In a move that's caught everyone by surprise, the Astros have fired Sean Berry as the big league hitting coach and brought in Jeff Bagwell. It's a move that some fans have wanted for most of the season, but the timing seems a tad odd, as the Astros have been winning and hitting better in the past few weeks.
Berry, famously around here, does not like the more patient approaches at the plate. He's been quoted multiple times about not coaching guys to see more pitches. That's different than swinging at everything and not being patient at all, but I wonder if this played a role in the decision. Berry has been given the option to take another job within the organization, and I can see him becoming a "roving hitting instructor" before being assigned a permanent job in the minors next season.
As for Bagwell, I have mixed emotions about this move. The downside is he's no longer going to be in the booth for those Saturday night broadcasts. His laid-back style and humorous personality really made those games fun, as he and JD sparred with each other. It was also nice to hear from someone who just left the game, to give us stories about Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
On the other hand, his job in the booth has given me plenty of confidence about this promotion. I think Bagwell will bring a unique viewpoint to the job and will work tirelessly with these guys to get their swings working. Will he fix the offense? No, there are too many impatient hitters for that. I do, however, feel like that position could be a boon for the Astros, much like Tom McCraw was in his time with the team back in the late '90s.
The other place where I really think Baggy will help the Astros is in the intangibles like clubhouse chemistry. Bagwell is universally regarded as one of the best guys in the game. The few stories Morgan Ensberg has told about Bagwell behind the scenes tell me he's going to do very well as a coach. He'll keep things loose and set a fine example for younger guys like Jason Castro and Chris Johnson.
Two questions hover in my mind. FIrst, can he wear his old No. 5 jersey? Or since it's retired, does he have to pick another? Second, is this the first step in making Bagwell the manager some day?