ARLINGTON -- The Rangers, looking for a way to improve their offense in general and their situational hitting in particular, have dismissed hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh and hired Dave Magadan away from the Boston Red Sox.
Magadan had been the Red Sox hitting coach for six years, beginning in 2007 when they won the World Series. The Red Sox, who are in the process of looking for a manager, held an option on Magadan for 2013. But with their manager's position in a state of flux, they allowed Magadan to interview with other teams.
The Rangers were particularly aggressive in the pursuit. General manager Jon Daniels said the Rangers weren't looking to make a change but decided to pursue Magadan when it became apparent he was available.
"We feel we've really stepped up as an organization by bringing in one of the best -- if not the best -- at what Dave does and that's teaching hitting," Daniels said. "When you talk to people who have been with him and been around him, people who work with him and players who have played for him, they all say the same things. He's not a paint-by-numbers guy, he's got an individual plan for each player within the team concept of helping us win ballgames. He's been very successful at it."
Coolbaugh, who has been offered another job within the organization, was let go even though the Rangers led the league in runs scored, were second in batting average and slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage. But there were still organization-wide concerns through much of the season about the Rangers struggles with situational hitting, particularly getting runners in from third base with less than two outs.
In 1997-98, Rangers manager Ron Washington was a coach with the Athletics while Magadan was a reserve infielder toward the end of his playing career. Washington said he feels strongly about Magadan's ability to get the Rangers to understand the right approach to playing winning offensive baseball.
"I've known Dave a long time and one of the things I like is he preaches discipline," Washington said. "I always preach, 'Do what the game asked you to do, play the game the way it's presented' and Dave preaches exactly that. Create runs anyway you can."
Magadan also interviewed with the Pirates, Mariners and Indians before agreeing to a multi-year contract with the Rangers.
"It started with the first conversation with Jon Daniels," Magadan said. "It was almost like I felt a part of the family. Wash, I knew in Oakland and have always been a big fan. He made me a better defender and anybody who can do that is pretty special. The other thing is the quality of talent here, not only on the offensive side but on the pitching side, and their desire to put out a winner every year.
"The other thing is the atmosphere at the Ballpark in Arlington. It's similar to what we have in Boston: sold out every night, an electric atmosphere. They have the same attitude in Texas. There were a lot of factors but in the end it was the immediate feeling I got from Jon, knowing Wash was the manager and seeing their players from the other side of the field and how they go about their business. With them, it's all about winning."
Since 2007, when Magadan took over as hitting coach, the Red Sox are second in the American League -- behind the Yankees -- in most runs scored, while ranking second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They are first in doubles and extra base hits, and third in walks. The Red Sox also had the highest team OPS in the Majors in both 2010 and 2011.
Dustin Pedroia was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2008 under Magadan's tutelage and Adrian Beltre had one of his best seasons ever during his one year in Boston. Beltre hit .321 with 28 home runs and 102 RBIs in 2010 for the Red Sox before signing with the Rangers.
Magadan now joins another organization long known for being an offensive powerhouse. But the Rangers are also looking at major changes within their lineup. Josh Hamilton is a free agent and may not be back. The same goes for Mike Napoli. In addition, outfielders David Murphy and Nelson Cruz, and infielder Michael Young can be free agents after next season.
"Obviously this year they led the league in runs scored," Magadan said. "There are possibly some changes coming with some young hitters but I'd like to look at video and talk to the players before I say exactly what we're going to do. But I'm a big believer on working within the framework of what makes each of them a good hitter. It's my job to rein them in and bring them back to what works for them at the plate."
He will be the Rangers' fifth hitting coach in the past four years. Rudy Jaramillo was the Rangers hitting coach for 15 years before moving on to the Cubs after the 2009 season. Clint Hurdle was the Rangers hitting coach in 2010 before being hired as the Pirates manager. He was replaced by Thad Bosley, who was fired just two months into the 2011 season and was replaced by Coolbaugh.
"It's a hard spot to fill," Daniels said. "We're excited to find the right guy."
Magadan spent 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Mets, Marlins, Mariners, Astros, Cubs and Athletics, finishing with a career .288 batting average and a .390 on-base percentage. He was the Padres hitting coach in 2003-06 before joining the Red Sox.
The Rangers still haven't made any formal announcements about the rest of the coaching staff. Daniels said that is still being discussed.