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! 


I seem to remember Sosa hitting a lot more singles past the second basemen when Pentland was around. Hitting a bit more to all fields. I've given up on Rudy. This team would get out hit by the EXST team.

Or, at the very least, the I-Cubs, who have been tearing it up lately.

Nice write-up Mike, I'll take in my first Iowa Cubs action of the season. When they stroll into Memphis for a weekend series. What is Gerald Perry up to these days? I liked the offense when he was the Hitting Coach in Chicago. And he has shown OBP improvement at every stop he has made.

SI writeup on 1st overall picks... Check out the pictures of J.Mauer and A.Gonzalez...they look like (because they are) kids. Mauer looks barely old enough to be selling band candy.

The "kids" selling candy in Chicago are like 30. They have beards and are usually smoking cigs.

yo, you like...wanna buy some magazine subscriptions dude?

"Armando Benitez has agreed to a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League." wow, he still exists. he's 39, btw...i would have guessed older.

He got signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1990. So most likely he IS older than that.

ha... also, joey gaithright is back in AAA (Reds), purchased from indie ball.

RE: the twitter in the twitter box:
TomLoxas profile TomLoxas Speaking of #Cubs rebuilding have always agreed with @dan_bernstein when he says watching your team get good is the most fun in sports.
That may be true. Watching it get bad, however, is the least fun.

yeah...still waiting on the "get good" part. the guy i thought would do best is in AAA right now (i still love his upside) and lahero is slowly turning back into lahair. least rizzo tearing up AAA. the cubs haven't had a legit plus-power prospect this close to the majors in a long time.

I'm still super happy about Samardzija being useful. That might carry me until LaHair's next hot streak or the inevitable Rizzo callup.

oh go him.

Well, Lahero's window has never been very big, and his window to adjust to the adjustment is going to be small I think. But Theo predicted this slump, and indicated he'd show some patience to see how he handled it. It's rather amazing that LaHair began his slump almost, literally, the day after Theo predicted it.

I'd feel better about the rebuild if we had ANY guaranteed impact guys in the minors.

I'm not sure what guaranteed means when it comes to prospects (how many "guaranteed" guys are injured or playing badly in MLB right now?) but Rizzo seems as close to it as you're gonna get.

That puzzled me, too. Outside of maybe guys like Harper or Trout or Strasburg, who is guaranteed to make an impact?

jason dubois and dave kelton

Jason Heyward and Ben McDonald, duh!!! here's a fun list of the top 100 prospects by BA each year. lot of good names, and then there's Ben Grieve and Delmon Young.

Ben McDoonald is no Jim Abbott

You're evil.

The early returns on Vogelbach are anything but positive. Does anyone have any insight into what is going on? Seems like he should be stuck at Fitch until he shows SOMETHING. Texas claims former Cub, John Gaub, from the Rays.

#22 (and Joe Mauer)

chris archer AAA dizaaaamn. 6ip 12k...unfortunately 5h/2bb/3er, too. he's really been cranking out the Ks the past 3 games (16.2ip 30k).

Another callout to AZ from Phil Rogers, no link on the web version but the mobile version of the article did have a link: Baez "through Wednesday had eight homers and 26 RBIs in 25 games, according to's unofficial stats." Good to see we're not the only ones who see AZ's reporting as the definitive guide to Cubs prospectdom.

Has anyone ever seen Phil Rogers and Arizona Phil in the same place. In fact what does Phil Rogers look like when he takes his glasses off...

I hope to hell he is sending Phil a check for Pete's sake! The guy has a hard enough time writing anything of value yet he is naming our PHIL as a source for his column.

Actually, I have a feeling that it is difficult for a mainstream media guy like him to even acknowledge our Phil in any way. It's a little like a Neanderthal praising the human as the human is kicking the shit out of him and wiping out his species.

If they're trying to replace Bonifacio, I was thinking Campana. You might actually get a middling prospect since he has 5+ years of club control. Trading Johnson might get you Jose Ceda's broken tendon back.

CCO is also reporting AZ Phil's numbers from EXST. Unfortunately they need to be paddled because he's not getting credit for "unofficial numbers".
Javier Baez (IF) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .329, five doubles, three triples, eight home runs, 26 RBI, 10 stolen bases Jeimer Candelario (3B) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .315, eight doubles, three triples, home run, 14 RBI, two stolen bases Dan Vogelbach (1B) - Extended Spring Training: Unofficial numbers - .183, three doubles, triple, two home runs, eight RBI

thanks for catching that, I have publicly shamed him as well.

jumbo "liked" this. I made a similar comment at NSBB about citing Phil as the source. My traditional citation expectation wasn't popular, but nobody was hostile over it. TCR owns all my Cubs-blog loyalties.

