HOUSTON — Astros general manager Ed Wade announced prior to Sunday’s three-game weekend finale against the St. Louis Cardinals at Minute Maid Park that hitting coach Sean Berry has been relieved of his duties.
Berry, who had been the Astros’ hitting coach over the last five seasons, will be replaced by franchise icon Jeff Bagwell.
“We made a difficult decision today to relieve Sean Berry of his duties as hitting coach, effective immediately,” Wade said. “We will offer Sean an opportunity to stay in the organization.
“We’ll be replacing Sean with Jeff Bagwell, who will take over the hitting coach duties beginning with our workout on Thursday in Pittsburgh for the remainder of the season, and then we’ll reassess after that.”
Although he was stunned by the news, Berry, a former teammate of Bagwell’s in Houston, handled the organization’s decision professionally and departed Minute Maid Park on Sunday in order to fly home to California.
Ultimately, Wade made it a point to express his overall disappointment of how the Astros continue to rank near the bottom in most offensive categories in the National League, as well as Major League Baseball.
“It was a difficult decision for us to make,” Wade said. “In 34 years of baseball, Sean was the best prepared hitting coach I’ve been around, but the results speak for themselves. We need to figure this out, not just at the front-office level, but with the players’ levels as well.
“We need to figure out whether guys actually have the ability to get better or not. We’ve got players who are underperforming. Sean has become somewhat of a victim of the circumstances here because of the fact our offense has struggled.
“We know we’re not the 1927 Yankees, but we’re better than this, and if we’re not better than this, then we need to use the time remaining to assess the talent on the club.”
Bagwell, a four-time All-Star and potential future Hall of Famer, holds the franchise record in home runs (449), RBI (1,529), walks (1,401) and batting average (.297), while ranking second in runs scored (1,517), hits (2,314), doubles (488), total bases (4,213), on-base percentage (.408) and slugging percentage (.540).
The 1994 NL MVP has served as a special assistant to the general manager with the Astros’ organization since his retirement in 2006.
Although it’s his first opportunity to be a big league coach, Bagwell has spent time working with young hitters in Houston’s farm system, as well as on the major league roster, during Spring Training, in addition to visiting the team’s minor league affiliates throughout the regular season in order to provide instruction.
“Not only did he have a great playing career, and sometimes great players don’t always make the best coaches (I recognize that), but I’ve also been very impressed with my time I’ve gotten to spend around Jeff since I’ve gotten here,” Wade said.
The hiring of Bagwell marks the second time this season in which an NL Central team has hired an iconic slugger to join their former club’s respective coaching staff, with the other being Mark McGwire in St. Louis.
“He’s very level-headed and communicates well, particularly in regard to the game,” Wade added. “He seems to have a significant impact on our minor league hitters with the information he conveys. Since he’s got an interest and passion in doing this, I think it’s appropriate to see if it works or not.”
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