My beloved Houston Astros have had a really pathetic offensive attack this year. They are near the bottom of the National League in all categories of hitting.
Their pitching has been more than adequate to compete in their division. Both Roy Oswalt and Brett Myers have pitched about as well as anybody in the league all season. Lately, Wandy Rodrigues has been rounding into form, and their two young guys, Felipe Paulino and Bud Norris, show great promise if they can just manage to stay healthy. Their "old reliable" Brian Moehler is, well, reliable. He knows how to pitch. Those are the starting pitchers. The bullpen, meanwhile, has been adequate and sometimes more than adequate.
So the fact that the Astros head into the All-Star break next to last in their division and with one of the worst records in all of baseball is not the fault of the pitching. And the defense has been okay, so the poor record can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the hitters.
When a team is severely deficient in a particular aspect of the game, the time-honored tradition in baseball is to fire the coach who is in charge of that aspect, even if the failure is not his fault. That is what happened with the Astros today. Sean Berry, their hitting coach, who was a very good hitter when he played the game a few years ago, was fired. He is well-liked in the organization and will be offered another position with the team, but management felt they had to shake things up, perhaps give their lackadaisacal hitters a kick in the pants.
Well, if that's what they wanted, I think they've found the right guy to do it. Jeff Bagwell, about whom I might be prejudiced since he is my all-time favorite Astro, is the best hitter the team ever had, but perhaps more importantly, he's probably the player who was most respected by other players. When he was playing, the atmosphere around the team was totally different than it is today and that was mostly down to him and his buddies, Craig Biggio and Brad Ausmus. The team has gone steadily downhill since Bagwell's career was cut short by a bum shoulder in 2005, their World Series year. Without his presence in the clubhouse, it just isn't the same team. I think the Astros wanted to get that presence back in uniform, back in the clubhouse, anyway they could, even as a hitting coach.
So the man with one of the weirdest batting stances in the history of baseball will now be a hitting coach and will try to wake up the sleeping bats of Pence, Lee, Berkman and company. But then, it's not really his expertise on batting stances that they need. They know how to stand in the batters' box. No, what they need is him - his personality, his competitive fire, his never-say-die attitude. If he can impart even a little bit of that, then the Astros hitters might just regain some respectability in the second half.