M's slump leads to 'inevitable' change
SEATTLE -- Hitting coach Alan Cockrell was fired by the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, becoming the fall guy for an underperforming offense that is the worst in the American League.
Cockrell was scouting in the Mariners video room at Safeco Field when he was called into manager Don Wakamatsu's office and told of the change by Wakamatsu and general manager Jack Zduriencik. Alonzo Powell was promoted from Triple-A Tacoma, where he's been hitting coach for three seasons, to take Cockrell's spot.
"Sometimes just the same message from a different messenger sometimes carries some weight, but it's certainly apparent we're not doing what we should be doing offensively," Zduriencik said. "Certainly guys can look within and they should. Every single player here should evaluate themselves and ask, 'What am I doing? Where are my contributions at?' I know the effort is there. There's no question about that. It's just a matter of the production.
"So maybe there's a little key here the new guy can unlock."
Cockrell's firing came at the conclusion of a tumultuous homestand that ended Sunday with Seattle snapping an eight-game losing streak with an 8-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Seattle started the nine-game homestretch a half game back in the AL West, but are now 5½ back in the division. The Mariners scored just 12 runs during the eight-game skid and hit .173.
Overall, Seattle entered Sunday hitting .225 and last in the AL in eight offensive categories, including slugging, on-base percentage, hits, runs and homers.
Seattle's eight runs Sunday were the most since April 19.
Along with the offensive woes this week were the issues with outfielder Milton Bradley, who was expected to add a little pop to Seattle's light-hitting order. Bradley was placed on the restricted list earlier this week to deal with personal issues and is away from the team.
His teammates were quick in taking blame for Cockrell's firing.
"It's brutal. I look around this clubhouse and there are a ton of players that deserve to get fired before him and I am one of them," designated hitter Mike Sweeney said. "I know our offense hasn't had a heartbeat, but it's not due to Alan Cockrell. It's due to us, the players.
"We are the ones that deserve all the criticism, not him. I will be the first one to stand up and take a bullet for that guy because he was here early, he worked his butt off, he put in more hours than anyone in this clubhouse," Sweeney said. "It's tough to see a guy like that go. I wish I was the one to go instead of him because I deserve it more than he does."
Cockrell was in his second season as Seattle's hitting coach after three seasons in the same role with Colorado.
"I tried to do what I could do every day. It didn't work out," Cockrell said as he was leaving the stadium.
Powell has worked with many of the current Mariners in the minors, and was Seattle's minor-league hitting coordinator before becoming hitting coach in Tacoma. He played 19 seasons in the majors and in Japan where he became the first American to win three straight batting titles.
Tacoma set a team record for homers in a season in 2008 and led the Pacific Coast League in homers in 2009 with Powell directing hitters.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press