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Fire Jack Clark?
2003-06-12 08:50
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Jason Reid's idea of a "bold move" (in the Times) is for the Dodgers to move Brian Jordan to the No. 2 slot in the order so that Paul Lo Duca can drop down and gain more RBI opportunities.

Frankly, I'd rather Reid have low standards for boldness than see him advocate willy-nilly change, but a better adjective for this suggested move would be "inconsequential." The theory is that because Lo Duca is the Dodgers' hottest hitter and is batting a team-leading .361 with runners in scoring position, he needs to be batting with more runners on base. However, Reid himself writes that Jordan, who this week was elevated to the No. 3 slot in the order ahead of Shawn Green, is himself batting .321 with runners in scoring position. The difference between the Dodgers' No. 3 hitter batting .321 or .361 with RISP is four hits per 100 in those situations, or loosely translated, about one hit per month.

Reid's case would have been better made using RISP-OPS, because the difference is more strongly in Lo Duca's favor, 1.068 to .831, but it still doesn't matter.

No, a bold move would be something like firing batting coach Jack Clark.

Like vice-presidents, batting coaches aren't really expected by outsiders to deliver any magic. This is in distinct contrast to pitching coaches. I can name many who have worked wonders: Atlanta's Leo Mazzone, St. Louis' Dave Duncan, Oakland's Rick Peterson among others. Who's the last impact hitting coach? Charlie Lau, who died in 1984?

But within an organization, behind the scenes, vice-presidents actually have work to do and results to produce. And it's hard for me to understand why the Dodgers would be satisfied with the results produced by Clark.

Really, why was Clark was even hired? His experience, according to The Sporting News, was one season managing the independent Class A-level River City Rascals and one season as the Dodgers' Class A hitting instructor.

Said Clark in 2001:

"Yeah, it was a short journey. I was lucky," Clark said on the night he had his jersey retired by the Rascals earlier (that season). "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. You just got to catch a break. I think I sent a nice message by paying my dues here (with River City). I got some nice letters of recommendation from Jack McKeon and Whitey Herzog that helped me out, and it happened to be the right timing, the right place, with the right team."

We should all pay such dues.

Plus, he's a guy that no Dodger fan with memories of his 1985 home run off Tom Niedenfuer can rally behind. That homer shouldn't disqualify him for the job, but in the absence of other points in his favor, why go after him?

The Dodgers have had the worst hittting team in the majors this season, and nary a word has been said about Clark. Perhaps it's out of sympathy for his motorcycle injuries, perhaps out of an assumption that he isn't supposed to do anything. Shawn Green's slump is Shawn Green's fault; Adrian Beltre's slump is Adrian Beltre's fault. Maybe that's true.

If that's the case, cashier the position. Really. If Clark can't help where it counts, if his value is only in, say, getting Cesar Izturis to hit .240, than put him on unemployment. Or disability, if you're so inclined.

Otherwise, it's time to do something about the situation.

I said firing Clark would be a bold move. That doesn't mean I'm advocating it. Not first, anyway.

No, I'm going to stick with what I've said all season. I'm going to advocate something very, very simple - but very consequential as well.

The Dodgers must recognize that their primary problem is not that they are not getting enough two-out singles with guys on second base. Their primary problem is that they are the worst-hitting home run team in at least the past 10 years.

Once they recognize that, then they must determine whether Clark can help them solve that problem in any way. In other words, perhaps he has been led astray by Jim Tracy or some other higher-up telling him to focus on the wrong issues. If not, fire him. They cannot do any worse.

There is a real problem here. A tangible one. I don't know if the Dodgers can solve it, but it would nice if someone would at least acknowledge it.

Meanwhile, I'm reading rumors that the Dodgers would trade prospects for Roberto Alomar, who has two home runs this season.

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