The Miami Marlins have no idea how Barry Bonds will work out as their new hitting coach. But if Bonds can transfer even a smidgen of his greatness to a lineup starved for punch, it’ll be a plus.
“He’s one of the best hitters of all time,” Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich said. “You don’t want to say that he perfected the craft. But he came as close as you probably can to perfecting hitting. He’s got a ton of knowledge and it will be nice to learn from somebody like that.”
The Marlins didn’t make a single change during the offseason to a lineup that ranked next-to-last in runs scored in the National League last season, next-to-last in home runs, and last in walks.
But they’re counting on the influence of Bonds and new manager Don Mattingly to turn things around at the plate. Bonds is baseball’s all-time home run and walks leader, and Mattingly was an All-Star hitter in his playing prime.
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That brand new coaching staff will get down to business Friday when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Jupiter. Hitters are scheduled to show up next Tuesday for the first full-squad workout.
What impact Bonds, who has never coached before, will have is anyone’s guess.
“It’s hard to quantify,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “We’re talking about one of the greatest hitters of all time. He has an unbelievable baseball hitting mind. He sees stuff that ordinary hitters don’t see.”
Said reserve outfielder/infielder Derek Dietrich: “You can’t help but be excited, just to be able to talk to him and soak up the knowledge. As a left-handed power hitter, I couldn’t ask for any more, personally.”
Even Dee Gordon is excited, even though he knows Bonds probably won’t be able to help him hit for more power, or draw more walks.
Although Gordon won the batting title last season, he hit only four home runs — half of his career total in the majors.
“If you bring up Barry Bonds and you bring up Dee Gordon, that’s pretty much an oxymoron,” Gordon said, laughing.
He came as close as you probably can to perfecting hitting. He’s got a ton of knowledge and it will be nice to learn from somebody like that.
But Gordon said he still think Bonds will bring improvement, and with Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, in particular, due to their similarities as long-ball threats.
“I think for our best player, which is Giancarlo, he’s going to help him reach his full potential, if he hasn’t reached it already,” Gordon said. “But I think he can help him become an even better superstar and the pressures that come with it. To be honest, I’m not a superstar, and probably never will be. So I don’t have to handle those pressures that Giancarlo has to handle.”
Gordon said he has only set eyes on Bonds twice before, once a few years ago when he was with the Dodgers and at the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston when he shagged fly balls while Bonds was hitting during the Home Run Derby.
“I tried to rob his homer in the Home Run Derby,” said Gordon, who was a youngster at the time. “I tried. It didn’t work. He hit it too far and too high. It went a few rows back, but it felt close for a kid.”
Bonds won’t be swinging a bat for the Marlins.
But Yelich and others feel he can make a major difference in helping them improve as hitters, though not to his level.
“He can’t hit for any of us, obviously,” Yelich said. “And yet his talent is what it is. He’s going to help us with approach and pitcher tendencies, with his insight in the game, with situational hitting, stuff like that. Just to have him around will be cool, and I’m looking forward to getting to work with him.”