Texas hires Dave Magadan.
He coached rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who tore things up on the league right out of the gate in 2012.
Maybe Mike Olt can develop into that guy.
He coached Dustin Pedroia in his rookie season, too, and he was instantly the hitter then that he is now.
While the approaches are different, if Jurickson Profar settles in as the .300/.370/.460 hitter that Pedroia is, with the same 15-20 homers annually and 20 stolen bases, that would seem about right. (Plus, remember that scout’s quote that Peter Gammons shared a year ago – that Profar had “Hanley Ramirez ability . . . and Pedroia makeup.”)
Dave Magadan also coached Jacoby Ellsbury when he broke into the big leagues, and during yesterday’s conference call announcing the hiring of Magadan as the Rangers’ new hitting coach, the 50-year-old talked a lot about Ellsbury’s maturation as a hitter, one who was too passive at the plate when he arrived, thinking too much about not making mistakes as he was being counted on as a leadoff hitter pretty much right from the start, but developing quickly into an offensive threat.
That’s the player Texas wants Leonys Martin to be.
Magadan talked about instilling an aggressive attitude in Ellsbury, and his hitters as a whole. Stepping with a mindset that you’re going to swing the bat unless your eyes tell you the pitch is outside the zone. When Ellsbury adopted that approach, Magadan said, his power from the left side – which in batting practice was always as eye-opening as David Ortiz’s or J.D. Drew’s – began to emerge.
Not that the aggressive approach means Magadan wants his hitters swinging from the heels. Over his tenure with Boston (2007-2012), the Red Sox led baseball by seeing 3.94 pitches per plate appearance. If that suggests to you that teams just weren’t throwing as many strikes to Boston’s typically dangerous lineup, or that Red Sox hitters were adept at fouling pitches off until they got something they could do some damage with, or both, then you might be more than just a little pumped to see what he might be able to do with the Texas lineup.
If teams continue to try and draw Rangers hitters offsides with breaking balls outside the zone, and they start to let more of those pitches go by, and that forces pitchers to come back into the zone more often, well, you get the idea. Working counts equals hitters’ counts. Hitters’ counts equal crooked numbers.
Boston’s offense was second in baseball in OPS in 2008 and 2009, first in 2010 and 2011. And Magadan’s other two seasons there? In 2007, Boston drew 689 walks, which remains the most by any AL team since 2000, and won the World Series. (By way of comparison, the last four Rangers teams, which have averaged 91.5 wins, have averaged 484 walks.) In 2012, Boston was awful, with an offense that had only five players appear in more than 90 games (Mike Aviles had the second-most games played), a bad rotation and a worse bullpen, and the yearlong Bobby Valentine mess.
After Boston’s offense had reached base 35 percent of the time and logged an .800 OPS in Magadan’s first five seasons there, the numbers fell to .315 and .730 this year.
Which isn’t to suggest that the Red Sox weren’t interested in bringing him back. Magadan’s contract gave the club an option to keep him in 2013, but he said Boston GM Ben Cherington was “professional enough to let me see what else was out there.” They reportedly gave Magadan a Friday deadline to decide whether to stay or leave.
Seattle was interested, too. And Pittsburgh, managed by hitting guru Clint Hurdle. And Cleveland, now managed by Magadan’s former Boston boss, Terry Francona.
Jon Daniels made it clear yesterday that this move wasn’t predicated by a decision to take Scott Coolbaugh out of the post. Daniels said that Magadan is the only hitting coach the club was interested in talking to. It was an opportunity to get one of the best in the business, he said. Maybe there wouldn’t have been a change at hitting coach at all if the opportunity to hire Magadan wasn’t there, or didn’t work out.
Magadan, according to Rob Bradford (WEEI.com), said that the Rangers “made a really aggressive play for me” and that the Red Sox “made an organizational decision not to go to that level regarding how much to compensate their hitting coach.”
