SAN DIEGO – Braves fans have taken to the blogosphere and airwaves with speculation and suggestions that hitting coach Larry Parrish could be and/or should be fired. But at this point, that’s apparently all it is. Speculation and suggestions outside the organization.
“I’ve never even thought about that kind of stuff,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday. “That’s never entered my mind, because I’ve been a coach. It’s so easy to say, yeah, you, if it’s not [going well]. I think the best way to say it is, everybody’s got to share responsibility.”
The Braves hit .199 in their last 12 games before Saturday, dropping their overall average to .238 and their on-base percentage to .305. Washington (.237) and San Diego (.234) were the only National League teams with lower averages, and San Francisco (.304) was the lone NL team with a lower OBP.
Nevertheless, the pitching-strong Braves were 43-34, tied for the second-best record in the NL and fourth-best in the majors.
“If you look at our stats over the course of the year, we’re not where we want to be offensively as a team,” Gonzalez said after the Braves got four hits in an 11-2 loss at San Diego on Friday.
A day later, Gonzalez said the team’s offensive woes should not be laid at the feet of Parrish, 57. He’s a former major league player with extensive managing and coaching experience, though not as a hitting coach except for parts of three seasons as a minor league roving instructor for the Tigers.
“You go by the batting cage every day and Larry’s in there banging,” Gonzalez said. “He’s prepared. He’s organized, detailed…. The two worst jobs, for me, are the hitting coach and the pitching coach. Because you’re held directly accountable for stuff that you’re really not accountable for.”
Much of the Braves’ offensive disappointments stem from the career-worst first half by Dan Uggla, who had a major league-low .175 batting average before Saturday, and Jason Heyward, whose inflamed shoulder contributed to a sluggish start (.227 average, .325 OBP, seven homers, 23 RBIs).
Uggla said recently that Parrish should take no heat for the second baseman’s disappointing first half, that the hitting coach has worked hard trying to help Uggla snap out of his season-long malaise.
Saturday, it was the manager who came to Parrish’s defense.
“If [a coach] does the things I said – be there on time, you’re organized, you’re detailed, you’re there for the players – then the other stuff is really on the players,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, you hate to throw everything on the players. But Larry doesn’t hit for them. [Pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] doesn’t pitch for them. And rightly so, they don’t want us to hit for them. If I did, I’d be making more outs.”
The Braves have 585 strikeouts (fourth-most in the NL) and 247 walks (eighth in NL), after leading the league in walks last season and ranking 11th in strikeouts. Gonzalez said there was not a directive or suggestion by him or Parrish for hitters to be more aggressive than they were under previous hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who was reassigned to first-base coach after Gonzalez was hired to replace retired manager Bobby Cox.
“I don’t think it’s any sort of blanket policy that we want them to be more aggressive,” Gonzalez said. “I think it’s up to every individual. I don’t think it’s the old Oakland A’s, where we’ve got to not swing the bats until we get two strikes — it’s not that kind of philosophy. But I know we don’t have that [be aggressive edict]; I’ve never heard anybody talk about that. Just get a good pitch and hit it.”
Gonzalez then waxed a bit philosophical about the Parrish discussion.
“It should be more of a simple world in sports,” he said, “where your criteria as coaches are, you show up to work, you have a good rapport with the players, you’re organized, you’re knowledgeable, and then just let them do their jobs. And I don’t have to sit here, or anybody has to sit here, and say Larry’s job is safe. Yeah, he does all those things I just mentioned.”