Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Dodgers fire Jeff Pentland
By Tony Jackson
SAN FRANCISCO -- Citing what he said was a lack of focus by his club's struggling offense, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti announced the firing of Jeff Pentland as the team's hitting coach on Wednesday.
The move comes midway through Pentland's first season as the Dodgers' primary hitting coach, a job he inherited when Don Mattingly was promoted to manager after Pentland served as Mattingly's assistant for the previous two-plus seasons.
Dave Hansen, who had been assisting Pentland in the same manner, will serve as the team's primary hitting coach for the rest of the season.
"It was a very tough decision," Colletti said. "This is a good man. Pent has always been a good man and a very good hitting guy. ... (But) this is a reflection on how we're hitting."
The Dodgers entered Wednesday's game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park hitting just .250 as a team, and they were next to last in the National League in runs scored. They have been particularly bad at hitting with runners in scoring position.
Pentland was told of his firing in a meeting with Colletti and Mattingly immediately after Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Giants. Mattingly broke the news to the team a couple of hours before Wednesday's game.
Pentland wasn't made available for comment.
"Donnie and I had talked about it for a couple of weeks," Colletti said. "My hope was that after the (All-Star) break, we would come out refreshed a little bit and become more productive. But the focus hasn't been there, and the at-bats haven't been there. The production with runners in scoring position is near the bottom of baseball."
Hansen, who referred to Pentland as a "mentor" and pointed out that he had once had Pentland as a hitting coach when Hansen was playing for the Chicago Cubs in 1997, said the hitting philosophy he will try to impart will be similar to Pentland's.
"I learned a lot from him," Hansen said. "I certainly have my ideas, and I will elaborate a little more on what Pent already started, but this guy knows a lot. It didn't work out, but that doesn't discredit his knowledge of the game. I have my ideas, and we are going to to them, but right now, we have to come together and play together."
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, who despite his .299 average has been one of the team's most disappointing players because he has hit just nine home runs and driven in only 44 runs, said the players bear a big part of the responsibility for Pentland's firing.
"You feel responsibility for all the things that have happened this year," Ethier said. "I don't know what the (reason for) the decision was or why it was made at this moment. I guess if they think this is the turning point in the season ... that is the only reason I can see for the decision being made at this time. You obviously know it's unfair, having to blame one person, and that one person is the hitting coach.
"I learned a lot from him, and I will still use him as a hitting coach during the offseason in Arizona."
Ethier lives in the Phoenix area, where Pentland owns and operates a private hitting facility that counts numerous major league players among its clientele.
The timing of the move is curious considering the Dodgers entered Tuesday 14 1/2 games behind first place in the National League West with only 65 games remaining, giving the appearance that it might be far too late for such a change to have much of an effect on the rest of their season. But Colletti clearly believes it can have an impact.
"You hope it does," he said. "You hope it's a new voice. You also hope somebody who sees a good man being let go will put it upon themselves that you know what, I have to be better at what I do. This lineup doesn't lack for talent. Are we the '27 Yankees? No, but when you look at the offensive production of this club, there are some guys who have certainly fallen short -- not fallen short of expectations that were unwarranted, but fallen short of expectations that are typical of their performances in the past."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.