Despite Alan Zinter being the last reason the San Diego Padres offense hasn’t found much success this season, the team relieved the hitting coach of his duties.
The Padres couldn’t even wait until the end of the season to fire the latest sacrificial lamb (aka hitting coach). In November 2015, Alan Zinter replaced Mark Kotsay. Zinter had been the assistant hitting coach with the Houston Astros before his brief stint with the home team.
Zinter joins a long line of hitting coaches who have been hired then fired since the team moved into Petco Park. When it first opened, Petco most definitely ranked as one of the least hitting friendly environments in all of baseball. But thanks to a multitude of changes, it’s no longer at the bottom in most categories of hitter friendliness (although it’s certainly no Coors Field).
Hired in 2002, Dave Magadan held the position the day Petco Park opened on March 31, 2004, until he was fired in June of 2006. At the time, general manager Kevin Towers admitted the feeble offense could be the product of the environment or (gasp) the hitters themselves.
The Boston Red Sox snatched up Magadan, and the following season, that team’s hitters improved in batting, on base and slugging percentages. The following year, Boston swept the Colorado Rockies in the World Series with a combined batting average of .333. Magadan currently holds the position of hitting coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Magadan’s replacement, Merv Rettenmund, lasted until July of 2007. And the merry-go-round ride continued with Wally Joyner, Jim Lefebvre, Randy Ready, Phil Plantier, Mark Kotsay, and then Zinter. Joyner, sensing the inevitable, actually resigned before being fired. The Padres even hired an assistant hitting coach, Alonzo Powell, who stayed in the job from 2001 to 2015. However, two heads did not improve the situation.
Since 2004, the Padres have ranked at the bottom or close to the bottom in hitting. That year, under Magadan, the Padres ranked seventh. In 2005 the team fell to 25th. Five times, including each of the last four years, the Padres have ranked dead last. A.J. Preller has been general manager for much of that time period.
Alan Zinter may have actually been the last reason for the rather feeble offensive numbers. The Padres have the third lowest payroll in all of baseball, and most of the money goes to players who are no longer with the team.
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Four regulars in the lineup for most of the season, Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, and (until his demotion) Hunter Renfroe, are rookies. Hedges has always known as a defense first catcher. However, all except Renfroe have shown improvement during the season. Hedges said he “owes a lot to that guy,” adding that Zinter helped rebuild his swing. Yangervis Solarte, Cory Spangenberg and Jose Pirela (a career minor leaguer) all have decent numbers.
Zinter certainly cannot be blamed for Wil Myers’ struggles, as he’s had similar problems in his career elsewhere, which the Padres chose to ignore. And, it’s certainly not his fault that the team has two Rule-5 position players.
After the announcement of Zinter’s dismissal, manager Andy Green said the players needed a “different voice.” Actually, a veritable chorus of voices has been heard since Petco Park opened with the same results. In the meantime, the pitching coach merry-go-round continues, leaving fans wondering when (or if), the Padres will ever find the solution to their hitting woes.