When I think of Barry Bonds and what it takes to be a successful major league hitting instructor, I usually liken it to the idea of Albert Einstein teaching fractions and decimals to a second grader. Could he do it successfully? Or would he be bored, condescending, impatient, and therefore not effective.
No doubt that Barry Bonds was a bona ride major league hitter with all of the natural skills and talent he inherited from his dad Bobby and all the heights that he soared to (not saying how he did it), but you have to wonder how this translates to a middle infielder with a lifetime .239 batting average and a season high of ten home runs. How does that work – or doesn’t it work?
Looking at the roster of MLB hitting coaches this year , we find such underwhelming names like Ty Van Burkleo, Alan Cockrell, Darren Bush, Marcus Jenkins, Erik Owens, Blake Doyle, John Mailee……..and the list goes on. Obviously, these are not names you would think of “Googling” if you wanted to send your son to a hitting camp over the winter. And yet, they all have jobs at the major league level.
Barry Bonds has a job too, as does Mark McGuire, Edgar Martinez (left) , and Mark Grace. Still, the overwhelming majority of batting instructors are no names with little or no experience or success as a player in the the big leagues. But what they do have is a knack for teaching the art of hitting a baseball…….and even more importantly perhaps……….conveying and teaching the mental aspects of hitting where even future Hall of Famers fail seven out of every ten times they stride to the plate.
It’s interesting that Barry Bonds and Don Mattingly are paired together with the Florida Marlins as batting coach and manager. And you have to wonder if Mattingly picked Bonds or if he was picked for him by upper management because Mattingly was always known as a “bring your lunch pail” kind of player who worked exceedingly hard to achieve his status as one of the best hitters in the game when he played. On the other hand, Bonds always appeared as though he had that sweet short stroke from day one.
It’s also telling that when Mattingly was asked to comment about Bonds, he could only offer that he is “a work in progress”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Ted Williams, who could and often would talk hitting all night to anyone who would listen, is another all time great who found it difficult to relate to players at their level – especially as a manager in Washington and Texas. He could never understand why many of his “pupils” didn’t get what he was attempting to communicate.
Bonds is also being introduced to a whole new world in the sense that his job requires a work ethic that he may or may not have. He doesn’t get to watch movies on the plane anymore. Instead, he should be watching video of his players. He also can’t stroll into the clubhouse at 6:00 for a 7:15 game like he was prone to do. Rather, he needs to be there three hours earlier working (repeat working) during extra batting practice time.
Everything tells me that his success or failure will depend strictly on his aforementioned work ethic as a coach. Mattingly commands some juice too and he won’t put up with anything less than what he demands of himself.
Recently, Bonds got a lot of mileage from the fact that he won a Home Run Derby contest against his Marlin team that includes Giancarlo Stanton. But he’s not being paid for that.
I guess it’s good that the Marlins gave him a chance to reenter the game. But I’d be very surprised if this experiment turns out good for anyone.