If there's one thing we should know about Cubs GM Jim Hendry after all these years, it's that he tends to focus "like a laser beam," to use an old presidential campaign phrase, on what he wants every off-season.
The Hendry Laser Light Show legacy includes Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Milton Bradley, LaTroy Hawkins, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Remlinger and Kosuke Fukudome, to name a few. Hendry focused on getting those managers or players since taking over as GM in 2002. Some of them have been good, some not so good.
So it'll be interesting to see how hard Hendry goes after hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who left the Texas Rangers yesterday after 15 mostly good seasons.
My gut says Hendry will pull out the lasers again and land Jaramillo or die trying. Even though first baseman Derrek Lee expressed his feelings on the last day of the season that hitting coaches are overrated, Hendry doesn't believe that at all. Lee is talented enough to know his own swing, and Cubs hitting coaches have pretty much left him alone. But others such, as Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Mike Fontenot and even high-priced guys like Soriano, fall into patterns that a coach can get them out of in a few days.
The mlb.com article I've linked to above confirms that Jaramillo is under contract through Oct. 31 but that the Rangers will grant permission for other clubs to interview Jaramillo. I've put a call into Jim to see if he'll ask for that permission, but I've not heard back yet. I'll keep you posted.
I'm sure Jim would love to have Jaramillo aboard for the organization meetings next month.
There are some interesting parallels between the Cubs and Rangers from 2008 to 2009. In 2008, the Rangers led the major leagues in runs scored, with 901. They fell to 784 runs this year, seventh in the American League. The Cubs led the NL in runs scored in 2008, with 855. They fell to 707 this year, or 10th in the NL.
And here's an interesting quote:
"The main area that I'm most concerned with is the situational area. Team play. I think we were very inconsistent at that, and more than anything else, I think the players have to take the acceptance for not getting that done. But that's something we better harp on during spring training, to play to the situation of the ballgame."
Who said that? Lou? No. You don't see any sentences that begin with the word, "Look," in there, do you? The author of this quote was Rangers manager Ron Washington. Although the Rangers offered Jaramillo a one-year contract to return, there was some disappointment about the drop of runs and the number of walks and strikeouts. I blogged this last night, when word came out of Texas that Jaramillo wasn't going back:
Rangers batters led the AL in strikeouts (not necessarily a bad thing overall) and were 12th in walks. Whether you or I think strikeouts are overrated, because an out is an out no matter how it's recorded, the fact is Rangers president Nolan Ryan expressed concern with the high number of strikeouts and the number of walks.
A batting coach can't cure everything. Cleary, though, there are some guys on the Cubs who could use some help. We'll see what happens.
I also was asked on another blog about candidates from within the Cubs system. The Cubs will interview minor-league hitting coordinator Dave Keller. Former big-leaguer Richie Zisk has been in the Cubs system for many years, most recently as the hitting coach at Class A Daytona. Zisk has a great reputation. However, he's expressed his desire to stay in Florida near his family, and I'm not sure that's any different now.