Hey now, I always credit Arizona Phil and post a link back to TCR whenever I post anything from him on NSBB (which is often). And I believe I agreed with your comments about properly citing/linking back here.

You are correct. Some were not as polite as you. To clarify, it is most often that AZP is listed. I was surprised that a couple people were upset about it though. Should say I appreciate the site quite a bit - some very intelligent and sane members

NSBB? Really?

I regularly read the minor league and amateur forums. A lot of good content, a lot of people who watch a lot of baseball.

Agreed, I see no reason to be upset about properly citing something. Arizona Phil rightfully has a great reputation throughout the Cubs Internet fandom.

Does the fact Baez has 1 Walk in over 100 Pro at bats bother anyone else?

'[Theo] answered a query of mine earlier this week by saying Baez "is working hard in Mesa on certain aspects of his game.'' I too hope that one of those game aspects Baez is working on is pitch recognition.

Are they looking to convert him to pitcher?

good news, Castro in his rightful #2 spot bad news, Joe Mather batting 3rd. DeJesus9/Starlin6/Mather8/LaHair3/Soriano7/Stewart5/Barney4/Hill2/Demp1 vs. Burnett not that it makes a heap of any real difference

Carrie Muskat‏@CarrieMuskat ‪#Cubs‬ Ian Stewart sidelined because of soreness in left wrist. Nothing new, just same discomfort he's dealt with all season

no campy vs burnett? weird. mather in CF? alright...

Baseball America chat: Itto (Aguadilla, PR): Is it time to start worrying about Brett Jackson SO rate and recent slump? Ben Badler: The strikeouts are a concern, but we've always known that's just part of who he's going to be. The swing and miss is going to keep his AVG down, but he does take his walks, he hits for power, he has speed and can be a quality defender in center field, so I think we're talking more about small adjustments than any radical overhauls that need to be made here. Navin (Pasadena, CA): What are your thoughts on the slow start in Peoria for SS Marco Hernandez? Ben Badler: Concerning. It's not time to panic, but I'm very surprised he's struggled so badly at the plate. Itto (Aguadilla, PR): What kind of numbers Anthony Rizzo is capable to have once he reach the majors? Ben Badler: A .290/.360/.480 type guy with good defense in his prime years is certainly possible. I'd chop some off those numbers at first though as he adjusts to major league pitching.

Badler thinks he's going to hit for a high average but have a slugging percentage under .500 whiled doing so? Doesn't seem that likely. If he hits .290, seems like that slugging is going to be up higher.

i found the .480 slugging a little weird with a .290/.360 split, myself. i dunno if his homers in AAA are line drives or bombs, though...

I've seen Carlos Pena with a little bit less power as a common comp. That seems fairly reasonable to me.

I think he might end up being better than Pena at the plate, but, like Pena, it seems more likely he'll top .480 slugging than .290 batting average.

seen him pull some bombs & hit a couple windblowns the opposite way that were relative cheapies...

ESPNChiCubs Doug Padilla Cubs-Reds rain out at Cincy on May 1 has been rescheduled for Aug 18 as the opener to a day/nite twinbill.

Great that is going to screw up the rotation for the stretch run.

the cubs can always call up...oh wait...hahah...nevermind. sigh.

Signed: C Brian Esposito (released by Reds), SS Diory Hernandez (released by Astros) Released: RHP Charles Thomas, 1B Ryan Durrence Acquired: LHP Hunter Cervenka from Red Sox as player to be named for OF Marlon Byrd Acquired: C Koyie Hill from Reds for cash considerations Recalled: RHP Randy Wells, LHP Scott Maine, LHP Travis Wood Added to 40-man roster: RHP Blake Parker, C Koyie Hill, C Blake Lalli Removed from 40-man: 2B Blake Dewitt (outrighted to Triple-A) Optioned to Triple-A: RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Scott Maine Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Zach Cates, RHP Casey Weathers, LHP Jeff Beliveau, C Chad Noble Reinstated from DL: RHP Starling Peralta, LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith, C Micah Gibbs

They released Charles Thomas of the routinely 98 MPH fastball? Hmm.

casey weathers already has enough competition for the walk-the-yard upside slot in the cubs system.

