The Cleveland Indians stand alone in first place in the AL Central once again, thanks to winning three straight from Pittsburgh over the weekend while the Tigers dropped two of three in Colorado. That recent string of games wasn’t enough to save hitting coach Jon Nunnally‘s job, however, as he was fird by the club on Saturday and replaced with Bruce Fields.
If that name sounds familiar, it should.
Fields is the father of Daniel Fields, currently the centerfielder for the Class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. The elder Fields played 16 games as an outfielder for the Tigers in 1986 and after his playing days were over, served as a minor league manager for Detroit, with stints in both West Michigan and Toledo. Bruce later served on Alan Trammell’s staff from 2003-05, serving as bench coach for one season, then as hitting coach the last two. He has been Cleveland’s minor league hitting coordinator since 2007. He will join the Tribe for tonight’s game against the Rockies.
By all accounts, Bruce Fields is an excellent baseball man and his reputation as a manager in the Tigers’ system was outstanding. I’m glad to see he’s gotten another shot at a big league coaching gig. Frankly, the greatest hitting coach in the world couldn’t have turned the group of players he was given during the Trammell era into a major-league caliber lineup.
Nunnally’s firing does come as a bit of a surprise given the amount of injuries the Tribe has encountered this year. The team’s most recognizable hitters, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, have both missed large chunks of the season, but both have been good when in the order. Perhaps the Tribe is looking at the slow starts for Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana in making this move, which is fair to a point I guess. It’s easy to look at the struggling hitters and assume the hitting coach isn’t getting through to them.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the word of Nunnally’s dismissal didn’t go over well in the clubhouse.
"Some players made themselves unavailable for comment. Others declined comment. One who spoke on the record was right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.“I don’t know what’s going on,” Choo said. “It’s not like we’re in last place; we’re in first place. There’s a lot of season left. I’m just sad that he’s not around us anymore. This is very disappointing. I feel very bad about it. He helped me. He helped everybody.”"
This is an issue we’ve seen in Detroit as well when idiot bloggers (like me) decide to take up the case that Lloyd McClendon should be let go. It’s important to also look at the success stories in these cases as well. Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Brantley are having outstanding seasons under Nunnally’s watch; are they hitting in spite of him, or is there something to the idea that perhaps Nunnally isn’t all to blame here. For every hitter who slumps, there is usually one or two that take off thanks to an adjustment made by the hitting coach. It’s not like Choo didn’t have a great season last year, when Nunnally was also instructing him.
The bottom line is that the Indians probably just felt like a new voice was needed to get through to the players like Choo and Santana. They’d better hope that the Cabreras and Brantleys stay hot as well or it won’t much matter who holds the hitting coach title in Cleveland.