Steve Henderson spent four seasons as the Phillies hitting coach, with the team spiraling downward offensively. While a good chunk of that wasn't his full fault, he didn't do much to save his job and was let go at the end of the season. It didn't take the Phillies too long to find a replacement, but then again, they didn't have to go too far. They only had to look into their TV booth to find Matt Stairs, who for the last three seasons, has been analyzing the Phillies - including their hitting woes - for viewers who have taken a liking to his style in the booth and also found his hitting advice to make a lot of sense. Apparently, the Phillies thought it made a lot of sense as well.
"I feel like I was a hitting coach for the fans for the last three years, talking about our hitters, talking about situations and hitting approach. Now, I'll work with those hitters on the field," said Stairs, perhaps best known for his heroic home run in Game Four of the 2008 National League Championship Series. Stairs delivered a two-run pinch-hit home run to lead the Phillies to the World Series.
Perhaps his open critiques of hitters and how they handle situations is part of what led him to get the job. Unbeknownst to fans, Stairs has kept notes on Phillies hitters, so he'll certainly have a basis to work from once Spring Training rolls around.
"I already have a book on every hitter's strengths and weakness. I love hitting and love teaching it. I'm really excited," said the 48-year old Stairs.
When the position opened, Stairs took the initiative to text manager Pete Mackanin to let him know he would be interested. The Phillies interviewed a few other candidates, but kept coming back to Stairs. Many of Stairs positions - patience at the plate and working counts - seem to fall pretty closely in line with what the Phillies have tried, unsuccessfully, to preach to their hitters.
"If you work counts, the pitcher will make a mistake," said Stairs at his introductory press conference. "I'll try to make all of our hitters realize they don't have to be in a hurry to hit and you do that through a lot of communication, film study and work."