Theo Epstein says Rudy Jaramillo firing was about new message
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com June 12, 2012 11:42PM
Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was fired by the Cubs over philosophy, not results. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: July 14, 2012 6:41AM
In nine days, the Cubs’ front office made its first draft choice since taking over, agreed to terms with its first major international free agent and fired one of the top hitting coaches in the game.
Makes you wonder what it has in mind for next week.
Not that it’s taking anybody’s mind off the wrong direction the team is headed on the field, but the overhaul is definitely in full motion less than halfway through the season.
And Tuesday’s firing of Rudy Jaramillo made it clear that almost everything and everybody is in play, regardless of stature.
The move came about three weeks after the front office met with Jaramillo and ‘‘asked for some adjustments’’ in teaching emphasis. And team president Theo Epstein said it was about philosophy and ‘‘a new message,’’ not about results or anything Jaramillo did wrong.
But at some level, it’s always about results in the big leagues, and players on the third-lowest-scoring team in the National League felt the sting.
‘‘It’s a tough day for everybody. He was part of our team and one of us,’’ first baseman Bryan LaHair said before the Cubs’ 4-3 victory against the Detroit Tigers.
Said Alfonso Soriano, who knows Jaramillo from their days together in Texas: ‘‘It’s very sad. … But it’s part of the game. We didn’t do a great job. But he didn’t have a bat at home plate. … I think they did it because we didn’t hit well the last two months.’’
Epstein said that wasn’t the case: ‘‘It’s a nuance difference. It’s a point of emphasis.’’
He said Jaramillo ‘‘might be the best in the world at the mechanics of the swing.’’
‘‘I think mechanics are important,’’ Epstein said, ‘‘but until we sort of embrace as an organization the right approach, mechanics almost have to take a back seat at times. And that was part of the motivation for the move.’’
James Rowson, 35, moves from the minor-league hitting-coordinator job to take over on an interim basis, Epstein said, and will be re-evaluated after the season.
‘‘We decided that it was best that if you’re going to embrace a new message to have a new voice to go with it,’’ Epstein said of the timing. ‘‘It’s not based on results. It’s more trying to get a new voice with a new message. We have a certain philosophy we believe in, and we have a lot of growth that awaits us as an organization, and [we’re] trying to get there.’’
Jaramillo wasn’t immediately available. But he said during a conversation with the Sun-Times less than a week ago: ‘‘You become a man, and you don’t make excuses about anything. And I’m totally accountable, believe me. I’m accountable to myself and whatever happens.’’
Soriano said Jaramillo left him a message Tuesday.
‘‘He was emotional, and I knew he was very down, and that’s why he didn’t want to see the players here,’’ Soriano said.
Jaramillo, who was in the last year of a three-year, $2.4 million deal, gained a reputation as the top hitting coach in the game in 15 years in that job with the Texas Rangers before going to Chicago.
‘‘He didn’t do anything wrong to get fired,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘We’re all accountable for our offensive performance. … We put the roster together. It’s probably more on us than it is on him. And I’m sure that a lot of the players feel accountable, too. …
‘‘But you have to make tough decisions when there’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be. And we felt the importance of getting a new message in here outweighed everything else.’’
Ultimately, it’s about a see-more-pitches team-wide emphasis that’s not necessarily inconsistent with Jaramillo’s teachings, but that wasn’t as much of a focal point as the front office wanted.
‘‘We’re really trying to get to the point where we have a game plan for our hitters emphasizing selective aggressiveness at the plate,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Seeing a lot of pitches and focusing on getting your pitch to hit. It’s nothing new. … I know Rudy’s a believer in that as well. …
‘‘The goal is not to walk. But the goal is to get your pitch in your count so you can put an aggressive swing on the ball and drive it. And then walks become more of a byproduct of that.
‘‘Usually as a result of that, you drive the ball more because you’re swinging at pitches you can drive, so you end up with more extra-base hits, more home runs, and you end up walking more, too, because you’re waiting for your pitch.’’