It’s not known how much Texas will pay Magadan (or for how long), but this is an organization that made Mike Maddux baseball’s highest-paid pitching coach when it hired him away from Milwaukee.
Bradford reports that Magadan interviewed with the Mariners early last week and then met with Daniels and Rangers Director of Pro Scouting Josh Boyd on Monday night. He then had breakfast with Daniels, Ron Washington, and Don Welke Tuesday morning.
Magadan, who played on two Oakland teams that Washington coached for, said yesterday that his first conversation with Daniels – whom he’d never met – did it for him. He said he “immediately felt like he was already part of the family” in Texas.
He also said he wants to win every year. If that was another factor that separated Texas from Seattle and Pittsburgh and Cleveland – and Boston – good enough.
Aside from the young Boston hitters that we’ve already talked about, there was also Josh Reddick, who’s now a star in Oakland but broke in under Magadan with the Red Sox, and Adrian Gonzalez, whom Magadan (while in his first hitting coach job with the Padres) instantly took to crazy heights the year that the young hitter arrived in San Diego from Texas.
But there are tons of veterans on his resume as well. While Magadan had success with a few young hitters in Boston, there just weren’t many who got opportunities with that club. His primary job with the Red Sox was to keep a lot of very important veteran hitters on track, making adjustments as the league did or as the process of aging dictated.
And that’s probably as important a job as any he’ll have in Texas, at least in 2013. While he made specific mention during yesterday’s conference call of the Rangers being on the verge of breaking in several young hitters, if he can get Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz and Michael Young and Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton – whichever of them return – back on track, and if he can take Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland to new levels, and if he can make sure Adrian Beltre and David Murphy are just as productive in 2013 as they were in 2012 – and as Beltre was in Boston in 2010 (he also had Murphy very briefly in Boston in 2007), then the contributions Profar and Martin and Olt make next year will be gravy.
This remains a veteran team, as Boston always was under Magadan, and a very good offense, just one that needs a return to what Daniels described as that dangerous mix of plate discipline, physical talent, and mental approach that seemed to wane for whatever reason late in 2012.
Maybe Olt will eventually hit like Middlebrooks. Maybe Profar will eventually prompt scouts to compare him to Pedroia not only in terms of makeup but also as an offensive force. Maybe Martin will turn into Ellsbury.
And if not, maybe Ellsbury is here a year from now.
* * *
On September 22, 1993, Nolan Ryan felt tightness in his elbow during pregame warm-ups in the Kingdome bullpen. It never calmed down.
The first five Seattle hitters in the bottom of the first reached base off Ryan – single, walk, walk, walk, Dann Howitt home run – and he went to a 3-1 count on the sixth hitter, throwing ball one, ball two, called strike one, and ball three before summoning manager Kevin Kennedy, pitching coach Claude Osteen, and trainer Danny Wheat to the mound. It turns out on that third pitch to the Mariners’ number six hitter, he felt a burning sensation. After that one extra pitch, he was done. He’d never pitch again.
Dave Magadan was that hitter.
When Steve Dreyer came on to replace Ryan and issued ball four, it closed Magadan’s career book against Ryan, one of the most impressive of any hitter to face the Express more than a few times. In eight career plate appearances, he singled three times, drew three walks, hit a sacrifice fly, and struck out once.
Someone had to have the final plate appearance of the 22,575 against Ryan. Magadan was the final hitter Ryan faced, watching four pitches go by, one of them a called strike delivered at 98 miles per hour by an arm working with a torn ligament in the elbow.
Now they’re working together, along with Daniels and Washington and Beltre and Andrus and Profar and Martin, gunning to change Magadan’s most significant note as far as this club is concerned, from a famous Ranger’s last to an eventual Rangers’ first, the winning of the franchise’s first World Series.
Taking this offense, however it’s populated between established veterans and the infusion of youth, to a level some have been at before and others haven’t been at yet would be a huge step in that direction.