Having enjoyed his time as hitting coach and having been offered a contract extension from an appreciative Astros organization, it would have taken a pretty good reason for Jeff Bagwell to pull the plug on his brief tenure in the position.
It turned out there were 162 reasons.
Citing his inability to commit to baseball’s grueling calendar and schedule away from home, Bagwell declined the two-year extension and stepped down as Astros hitting coach on Saturday.
“This was a very difficult decision for me,” Bagwell said in a news release. “I enjoyed my time as hitting coach a great deal. The players were great and I can’t think of a better coaching staff to work with. They were outstanding.
“At this point in time, I’m unable to commit to a full season of putting in the time that is necessary to be effective in that role. But, I do look forward to continuing to work with the Astros.”
Bagwell did not immediately respond to a request for further comment, but he will address the public Monday morning in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.
One of the greatest players in the Astros’ 49-year history, Bagwell will remain in the organization. He will return to his capacity as special assistant to general manager Ed Wade with the exact details of his job description to be determined.
“We certainly think Baggy brings a lot to the table and we’ll take advantage of that as best we can,” general manager Ed Wade said.
The search for a new hitting coach, meanwhile, began Saturday with some brainstorming after Bagwell made his decision known within the organization and will continue through and beyond the weekend.
Bagwell took over as hitting coach effective after the All-Star break upon the firing of Sean Berry. The Astros were at the time last in most major offensive categories and never became a potent power, but did improve.
Real statistical comparisons must be treated cautiously because of all the midseason changes the Astros made, but there was some real improvement from first half to second half with a 21-point bump in batting average, 15 points in on-base percentage and 32 in slugging percentage to go with an increase from 3.4 to 4.2 runs per game.
In the midst of the Astros’ strong second-half, Bagwell received a contract extension offer during the team’s late-September trip to Washington. He opted to mull over the offer rather than accept like the other members of the major league coaching staff did, as Bagwell had other commitments with his young family.
Manager Brad Mills said he talked to Bagwell twice in the three weeks since the season ended, ultimately receiving the word from Bagwell on Saturday morning.
“He loves the organization and the players in this organization but right now it wasn’t the right time,” Mills said. “I understand where he’s coming from but at the same time I’m going to miss him.”