In what I can only describe as a strange, rather odd change of events, Don Mattingly has stepped down as the hitting coach for the Dodgers. He will remain with the team as a minor league special assignment coach for the upcoming season. Mike Easler, the former Triple-A hitting coach, will fill the spot.
Since the reason given was "family reasons," my first thought was that someone is in serious danger in his family. I don't know if it's some sort of terminal illness or something else along that line, but that was my first thought. Don't get me wrong, I certainly hope nothing like that is wrong. But when no specific reason was given other than he needed to spend more time at home in Evansville, Indiana, my thoughts were decidedly negative.
I don't think I'll ever know just how much of an impact a hitting coach can have. To me, if you have the hitting talent, they'll shine through. If you don't, they won't. Take last year for example. Eddie Murray started the year, but was canned when he blamed for not being nearly approachable enough to help the young talent. In stepped Bill Mueller, a former AL batting champ praised for his more personable approach, and the hitting remained the same - weak. While I loved the Mattingly signing, I'm not so sure it'll really matter as much as people think.
Of course, should the Dodgers falter at the plate during the opening of the season like they did all last year, people will be clamoring for Mattingly to come back. I can only hope that everything on the homefront turns out to be fine, and he'll be back in blue sometime during the year, if not 2009.