SAN DIEGO -- The struggling San Diego Padres changed hitting coaches in midseason for the second straight year, firing Merv Rettenmund on Tuesday and replacing him with former first baseman Wally Joyner.
The popular Rettenmund, under contract through the 2008 season, took the blame for San Diego's anemic offense.
Going into Tuesday night's game against Arizona, the Padres were hitting .244, tied with the Chicago White Sox for the worst team batting average in the big leagues. Their .312 on-base percentage is second-worst in the NL and only three teams had scored fewer runs.
Coincidentally, the move came two days after the Padres beat the Houston Astros 18-11, scoring 11 runs in the first inning. The Padres put up their highest run total in five years and had a season-high 19 hits.
"When you've watched as many games as I have, you have expectations of the players and what they should do, and if they're not doing them, you're not meeting the expectations of the players and front office," Rettenmund said in a phone interview.
"You expect it, really, when we're not doing well. It's not like a shocker or anything. I didn't feel bad for myself getting fired. I feel bad for the players. They've worked their butts off, but we're not getting the results we should be getting," he said.
General manager Kevin Towers said he and CEO Sandy Alderson, a former GM of the Oakland Athletics, decided to fire Rettenmund.
"I think it was not as much the numbers but maybe our overall hitters' approach," Towers said. "We felt we could maybe plan the attack better."
Leadoff hitter Brian Giles called the firing "unfortunate."
"Everybody to a man feels like they cost Merv his job," Giles said. "We feel bad. It's all our fault."
Giles said the big problem has been lack of situational hitting at spacious Petco Park.
"No doubt it's a pitcher's park," he said. "That's why we have to be such good situational hitters. If not, we're going to be in trouble."
The Padres hired Rettenmund on June 15, 2006, after firing Dave Magadan.
Towers credited Rettenmund with helping to jump-start the Padres en route to their second straight NL West title last year. Once in the playoffs, though, the Padres hit just .225 in losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in four games. They went 2-for-32 (.063) with runners in scoring position and stranded 35 baserunners.
Rettenmund was also the Padres' hitting coach from 1991-99.
Joyner was San Diego's first baseman from 1996-99. He served as the team's minor-league hitting instructor in 2003 and as a special instructor during spring training from 2004-07. He was a special assistant to Towers in 2002. The two were teammates at BYU.
Joyner had a .289 career average in parts of 16 big-league seasons with the Angels, Royals, Padres and Braves.
"Wally was a very patient hitter when he played," Towers said. "He was a guy that always knew his strike zone, knew where his strengths were, knew what his weakness were. He always had a lot of confidence. He's a guy I think our players will take to."
Joyner isn't expected to join the team until Thursday or Friday.
The 64-year-old Rettenmund said this was likely the end of his long baseball career.
"I've enjoyed it for 43 years or whatever," said Rettenmund, who played in four World Series, winning twice -- with the Baltimore Orioles in 1970 and Cincinnati Reds in 1975. "I'd be shocked if I
ever, ever, ever watch another game as a coach."