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Rudy in review

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The Cubs are at least as bad as a lot of people expected them to be (although definitely worse than I expected), and they also are obviously at the beginning of a vast rebuilding project. Those two notions seemed like enough to keep the current coaching staff employed while the rest of the organization morphed around them, but one of them didn't make the cut.

Rudy Jaramillo, the holdover from the Jim Hendry regime, was fired this week. What seems like an obvious move for a team that hasn't been scoring many runs is more a move about timing and circumstance. It's true the Cubs team batting average and on-base percentage declined each of the three years Jaramillo was hitting coach, though by this year the widely-respected teacher was not exactly working with a bunch of honor students.

Jaramillo had been much more successful in Texas and Houston, and may still be more successful elsewhere, but if you believe the coverage of his firing, he's more about refining swings and less about improving plate patience. In any case, his approach sure seemed to work for the Rangers, and to me this seems a little bit of a missed opportunity for the Cubs.

The new hitting coach--though only on an interim basis for now--is James Rowson, who had been the Cubs' minor league hitting coordinator, and unlike Jaramillo, hasn't proven he can get a major league team to hit better. However, he looks like the right guy at the right time, if you consider that the Cubs are going to become a much younger team in the second half of this season and for the foreseeable future.

Some will say Jaramillo didn't do his job, but he had progressively less to work with the last three years. Others will say hitting coaches are always dead men walking, often the first head to roll when a team isn't winning. I guess that means we shouldn't get too comfortable with Rowson either.

Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy!

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The Cubs reportedly have been talking to Texas Rangers hitting coach and widely-respected guru Rudy Jaramillo, and now Sports Illustrated says the Cubs and Jaramillo may be closing in on a deal.

That would be the best news the Cubs have gotten since Milton Bradley was benched. Incidentally, it could also mean Bradley's days with the Cubs may not be over if they believe Rudy can get good things out of one of his former pupils (Bradley played for the Rangers before the Cubs). Jaramillo also potential could be a savior for Alfonso Soriano, who also used to take Jaramillo's hitting advice when he played for Texas.

After Bradley's terrible year and Soriano's career-worst year, I still wouldn't mind if both of them were somehow shipped out of town, but Bradley will be a hard sell, and the Cubs probably will not try to move Soriano at all.

Can a bonafide hitting guru helps the Cubs reach their offensive potential? It seemed like that's what Gerald Perry did in 2008, and then he took the blame for poor performance in 2009. It seems like hitting coaches are always in the hot seat. Greg Walker has survived as the White Sox hitting coach for years, despite calls for his head on a seasonal basis. Jaramillo may be in a different class than many others though: Before declining the Rangers' latest contract offer, he had been coaching hugely productive line-ups in Texas going back to the mid-1990s.

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