I don't care what Jeff Bagwell does as a hitting coach. He may turn out to be an even bigger flop that Sean Berry and I won't care. That's because Bagwell has taken it up on himself to do something with the team besides teaching Hunter Pence the strike zone.
Yes, in case you haven't heard, Bagwell is taking it upon himself to teach the Astros how to run the bases. And all that I've got to say is that it's about damn time someone taught these guys the proper way to run the bases.
This has long been one of my pet peeves about the Astros, their sloppiness on the bases. Hell, nobody in the minors even bothered with teaching Hunter Pence the proper way to slide. Michael Bourn has great speed, but it often seems like he's relying only on his speed, and it often seems like there are guys getting stuck on rundowns that no major leaguer should be getting stuck in.
Bagwell has noticed this, and he's not going to take it anymore.
"I expect guys to run the bases. Their job as hitters is not done after they reach first base," Bagwell told the Houston Chronicle. "Their job is done when they reach home plate. That's something I'm going to be on the guys about, going from first to third, because it's going to help the hitter behind them."
I find it hard to think of a better baserunner that the Astros have had than Bagwell. He was never the fastest guy on the team, and he never showed exceptional speed on the bases. He didn't steal many bases. But nobody was better at going from first to third on a single than Bagwell, of for that matter, scoring on hits where he should have stopped at third base.
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I think one thing, more than any other, that has bugged me about the Astros baserunning is that nobody has really seemed to care. I don't recall reading anything from Ed Wade or the so-called brain trust jumping on the team about bad baserunning decisions. I never recall Phil Garner, Cecil Cooper, Dave Clark, or Brad Mills discussing this matter. I seem to recall Larry Dierker discussing this issue, but then again, like Bagwell, Dierker was a rather cerebral guy who didn't like stupid mistakes.
I don't know if Bagwell's going to have any luck with teaching these guys to run the bases. There's just not much that can be done with guys like Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, or the other old-timers taking up space on this roster. And after advancing through the Astros farm system, where the subject hasn't appeared to have been stressed either by the way the youngsters handle themselves on the bases, it's also questionable how much he will be able to do with them. But even if he accomplishes nothing, it's refreshing that someone associated with the team is finally going to start holding the Astros accountable for their stupidity on the base paths.
The Astros really seem to be intent on using Bagwell as a PR move. Fox Sports Houston is running commercials trying to get people to tune in because of Bagwell being a coach. But maybe Bagwell didn't get the memo, and maybe he cares more about the team than the rest of the brain trust. His taking up the baserunning teaching duties seems to show that he does care more than the others. And seeing somebody associated with the brain trust that actually seems to give a damn is rather refreshing.
It's hard for me to be neutral about Jeff Bagwell. He's always been one of my absolute favorite Astros, and I always thought he was a better, smarter player than Craig Biggio. So while I feel, I fear, that his hiring as the team's hitting coach was just another of Drayton McLane's cynical PR moves, I hope that he succeeds. And hopefully, even if the Astros don't start to hit better under Bagwell, they'll finally, finally, learn how to run the damn bases.