It seemed to happen quickly.
Just before noon, it was muttered that the Padres may be interested in plucking their hopes for an actually effective offense from the Phillies’ coaching staff.
And then, half an hour later:
Can confirm Matt Stairs will be the Padres' next hitting coach. A young Phillies offense saw improvement under Stairs in 2017.— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) October 27, 2017
So apt was the hitting wisdom uttered by Matt Stairs in the Phillies’ TV broadcast booth from 2014-16, he was moved into the dugout so that his insight could benefit actual Phillies hitters, rather than the cheese-eared masses watching at home.
It was a delightful move. Who better to train prospects to put the bat on the ball than the man whose 2008 NLCS home run ripped a hole in the universe? Under Stairs’ tutelage, the Phillies team slash line went from .240/.301/.385 to .250/.315/.409. Other factors contributed to this, of course—better players, new players, baseballs injected with weightlessness serum—but in general, Stairs’ presence was a boon to the lineup, as many young players credited him with greatly helping their output.
Nick Williams said that he and his hitting coach “clicked instantly” during spring training, allowing the young outfielder to become comfortable and confident at the plate.
“He picked [my swing] apart. He’s been a big help,” Williams said, after a preseason in which Stairs dissected his swing, suggested remedies, and celebrated any success.
You may have noticed Rhys Hoskins’ output this year as well. Hoskins credited Stairs for meeting with him prior to each game, finding a point of attack for an opposing pitcher, and being vigilant in waiting for his pitch. This process helped make Hoskins one of the fastest compilers of home run statistics in the history of the sport.
Stairs has trumpeted for Maikel Franco’s cause as well, getting the scuffling third baseman to make adjustments during the year, including raising his hands in his stance, and sticking to his belief that there is still a powerful hitter within him.
Should the Phillies continue to have an explosive, fun, young offense, then Matt Stairs, NLCS hero, has somehow found a way to intensify his Phillies legacy. And it’s a bummer to see him take off for the Padres, but his post-playing career as a nomadic slugging mentor for all of the teams he once played for must go on. The Phillies have had their turn, and perhaps the question marks as far as leadership in the dugout moving forward gave Stairs his opening. No matter the case, he has hopped a cross country train with a sack full of baseballs and Labatts slung over one shoulder.
Will they occasionally catch a glance of Stairs in the tunnel, hat brim over his face, offering them a mere smile and nod before disappearing into the shadows? Of course. We all do, every day. But moving forward, Phillies hitters must rely only on the echoes of his wisdom in their heads as they go up to the plate.