It isn’t often that Padres fans get good news, but that’s what was waiting for me when I dragged my lazy carcass off the futon at the crack of noon. When I engaged in my “morning” ritual of scrolling through Twitter while seated on a white oval with a hole in it I was pleased to learn that the Friars had hired cult hero Matt Stairs to be their next hitting coach. It might work out spectacularly or he might be scapegoated and get the stanky boot in a year or two, as seems to be the case for most hitting coaches who have called Petco Park home — seriously, that job is practically like Professor of Defense Against The Dark Arts or drummer for Spinal Tap — but either way, good or bad, it’ll be entertaining, and after 30 years of rooting for this team, that’s all I can ask for.
As I was saying to my friend once I left the room in which I read the news, Stairs seems like the perfect hitting coach for this era of big swings, big bombs, big misses, and, uh, can walks be big? Sure, why not; I’ll say it: Matt Stairs is gonna teach these kids to take big walks. I said that half in jest, because you, I, and Matt Stairs know there’s more to hitting than launch angle and exit velocity, and that approach isn’t for everyone. In full seriousness, Stairs seems like a fit for this team based on the work he did with young hitters this past season as Philadelphia’s hitting coach. His impact was noted by the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb:
...Stairs, 49, developed a rapport with the young players in the Phillies clubhouse — his work with Aaron Altherr was most notable — but will depart for California without an assurance of a job under the next Phillies manager.
...The Phillies scored 4.26 runs per game in 2017 after a 3.77 average in 2016. That was their highest mark since 2011. The team’s on-base percentage increased to .315 from .301. It helped, obviously, that the collection of hitters improved from one season to the next. Still, some of the younger players credited Stairs for helpful advice and adjustments as they began to confront big-league pitching.
Stairs will be the Padres’ tenth hitting coach since moving in to Petco Park in 2004, joining Dave Magadan, Merv Rettenmund, Wally Joyner, Jim Lefebvre, Randy Ready, Phil Plantier, Mark Kotsay, Alonzo Powell, and Alan Zinter. His assistant hitting coach will be Johnny Washington, who joined the big league staff last year as first base coach. According to Dennis Lin’s sources, Washington’s old gig will be filled by someone already with the organization, so speculate accordingly.