The Royals fired first base coach Doug Sisson this morning. His coaching responsibilities included baserunning, outfield and bunting, on top of his duties during the game in the coach’s box at first.
His replacement will be organizational stalwart Rusty Kuntz, himself an outfield defensive coach in the organization and the man who worked primarily with Alex Gordon when he converted to left field in Omaha. Gordon won a Gold Glove in left last year, of course.
So that’s the news update.
Pardon me if this seems just too snarky, even for a Royals fan, but this is the kind of “deck chairs on the Titanic” kind of move that teams love to do. It’s not just the Royals, it’s sports. Sure, some of these little things do matter, but really, how consequential is a first base coach? Yes, the Royals stunk it up on the bases in 2012, especially early, but does one coaching change make that big of a difference? Are the Royals suddenly or even gradually going to make better decisions in the heat of the moment on the basepaths?
The Royals said that a change was warranted, and sure, maybe it was. I’m not really upset that Sisson is gone. I couldn’t grade the abilities of one baserunning coach over another. There’s not really a coaching WAR stat out there to try to quantify things. The Royals overall are better than average in total stolen bases, but they’ve seen their share of mistakes. I don’t know how much that goes onto Sisson versus placing the blame on the players. The coach prepares, the players execute.
I don’t want to misrepresent the Royals position on the move. I’m not suggesting that they think firing Doug Sisson makes this team a playoff contender right now and that all the problems are solved.
But my hunch, after watching this team for so long, is that they see this sort of move as doing something when it really looks more like a move for the move’s sake. They can say they did something to turn the bad play around, when really it doesn’t do anything.
Maybe there’s more to it and Sisson just wasn’t meshing with the rest of the staff. I don’t know. Hitting coaches and pitching coaches get a lot of credit for turning players around or getting the best out of them, but their influence is overstated at the big league levels. I’d guess that a very good player like Robinson Cano would be a very good hitter if his hitting coach were Kevin Seitzer or Groucho Marx. Placing blame, giving credit, these are difficult things to do fairly. Greg Schaum pointed out a contradiction: if Kuntz gets credit for turning around Gordon, does he take the blame for Wil Myers (apparently) not being ready as an outfielder? That’s who’s been working with him in the minors this whole time.
In the big picture, I don’t think it matters who’s coaching first, but it would then follow that such a move wouldn’t be necessary either. As I said before, this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. But if the Royals win their next 50 games, prepare for Rusty Kuntz night at the K.