By James Clark
East Village Times
Ever since the San Diego Padres moved to Petco Park, they have had trouble with their offense.
The spacious ballpark was immediately deemed a pitcher’s haven after arriving in the league during the 2004 season.
Yes, Petco has traditionally been a place where the ball does not fly well, but in recent years, with the arrival of new construction around the ballpark, the stadium should be categorized as fair. The stadium might be a decent hitting home field presently, but the recent Padres teams have still been abysmal with the bat. Someone had to pay for that.
The Padres have gone through 12 total hitting coaches since the 2000 season. Ben Oglivie, Duane Espy, Dave Magadan, Merv Rettenmund, Wally Joyner, Jim Lefebvre, Randy Ready, Phil Plantier, Alonzo Powell, Mark Kotsay, Alan Zinter, and Luis Ortiz have all held the position in some regard. Powell was officially an assistant hitting coach.
With that crew, averaging a little over a year of service time, Matt Stairs should not be too comfortable in his uniform. That is the sad truth.
But wait. This is a different era of Padres baseball. The team has an unbelievable amount of young talent about to hit the upper minor league system. Players like Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, and Austin Hedges are already at the major league level. Like no other time in Padres’ history, a batting coach is set up for success.
With an excellent crop already here, and players like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias close to being ready, Stairs could easily reap the rewards of this competitive Padres era. That is, if he can teach these kids some patience. Teach them to hunt their pitch and not give away at bats. Say what you want about Stairs and his unorthodox slow-pitch softball style of swing, but he generally made contact and he certainly took his share of walks.
Matt Stairs had a 19-year career in the majors and played to the ripe old age of 43. That in itself deserves a lot of praise.
He finished his career with a .262/.356/.477 batting line in 1,895 games and over 6,000 plate appearances. He struck out over 1,100 times, but also walked over 700 times. He retired with a 832 career OPS and a 117 career OPS+. Both very respectable numbers for the Canadian-born outfielder who played for 12 different major league teams, including the Padres in 2010.
So should Matt Stairs rent or buy in San Diego? Well, considering he earned a reported $19.5 million through his entire career, he can certainly afford to buy. Perhaps an investment property or vacation home by the beach. Stairs would be a great fit for the Ocean Beach area. He could party with David Wells and reminisce about the good old days (on off-day of course).
The point is the Padres’ hitting coach job is a kiss of death to major league coaches. Stairs can look at the challenge as an opportunity to make a name for himself in the game of baseball. The Padres’ young offensive team is very capable. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee success. If they struggle early, Stairs could be a victim or a scapegoat in the situation. You have to expect a certain amount of failure with this young group of hitters, but if someone can reach out and get into their heads, the upside is tremendous. Will Matt Stairs be the one? Will he be the coach to get viable offense from the San Diego Padres? Stay tuned, the 2018 season is just around the corner.