Sorry I couldn't update the blog immediately, I tried to post updates from downstairs on Twitter. But Alan Cockrell has been fired as hitting coach of the Mariners. He has been replaced by Tacoma Rainiers hitting coach Alonzo Powell.
Cockrell was in the clubhouse briefly this morning saying a few goodbyes.
“I think you get to the point in time when change is inevitable,” GM Jack Zduriencik said. “I think we’ve arrived at that point now. Alan is a tremendous worker and a tremendous person and we wish him the very best. We thank AC for his dedication and all that he’s brought to the Mariners organization.”
Probably no player took Cockrell's dismissal harder than DH Mike Sweeney, who has heaped praise on Cockrell over the past few seasons for any hitting success he's had.
"It’s brutal," Sweeney said. "I look around this clubhouse and there are a ton of players that deserve to get fired before him and I am one of them. I mean, I know I our offense hasn’t had a heart-beat, but it’s not due to Alan Cockrell. It’s due to us, the players. We are the ones that deserve all the criticism, not him. I will be the first one to stand up and take a bullet for that guy because he was here early, he worked his butt off, he put in more hours than anyone in this clubhouse. It’s tough to see a guy like that go. I wish I was the one to go instead of him because I deserve it more than he does. He doesn’t deserve it, but in the same breath, I know jack has a tough job as the gm and when the offense isn’t going the first person you point a finger at is the hitting coach. If the fans could see the work ace put in the cage, video room, counseling guys after games, he was epitome of a pro and one of best hitting coaches I’ve every had. So it’s a tough day for us."
Sweeney wasn't done.
"He is one of the best hitting coaches I’ve ever been around and it breaks my heart on mother’s day, or any day. He doesn’t deserve it. We deserve it way more than he does. I know Jack is doing his job. You have to send a message. Probably the same message could be sent by releasing some players or sending them down or moving them. We are the ones stinking up the place. We have to just go out there and do it. We have the manpower to be better than we are. Are we going to score 12 runs a game like the Texas rangers? Probably not. But we have the ability to rack up some runs every night and we haven’t done that. We just have to go out there and do it. unfortunately with ace this year we didn’t do it and they pointed the finger at him. It’s tough, but that’s baseball..
But this is how it works in baseball, the hitting coach is fired first. Two years ago, I was in Toronto when Jeff Pentland was fired as the hitting coach, and that team was an offensive juggernaut compared to this one.
"Jack has already mentioned it, we have eight guys hitting under .220, that can't continue and you have to start somewhere and Alan is the guy that has to pay the toll for that," Manager Don Wakmatsu said. "I think everybody on the staff is looking at themselves in the mirror as well to try and rectify the situation."
A year ago Wakamatsu decided not to bring back third base coach Bruce Hines. But that was Wak's decision. This was Zduriencik's call first.
"These are responsibilities of a manager and when you bring a staff together and you entrust in them and things don't go right, it is never easy," he said. "You think about the person but you think about their family along with it. I think Alan did just about everything he thought he could do. Unfortunately when we don't produce somebody has to take the blame for it, but it's all of us."
Powell just met with media and obviously he's excited to get called up, but probably would have wanted it another way.
"It was surprise," he said. "I got the call from Jack this morning. You never want to see someone get fired during the year. I've known Alan a long time. We came up in the Giants organization and we played together in the Seattle organization. He's a good friend. But this is baseball and things like that happen unfortunately."
What exactly is Powell's approach to hitting?
Well it's simplicity.
"That's the key," he said. "Everybody got here because they have talent. They got here for a reason. You have to worry about what you can do well, don't concentrate on the things you don't do well."
Under Powell, the Rainiers set a franchise record for home runs in 2008 and they led the PCL in home runs last season. Obviously he doesn't have a team of home run hitters, so that isn't expected. But Wakamatsu is hoping for improvement in other areas.
"When you look at a team that doesn't hit for a lot of power, the one concern is the strikeouts," Wakamatsu said. "When we talk about bringing in a new hitting coach does that change the philosophy? We’ll see, but some of those things have to change."
Seattle has 10 home runs on the season, obviously the lowest in baseball. The Mariners rank last in the AL in batting average (.225), last in on-base percentage (.302), last in slugging percentage (.315), last in runs (94), second to last in doubles (47) .... it's bad.
Here's some notes from the release ... I'll update it as we go.
Powell is in his 27th year in professional baseball, including his fourth season in the Mariners organization and his third as hitting coach at AAA Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League. He spent the 2007 season as the Mariners Minor League Hitting Coordinator. Prior to joining the Mariners organization, he spent five seasons in the Cincinnati Reds organization, including as hitting coach of A-Dayton (2006) and AA-Chattanooga (2002-2003). He managed Dayton in 2004 and 2005.
Powell had a 19-year playing career, spending time in the Montreal, Minnesota, Seattle, Toronto, New York (AL) and Colorado systems. He played in the Majors with Montreal (1987) and Seattle (1991). He also spent six years in Japan, playing for Chunichi (1992-97) and Hanshin (1998). While playing the Japan League, he became the first American to win three straight batting titles (1994-96).
Cockrell was named Mariners hitting coach prior to the 2009 season. He has also been a Major League hitting coach with Colorado (2002 and 2007, 2008).