With the news breaking last night that hitting coach Chad Mottola had been fired and first base coach Dwayne Murphy would be retiring (a nicer way to say fired?) Blue Jays fans began to wonder why the coach that oversaw one of the most successful facets of the 2013 team was being removed, while all the other staff was being retained for 2014. It's definitely a good question and one that I think everyone would like an answer to from general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Did the front office feel someone needed to be made a scapegoat and Mottola drew the short straw or did he do a fundamentally bad job in his first year coaching in the big leagues.
The consensus seems to be that the least likely coaches to be fired were in fact the ones that were. If Dwayne Murphy really did want to retire then that's understandable, but without further information regarding Mottola it's impossible to support the team's decision. Mottola was credited with helping Anthony Gose and Colby Rasmus make positive adjustments in their swing this year and if you wondered what Colby Rasmus' Dad thought of the move now you know:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href="https://twitter.com/gregorMLB">@gregorMLB</a> yea this move is perplexing to say the least.</p>— Tony_Rasmus_IV (@FlorenceFalcon0) <a href="https://twitter.com/FlorenceFalcon0/statuses/387383182540025856">October 8, 2013</a></blockquote>
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There's been talk that Mottola and Gose had planned to meet this offseason to work on his swing before going into Spring Training next year, which makes the firing even more difficult to understand.
Although the moves that were made may not be understood for quite some time, was there a better move that could have been made? When a season like the Blue Jays had this year happens, a scapegoat is usually chosen to give the fans peace of mind that the organization is making moves to make sure the disaster never happens again. In the Blue Jays case, a scapegoat could have been chosen from a group that includes Demario Hale, Luis Rivera, Pete Walker, or even John Gibbons and Alex Anthopoulos. It's doubtful that Hale had much to do with the failings of the season, but there's a case to be made against both Rivera and Walker.
Third base and infield coach Luis Rivera gave numerous questionable green lights to baserunners rounding third this season along with being in charge of a horrific infield that could hardly make routine outs earlier in the season. Firing Rivera wouldn't make a huge change going into next year, but it would at least send the message that the team was working to fix it's shortcomings from the 2013 season.
Pete Walker was the coach I expected to be fired in the offseason as the starting rotation this year performed so far below expectations that it seemed someone would have to pay for it. How much Walker had to do with the implosion of Josh Johnson and even his effect on Ricky Romero after working with him in Spring Training is anybody's guess, but generally the pitching coach is the one that's forced to bear the responsibility of a bad rotation. Some fans seem to argue that Walker is somehow also to blame for the ridiculous number of injuries to Blue Jays pitchers this season, but that can't be proven very easily and shouldn't be held against Pete.
The more significant staff that could have been made scapegoats would have been either John Gibbons or Alex Anthopoulos and I think most people are pleased that the Blue Jays didn't go to this far of an extreme. Gibbons didn't do anything awful during the first year of his second stint with the team and he seemed to be well liked by the majority of the team meaning firing him would be a step backwards for the organization. It's clear Anthopoulos shouldn't be fired, as the majority of the moves he made in the past few years have been smart decisions with unlucky injuries wreaking havoc on his well laid plans for the 2013 Blue Jays.
If I was running the ship in Toronto, I would have probably considered firing Pete Walker or Luis Rivera to try and right the wrongs made in 2013, but it would be just as defendable if no moves were made and the Blue Jays took another shot at it with the same staff in 2014. For the moment, the removals of Chad Mottola and Dwayne Murphy make little sense and it will be interesting to see what Alex Anthopoulos and the front office have to say about it. Post a comment below if you think someone on the Blue Jays' staff should have been made a scapegoat and if so who you think should have been shown the door.