer to that characteristic in their ledes.
At the same time, when Williams has made repeated references to attendance driving the Sox’s ability to spend in the offseason, suggesting a strong September showing could make a real difference, retaining Walker doesn’t send the right message.
The offense has showed the same weaknesses night after night, month after month, year after year, even though players with successful track records have come and gone. When Hawk Harrelson stops fawning over the performances by the Ryan Rowland-Smiths of the world and starts repeatedly referring to the role of advance scouting, a breaking point has been crossed.
Williams might be banking on new faces to restore Walker’s reputation. If they’re all around, Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz and Scott Podsednik (if they’re around and healthy) give this team a different look from the get-go. Adding another player from the outside with a consistent track record like Chone Figgins or Bobby Abreu, and that’s a dramatically different style of ball.
If he loses this gamble, he could lose a lot of goodwill.
The worst-case scenario after retaining Walker: Alex Rios continues to keep his eye on the fan deck in center while the ball finds its way into the catcher’s mitt well into 2011, which means half his contract hasn’t paid off. Podsednik runs out of fairy dust, Getz never gets it, Alexei Ramirez’s bat is only good at shortstop, and every new Sox hitter performs as unevenly as every old new Sox hitter.
Compare that to the worst-case scenario if the Sox fire Walker.  You can’t, because there’s no way to predict what a change could bring, if any.
I’ll throw a name out there. Say the Sox bring in Mickey Brantley, the former Blue Jays hitting coach who presided over Rios’ most successful seasons in Toronto. Maybe he knows how to fix Rios, but has no answers for Konerko, or A.J. Pierzynski, or anybody else necessary to Sox success, and it’s a net loss.  That’s a reasonable outcome — maybe not likely, but what is? Williams is siding with the devil he knows versus the devil he doesn’t.
Here’s where that line of reasoning falters, in my opinion. If the worst-case scenario with the new hitting coach plays out, they could probably just re-hire Walker. After all, the Sox gave Gary Ward an unceremonious boot in 2003, and you know what he’s doing? Serving as hitting coach for the Charlotte Knights.
Walker has declared himself loyal to the White Sox organization, and seemingly has been prepared for the ax to fall for years. Couldn’t Williams give him the title of “roving instructor” for a year, just to give him some breathing room and let the situation play out?  If the Sox stumbled under another hitting coach, that would go a long way in giving Walker a second life.
At this point, I’d just like to see the Sox try to prove where the recurring problems — rookie pitchers, changeups, cold weather — stem from. Some variables have changed, and yet the problems still remain. Walker has been a constant, and at this point, it’s hard to find reasons why he should be.
********************************
Links:
*While looking for a few articles for the above, I came across this Sports Illustrated article from 1989 regarding Walker’s battle with epilepsy.
*Chris De Luca says Bobby Jenks has “delivered his last pitch for the Sox.” He’s more definitive with this statement than he is about Jermaine Dye’s future, although “impending” is a strong word choice in and of itself.
*David Haugh writes his first White Sox column for the “In the Wake of the News” slot. It’s a promising start.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

Articles: 3791
15 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
knoxfire30

Haha maybe the angels will swoop in with a big bag of money and sign Greg Walker away from us, haha yea and tonight Lisa Dergan will be jumping out of my birthday cake!!!!
This is a drastic move from the organization and its getting harder and harder to believe Kenny Williams about what he says. Right now its a lot of hot air if you ask me. This team has flat out fucking quit. “bad weather”, “tipping your cap to pitchers” “getting back to the fundamentals” all a bunch of horse flop.
This coaching staff is directly responsible for several miserable failures we have seen this year.
Jeff Cox is in charge of baserunning, has anyone at one time thought this was a good baserunning team, has anyone thought this team has been improving on their baserunning???
Harold Baines is suppose to be a presence in the clubhouse and working first base is suppose to be given to a guy who knows somethign about baserunning. Can harold baines really tell a base runner about the pitchers move, his delivery time to home, or what the catchers pop to pop time is??? Oh wait you would have to open your fucking mouth to do that.
And Greg Walker, CHRIST ALL MIGHTY, this guy would have been shit canned ten times over IN ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION IN BASEBALL. Do I need to list off the failures of this team offensively, we had a world series level effort from the staff this year, and we are going to have absolutely nothing to show for it but 3rd place, a bad record, and a million question marks heading into next year.
Im fine with Ozzie, Joey (although the fielding has been a joke this year too), and of course Cooper a coach who actually does his job, but bringing back those other 3 clowns is absurd, and the greg walker thing goes farther then that.

