Professor Pentland and the Homer's Odyssey
Jeff Pentland played with Reggie Jackson and has tutored Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp, to name-drop just a few. He has advanced degrees in biomechanics. His playing days were on both sides of the chessboard; pitcher and hitter. What he doesn't know about the art/science of hitting may not be worth knowing.
No wonder the Dodgers fired him as their hitting coach last year.
It's not like there wasn't a precedent. But gurus like Pentland are never out of work any longer than they care to be. This year he signed on with the Seattle Mariners (again) as the hitting coach for their Triple A affiliate, Tacoma of the Pacific Çoast League. The Rainiers hit only .235 in April but this month they're banging away at a better than .300 clip and carrying a 13-game homer streak as Pentland settles in. He stepped away from the batting cage while the Rainiers are in Des Moines taking on the Iowa Cubs and talked with TCR.
Pentland said he's still occasionally in touch with Bonds but has no contact with Sosa. In fact, he parlayed his history with Bonds, dating to Arizona State where he coached while Bonds played, into a breakthrough with Kemp when Pentland was trying to establish a rapport after joining the Dodgers.
"I just mentioned something I'd once worked on with Barry," Pentland said. "Matt's eyes lit up. He said, 'You worked with him?' I had instant credibility." With Kemp maybe, but not enough with the Dodgers when the brass went looking for a scapegoat despite the breakout success of the latest Pentland protege.
Ask Pentland if any of his former star pupils got carried away with experiments in home remedies for slumps like brainiacs who cheat on exams without needing to and he gets circumspect. Inasmuch as he didn't blow any whistles when investigators interviewed him for a couple of hours during the compilation of the Mitchell Report it's no surprise that Pentland didn't confide anything while he sat and spat there in the confessional of the visitors' dugout at Sec Taylor Field. Whatever personal suspicions he may harbor are kept to himself.
"I didn't make judgments one way or another," he said when asked specifically about Sosa's power surge. "He was a grown man and I treated him that way." Read into that what you will.
Pentland joined the Cubs midseason in 1997. Over the following winter he had a heart-to-heart with Sosa, convincing him to swing easier to make more contact. The following summer Sosa and McGwire mugged Ruth and Maris in what's since become a dark alley of the record book.
"Sammy had very big, very strong hands," Pentland recalled. "He liked to use a bat that was thicker-handled than sluggers usually use." And lighter-barreled?
Pentland was gone from Chicago by the time Sosa's infamous corked bat incident occurred but he seems sympathetic about it, recalling that equipment used to come at Sosa in bunches during his seasons in the sixties.
"I used to check out his bats because he got 'em all the time from manufacturers and I never found one that was altered. You can tell a corked bat just by the sound the ball makes coming off of it," Pentland said, adding that if he'd found a suspicious weapon in Sosa's arsenal he would have pointed it out to him.
He brought up the juiced balls conspiracy theory during the discussion of enhanced performance.
"I remember George Brett at that time saying how the balls bounced twice as high as they used to," he said.
Pentland's been in the game for decades now. He says the same approach doesn't work for everybody and believes players are generally more sensitive than formerly due to the increased pressures that come along with increased paychecks. Besides PEDs and turbocharged gear, Pentland notes the modern player has tools at his disposal that are completely legit and equally accessible to pitchers and hitter alike.
"All of the videotape and the computerized spray charts and tendency data are so sophisticated now," he said. "You really have to take advantage of that stuff. I tell the guys here about guys I know in the big leagues that got there and stayed for 10-12 years, more by working hard than raw talent."
He may look and sound like just an ol' country batting coach spouting his accumulated wisdom like tobacco juice but it's more complicated than that. He's a biomechanic who tinkers under the hoods of living, breathing machines. Just picture him talking applied physics to Sammy Sosa and try to imagine how many bombs Einstein might have hit with a database, juiced balls, weight training and a good video tech backing him up.
Baseball might have been very, very good to him, too!
who's this guy being all reasonable and stuff?
pick someone on the board who's literally worse than hitler and start screaming about it. cubs 2016!
It's not pathetic -- it's what we've been waiting for!
Yikes -- I was off the site for a short while and it blew up.
Gentlemen -- it is apparent that Lester has a weakness in his game. Everybody knows about it. He has, apparently, tried to work on it, but without success. Fortunately, he is talented enough that he is able to largely overcome his shortcoming.
I am amazed that other teams don't try to bunt on him, but, as has been said, bunting is not a skill many players have.
Interesting that Hendricks is going tomorrow -- so, he wasn't really "skipped", just moved back a few days so Jake and Lester could deal against the Pirates. I'm OK with that.
PHIL: Thanks for your updates.
One thing that we are seeing come to bear is that Theo's obvious strategy has been to stockpile young, power arms in the lower levels while owning bats that are much nearer to MLB ready - then, buying the arms the org needs in order to be highly competitive.
It's fun to watch the cards shit the bed anytime of the year
I really thought he would be the one getting the call-up. This must be a favor to the player from Theo.
I'm already scoreboard watching and it's only the start of May. How pathetic is that?
Glad to see Hudson having another good outing. He is so impressive for an 18/yo. Surprised to see Shane V. still there. I thought he would be gone this week. I can picture today. Thanks Phil!
stats don't lie. *nods*
2016 Cubs are 0-1 on day after Trans recaps, 20-5 in other games. I enjoy his recaps, but there is a price to pay.
He's the Albert Pujols of recaps and has gotten a huge contract based on past performance. He doesn't need to do anything the rest of his days and he'll still get love.
I thought he was one-and-done on recaps?
Didn't he get Optioned?
Thank you very much for such a robust response. So hard to get anything on these guys that it's nice to hear from someone who has actually seen them. Great to hear about Paredes, I have pretty high hopes for this group of IFAs.
How impressed are you with these guys and size? I know they're pretty large prospects, especially for their ages. I consider size a plus at this stage - IIRC Amaya is the only one below 6'2"? IIRC Kwon had some baby fat on him it, Sierra's traditionally considered projectable as he's all arms and legs, Paredes has that Peralta build at SS....
Godzilla won in the Japanese version, Kong swam off in the American one. At least I think that's how it went....Rematch in 2020, possibly!