Anyone know what's wrong with Beliveau?

via cm's twitter, via rotowurld: "Steve Clevenger (oblique) is slated to play nine innings with Triple-A Iowa on Monday and Wednesday before being reevaluated." ...also, marmol is slated to throw today/tomorrow for AAA, evaluated, then back to the bigs if it's all good. ...and in garza-trade news, bad news for a good dude "Rays manager Joe Maddon said Friday that Brandon Guyer needs surgery on his left shoulder." Carlos Correa to Cubs in the newest mock draft, Almora dropping to #9 and the Marlins.

M. Stroman of Duke to Nats at #16. Recent tweet said Theo was in the stands scouting him. great scouting report on him here...

he was around last weekend, scouted his thursday's game.

how is his game? Am I going out on a limb that he will be the smartest 1st rounder selected?

i dunno. the article linked seems to know a lot about him, though. i try to stay away from metal bat baseball unless i get dragged out to a game.

They don't have the injured high school pitcher who hit 100 before getting injured as a choice...obviously his medical report will determine everything, but I think the Cubs will take him if it is passable.

You think it's wise to spend 6th pick slot money on an already injured HS arm? There's no indication he's willing to take a discount and you could spread the money out to other picks.

I think this is a weak draft and he has the highest upside of anyone. Obviously it depends on his medical report, but I would take a chance, try and get him for about slot, and if he doesn't sign, get the compensation pick next year in a better draft.

Dempster mishandles an easy DP comebacker and only gets guy at 1b. Then gives up 2 out single.

Miguel Montero 5/60. Yikes. Also, why wasn't Koyieieieieieieie sac bunting in his first ab after Barney stole second? He ended up grounding out to the right side, but shit, if you have an opportunity to take the bat out of his hands you fucking do it, dammit!

I presume that was a joke. Dempster was up next and there was 1 out.

Oh yeah. I forgot we have 9a and 9b slots in the batting order. Either way, he sucks. Michael Barrett's fault.

Barney shows off nice range at 2b and then misses LaHair by 10 feet. Had nothing but time.

Rod Lopez taken out with some sort of injury after starting and throwing one pitch. Jay Jax takes over. No Rizzo in the lineup tonight. Clevenger is batting 3rd and catching. Lined out to SS in his first at bat (and Sappelt gets doubled off of 2nd).

Soriano showing his baseball smarts, runs into Alvarez.

Nah, he just hates how Alvarez wears his hat.

this team is very hard to watch night after night...

Poor Dempster. Not even a Cub deserves this.

clevenger (AAA) 1-3 (double) marmol (AAA) 1ip 1h 1bb 1k (0r/0er)

The I-Cubs actually won last night, 2-1 over the Memphis Redbirds. Sac fly by BJax in the 7th scoring Clevenger who started the inning with a double and a top of the 9th HR by Valbuena. Maine gets out of a bases loaded jam on the bottom of the 9th. Marmol had a scoreless 7th (BB, single) RLopez came out in the 1st after one pitch with a tight groin and is so far day to day per a Muskat tweet. Jay Jax had his best outing pitching 5 innings of one run ball. Rizzo didnt start, pinch hit in the 8th and grounded out.

Tim posts an awesome set of pics "Dempster can't get any support" (poor Mrs. Dempster) oh, and don't miss the story he promised to tell if the Cubs lost 10 straight!

Love the pics, and the story seems very appropriate to any of us who maybe didn't give much thought to just how painful a rebuilding year(s) could be day-in and day-out.

just call him Tim Metaphor Souers

I should consult with you guys before posting. That woulda been a great slant.

I could see the vasectomy scenario retold with Theo as the doc, a la the stuck in Cubby prison toon. But I think the way you have it told here, in its true-to-life detail, might be much more awesome.

I hate the phrase, "rebuilding year". It implies that there is some actual construction going on. So far, best as I can tell, the only brick laid down is a Rizzo block, and there are no guarantees with prospects. Shark has been a pleasant surprise, but no credit for TheoCorp there. He's been in the system for some time. I know I'm supposed to give this time, but so far, I'm pretty underwhelmed.

I hate the phrase, "rebuilding year" ------- More of a deconstructing year? --More hits than runs --Good starting pitching without wins
At heart, any deconstructed dish (ball club) should contain all the classic components found in the “original.” The difference is in the preparation. When creating a dish (ball club) utilizing deconstructive techniques, the ingredients are essentially prepared and treated on their own. It is during the plating and presentation stages that everything is brought together.
Problem is we're not at the plating stage. You can choose what seems more appealing... For example, just make sure you add enough vodka:

Our run differential is're right, we're not plating anyone.

