10/11/2004 4:29 PM ET
Cubs retain all coaches except Kim
Matthews and Clines will switch coaching duties
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs announced Monday they have retained all of their coaches for 2005 except third base coach Wendell Kim, and that Gary "Sarge" Matthews and Gene Clines have switched duties.
|Gene Clines will take over as the Cubs' hitting coach in 2005. (Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Matthews will now be the first base coach and be responsible for outfielders and baserunning, while Clines will take over as the hitting coach.
"It's like everything we try to do -- we try to make progress, we try to do what's in the best interest of the ballclub," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday. "We felt we had to do things differently.
"We appreciate Wendell's efforts and the things he brought to the table, but we felt at this time it was time to make a change," Hendry said.
Kim, 54, was in his second season as the Cubs' third base coach, and picked up the nickname "Wavin' Wendell" for his aggressive baserunning decisions. In a game between the Cubs and White Sox on June 22, 2003, he shouldered the blame, saying he made a mistake sending catcher Damian Miller home in the seventh inning. The Cubs lost, 7-6.
"That's the most thankless job and the hardest job in baseball is the third base coach," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said the next day. "You make four or five great calls and nobody says anything, but you make a couple bad calls and that's what they remember."
Kim and Baker were also together in San Francisco, beginning in 1989.
"It was very difficult," Baker said Monday of the decision to fire Kim. "This is the second time it's happened to Wendell since he's been with me. You have to make tough decisions sometimes. It was equally tough with Gary Matthews."
Matthews, 54, joined the Cubs in 2003 as the hitting coach. He also had served as the hitting coach in Toronto in 1998 and Milwaukee in 2002.
"Obviously, Sarge is a guy who still brings a lot to the table," Hendry said. "He's very well liked and respected man in Chicago and in the clubhouse. We felt he could help in other areas.
"We felt Gene Clines is a quality, quality hitting coach," Hendry said. "We've had numerous calls in the last couple years from teams requesting to interview him as a hitting coach. He's declined to take those interviews even though they've been more prominent and higher-paid. I felt he was somebody we did not want to lose. We certainly wanted to try to make a change here."
The Cubs batted .268 in 2004 and relied on the long ball, leading the National League with a team-record 235 home runs. What can Clines do differently?
"It depends on the people who are brought in, but it's going to have to change," Clines said. "It's going to have to be a lot more fundamental type, doing the little things, and that's one thing I'm really going to hammer home in Spring Training.
"You've got to check your egos," he said. "We're all looking for one thing, all of us together, to win. You have to do the little things to win. You've got a guy at second base -- you've got to get that guy over."
Clines, 58, was the Houston Astros hitting coach in 1988, and spent six seasons as a hitting coach in the American League with Seattle and Milwaukee before joining the San Francisco Giants in 1995 as the minor league hitting coordinator. He moved up to the big-league team in 1997 and worked with Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.
"They're very similar," Baker said of Matthews and Clines. "Sometimes you need a different voice. A lot of times, guys can say the same thing, but it will work in different ways.
"I wasn't disatisfied with Sarge, but I had Geno before in San Francisco, and know the quality that Geno brings to the table and the quality that Sarge brings to the table," Baker said. "There's a good chance that they'll be working together. It's just that Geno is more in charge."
"I don't think it'll be a big change philosophically," Hendry said. "Sometimes you just have a feeling that maybe a change in this regard will help."
"There won't be any outrageously different things," Clines said, "but there are some things that I'd like to bring in that I've done in the past and that I'd like to do differently and see if I can get a better response.
"Gary did a good job," Clines continued. "No matter what people are going to say, the last 10 days [of the season] were put under a microscope. All the things that were accomplished before is like a wash and it shouldn't be that way, but that's how people perceive it."
Clines said his No. 1 project is center fielder Corey Patterson.
"He and I have talked a lot," Clines said of the young center fielder, who batted .266 and set career highs with 24 homers and 72 RBIs. "It's just getting the confidence level back up. He was focused on too many other things. He was worried about his strikeouts instead of being natural and letting his natural ability take over."
Patterson whiffed 168 times, tying Sammy Sosa for the fourth-highest total in team history.
"There will be a lot of communication and a lot of patience," Clines said.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bench coach Dick Pole and bullpen coach Juan Lopez will return in the same capacity in 2005. Sonny Jackson also will continue as special assistant to Baker.
"Dusty is a tremendously loyal man," Hendry said. "In a perfect world, you hate to have to make decisions like this. We both felt it was time to try to do something different. You walk a fine line where you don't want people to lose their jobs, but we felt if there were areas that needed improvement, we'd do it."
Hendry will interview candidates for the vacant third base coach job. One candidate to be considered is Triple-A Iowa manager Mike Quade.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.