Our first hitting coach rumor of the off-season. This one comes from a "source with knowledge of the situation," via ESPN:
Former Chicago White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker will interview for vacancies in the same role with the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres during the next week, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The 52-year-old Georgia native was the White Sox hitting coach for 8½ seasons after being promoted from Triple-A Charlotte in May 2003. Walker was the hitting coach in Charlotte from 2002 until he was promoted.
Walker played nine seasons (1982-90) with the White Sox and part of one year (1990) with the Baltimore Orioles, hitting .260 with 113 home runs and 444 RBIs.
He's a Georgia native, so of course we should interview him. Seems like he was a tick above Larry Parrish as a player, though nothing to get excited about. He's presided over some good hitting ChiSox teams, and a few pretty bad ones.
This might be a step in the right direction, but so far there's nothing to be too thrilled about. Also, he looks too much like Parrish, and that makes me uncomfortable.
Also, I know I've said that the Braves need to hire a hitting coach who will teach more patience at the plate, but simply going after someone named Walker doesn't necessarily guarantee a new approach. Of course, it's better than someone named Hack Wilson or Infield-Pop-Out Johnson.
I asked Jim Margalus from the ChiSox blog South Side Sox to give me his impressions of Greg Walker, and here is what he had to say:
Greg Walker probably should have been fired years ago, based only on results and the way hitting coaches usually get blamed. Jerry Reinsdorf happens to be an exceptionally loyal guy, so Walker never took the fall for the team's propensity to start the season in a two-month funk.
Paul Konerko swears by Walker, and credits him for helping him break out of his soul-crushing slump in 2003. He said toward the end of the season that Walker was his hitting coach, no matter who was brought in.
But outside of Konerko, the track record is sketchy at best. About a half-dozen veterans experienced season-ruining slumps over the past few years, and Adam Dunn had the worst season ever. They've been prone to pop-ups, weak contact and low BABIP. Part of that is on the type of player the White Sox have acquired, but faces have changed, and the results have stayed the same.
In Walker's favor, with Nick Swisher being a huge exception, it's never been said that players tuned him out. He's a pleasant, popular fellow and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
And, of course, it's hard to separate what a hitting coach can actually do. Maybe with a different group of hitters - or advance scouts/video guys - he'll have a different story.
That was some good analysis from Jim, and based on that I'm going to have to go ahead and request of Frank Wren that he pass. I'm pretty sure I broke out in a cold sweat when I heard a team under Walker's care described as being prone to pop-ups, weak contact and low BABIP. The Braves need someone who can correct all of those things, not continue them.
Bill Shanks points out that Walker learned under Walt Hriniak, but the days when Hriniak was considered a genius have long since past.