Can Edgar unlock Mariners' offense?
New hitting coach has plenty of experience to draw from as legendary DH
SEATTLE -- With Edgar Martinez taking over as the man mentoring Mariners batters this season, the age-old baseball question looms large once again. How much impact can a hitting coach have on Major League players?
Martinez clearly is the biggest Mariners name to assume the hitting-coach mantle, a point driven home by the presence of Edgar Martinez Way outside Safeco Field and Edgar's Cantina inside the ballpark. Aside from Ken Griffey Jr., there is no bigger icon in franchise history.
But Martinez isn't the first big-time player to try his hand at the job. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor was Seattle's hitting coach in 2004. Former American League MVP Award winner Don Baylor handled the job in 2005. Chris Chambliss, another well-decorated Major League veteran, worked with Mariners hitters from 2011-12. Howard Johnson was a two-time All-Star and 14-year MLB veteran.
When Martinez replaced Johnson last Saturday, he became Seattle's 11th hitting coach in the past 13 seasons.
Others to take a turn in the past decade have been Jeff Pentland (2006-08), Jose Castro ('08), Alan Cockrell ('09-10), Alonzo Powell ('10) and Dave Hansen ('13).
Typically, hitting coaches are the first to go when a team struggles offensively, and Seattle -- which plays in one of the tougher hitting parks in baseball -- has had more than its share. So the question remains: How much can a hitting coach help?
"I've had some really good hitting coaches and some OK hitting coaches," said Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison, who came up in the Marlins' organization and was acquired by Seattle last season. "I know when I've had good ones, more than anything, he has your back and gives you confidence to go up there every day, every plate appearance and win every pitch.
"Even if you're not feeling great with your swing, he is a person that can help you mentally overcome those things by knowing what to look for and working with you to get your swing better and get it right."
Outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo is new to the Mariners and their hitting history, but he agrees that the right coach can be beneficial.
"As far as hitters go, it's the one voice you're going to hear most often," said Trumbo, who came up with the Angels and played last season with the D-backs before being traded to Seattle three weeks ago. "It should be somebody you trust and a real sounding board. If you have a good relationship with your hitting coach, it can really inspire you and keep you in tune with what you do best."
But Trumbo, like most experienced hitters, knows the biggest onus lies on the player.
"Hopefully you are your own best coach, and when you get to this level, you should have a decent understanding of what you do best and what you need to do to stay on track," he said. "But this game is so hard -- you're going to need help. And if you have a resource you really have a good relationship with and he tells you something and you don't question that it's the right thing to do and just do it, it can relieve a lot of stress that you might put on yourself trying to do it by yourself."
Veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist played with Martinez in his first three seasons in the Majors and said even then he learned a great deal from the legendary designated hitter. Some of that was just watching how Martinez went about his business. Some of it was asking -- and receiving -- sage words of advice that Bloomquist said always seemed to help.
But Bloomquist pointed out that Martinez might be able to impart more than just the technical aspects of hitting upon his new pupils.
"Gar had a lot of different things, both physically and mentally, that he'd do," Bloomquist said. "There were times he'd say, 'You just have to trick your mind into thinking you're feeling good up there.' My body says I'm feeling terrible, but I have to tell my mind I'm feeling good. From a mental standpoint, I think he'll help as well."