striker

That baseball card brings back memories. I used to be addicted to trading cards.
I have to agree that Cox sucks. I could go either way with Walker. What is a new coach going to say?
Coach: “Hit the ball here on the bat.”
Konerko: “Oh, that’s how you do it”.
Coach: “Yeah, and if there’s a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, hit the ball on the ground to the right side or deep into the outfield”.
Konerko: “Oh, I didn’t know that either. I’m not suppose to strikeout or hit it to the pitcher?. Greg was wrong then”
I’d be curious to see what great hitters like Gwynn and Boggs have to say about their hitting coaches. Do they really make a difference?

knoxfire30

Tigers Woods is going to go down as the greatest golfer of all time, during his professional career I believe he is on his 4th coach and his 3rd specifically different type of swing.
If the greatest golfer in the world can get sound advice from a coach, why cant a hitter get similiar results from a hitting coach.
Talent isnt everything, guys can be taught things that are new every year, and yes there is probably a coach out there who can definitely give this team new ideas and perspective on how to get runners in from third with 1 out that walker simply cant.

jimbo

If hitting instructors truly made no difference, do you really think 30 mlb teams would be paying one for their services each year? Evidently, the sox number 1 measurement of a hitting instructor’s success is how many hours he puts in, as this is the only thing we ever hear when the issue is brought up.

striker

, here are some of my offseason ideas for your blog:
1. Have readers email you what they would do if they were GM for their offseason moves. You can sipher through and post good ones, then your other readers can comment. Kind of an audience participation thing.
2. You’ll probably already do this but go through the roster and give post season grades. Give each player a rating. Also, note if a player is a keeper, should go or indifferent.
3. Analyze the teams needs, then go through each other team and see how we might match up for a trade. Maybe you invite a blogger from another team to add to your analysis. You could both act as your team’s gm and agree on a trade.
Just some thoughts. I become even more obsessed with baseball during the offseason.

knoxfire30

I really like 1, but Jim would definitely have to filter out the probably lets get Adrian Gonzalez for Josh Fields and Scott Linebrink type ideas before posting anything.

striker

You can’t weed too many out though. It’s going to be a long boring offseason. 🙂

ahicks1130

I’m really getting tired of hearing that Greg Walker puts in more work than anyone else, that he’s the first to arrive last to leave, etc. Ok , Dewayne Wise puts in a lot of work, Jerry Owens did too, I’m sure Andy Gonzalez really worked hard, but so what if they’re not any good. Just putting in work isn’t enough. You have to show results at this level. I’m sure there are a ton of minor leaguers who bust it night in night out, does that mean they all deserve a shot at the big leagues?
I just don’t get it. This team absolutely struggles to score 2 runs a night. What’s the worst that could possibly happen if we fire Walker? We struggle to score 1 run a night. Is there really that much of a drop off? This has been a 3 year problem. Our offense was terrible in ’07, it was terrible when Carlos wasn’t carrying the team last year, and it’s been terrible this year. Sometimes I love the White Sox loyalty and then there are others when it drives me crazy.

cushinglee

Knoxfire is right. This team has quit. It’s hard to bust on a Cub fan about Milton Bradley when your own team has decided to phone it in. The real question is this: Should the White Sox rebuild (and I mean REALLY rebuild) or do they continue to go down the same path they have been and just be a .500 team?

knoxfire30

Presently constructed they might be a 500 team, but bring in 1 or 2 bats, find relief help (or simply get lucky in the bullpen as bullpens always run hot and cold) and is it that hard to believe this team could win 88-90 games???
Ive been a debbie downer lately but 5 good starters, and another guy on the way in hudson is a good starting point heading into next year. Any team with that kind of pitching has a shot.

jimbo

One thing not mentioned but something I applaud is KW said next year he is insisting the Sox take infield practice closer to gametime. I find that interesting that the GM would insist on this and not the manager. I think KW may be getting a little tired of the lackadaisical atmosphere in that clubhouse. In explaining it he said he wants to get the players out of the clubhouse and in their game-ready mode sooner. I’m sure he’s as tired as we fans are of hearing how “next year” we are going to be better at the fundamentals.
As far as the coaches getting there so early and staying late, who wouldn’t like that? Ozzie runs a very loose ship and is the clubhouse leader in fucking around and playing grab-ass. I’d try and get there early too……

knoxfire30

I also caught a kenny tidbit I agree with. He said something along the lines of he is tired of the unearned runs and figures that a lot of it is caused by guys not anticiapating where the ball needs to go before the pitch.
I was taught to think that way when I was 5 or 6 so if kenny thinks that is a true cause for the bonehead plays then a major defensive coaching aspect has been brutally overlooked and needs to be emphasised in spring training.