But on the bright side, we are dead last. So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Recent comments

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  • Charlie 12 hours 49 min ago (view)

    Currently at a near full-time job that just barely covers my monthly expenses if nothing emerges.

    I make more than that.


  • crunch 13 hours 15 min ago (view)

    "Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Major League Baseball is considering opening the season in empty spring training parks -- with no fans and all players quarantined.

    The plan would have all teams stationed in one centralized location -- likely Arizona"


  • Arizona Phil 2 days 2 hours ago (view)

    In addition to 40 players signed to 2020 MLB contracts, after releasing 22 minor leaguers this week the Cubs now have 279 players signed to 2020 minor league contracts (plus one minor leaguer on the Restricted List), for a total of 320 players in the organization (181 pitchers, 30 catchers, 60 infielders, and 49 outfielders).   


  • JustSayin' 2 days 11 hours ago (view)

    Years of over-drafting pitching shown here.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 2 days 13 hours ago (view)

    Some of the players cut I am not too surprised by. Some of them I think are definitely victims of the minor league pay thing and being squeezed out.

    That said, I am very surprised they gave up already on Riley McCauley and Niels Stone.


  • Hagsag 2 days 14 hours ago (view)

    Baseball America is showing a big group of players that have been released.


  • Arizona Phil 3 days 4 hours ago (view)

    The Cubs have released minor league catcher Rafelin Lorenzo. He was selected from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the AAA Phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft and spent the 2019 season at South Bend. He was eligible to be a minor league 6YFA post-2020. 


  • JustSayin' 4 days 13 hours ago (view)

    The organizations will cut rosters down, as if the full-season teams were breaking camp to start the season, THEN pay the remaining minor leaguers $400/week or whatever.  That's similar to what costs would have normally been but the "one last chance" players who got spring training invitations this year and didn't have an obvious roster spot won't be getting their last chance.


  • crunch 4 days 15 hours ago (view)

    "According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, all minor league players will be receiving $400 per week from MLB through at least May 31."

    so that's where that promise landed.  the scary thing is that's still more than some in the low minors make on a weekly basis.


  • crunch 1 week 7 hours ago (view)

    "Jeff Passan of ESPN writes that the players and league agreed that the 2020 season won't start until "there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans, there are no travel restrictions and medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans." Passan does add that the two sides "will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums" and also at neutral sites.


  • crunch 1 week 13 hours ago (view)

    i miss baseball.  it could happen in may happen in late might not happen either way.

    there's so many things getting messed up right now i would get lost making a list.  there's some college guys making a serious "okay, we need to look at that guy" push that's dead.  former cubs draft pick russell smith (2017, LHP highschool) took last season off for injury (TCU college) and returned with a low 90s fastball, impressive control, and a MLB-quality changeup.  his "comeback" was 4 games and done thanks to this current situation...


  • JustSayin' 1 week 15 hours ago (view)

    COVID 19 + a short draft + Manfred's obsessive drive to shrink the minor leagues will change baseball forever.  It WAS still America's grass roots sport.  Where I live, from June through August, you could see a quality live game any day of the week, within an hour's drive.  I believe that era is over.  What's going on will have ripple effects, contracting serious college ball, college summer leagues and independent pro ball just as much as the MiLB systems.  With those changes, some of the game's charm will also go.  I've seen a kid from Cape Cod play in the Ca


  • crunch 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    fyi for anyone who bought

    for "some reason" getting a cancel+refund via phone is like pulling teeth, but if you contact them via a webpage contact request many people are getting a cancel+refund confirmation within an hour or 2...


  • bradsbeard 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    I imagine because the new labor agreement freezes rosters as of whenever the agreement is approved by the owners and it might affect what those guys are paid under the agreement. 


  • Hagsag 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    AZ Phil. what was the reason that a whole bunch of teams optioned or assigned players to the minor leagues yesterday on March 26 ? Thanks.


  • Arizona Phil 1 week 2 days ago (view)

    jdrnym: Ordinarily, players on an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who are on Optional Assignment to the minors do not accrue MLB Service Time, are paid at the minor league rate rather than at the MLB rate if the player has a "split" contract, and if the player gets hurt or becomes sick after being optioned, he can be placed on a minor league IL instead of on an MLB IL (so that he cannot accrue MLB Service Time or be paid at the MLB rate while he is on the IL). Also, a player who is optioned to the minors for at least 20 days will burn an option year.