Perry Hill Speaks Out

I'm honestly not overly interested in the scene that has unfolded around Perry Hill's departure, but since the Post-Gazette has another item on it today and Buster Olney is running with it...

As dramas go, I find this one to be pretty thin gruel, and it's very surprising to see that ESPN.com thinks the loss of a first-base coach is interesting. Right off the top, the reason this is still in the news is that Hill has spoken up to dispute Neal Huntington's comment that Hill "has decided he does not want to coach." Hill says he does want to coach, just not with the Pirates right now.

It's a distinction without a difference, even if we grant that Huntington meant that Hill doesn't want to coach at all, which isn't at all clear from what Huntington actually said. The fact is that the Pirates have Hill under contract next year, so by leaving them behind, he is effectively opting not to coach. If there was anything wrong with Huntington's comments, it's that they were a little bit ambiguous.

I'm not sure I understand why this story would be national news. A coach refusing to honor his contract is, I suppose, unusual, but since Hill is just a first-base coach, I'm not sure why any non-Pirate fan would care.

It's unfortunate that the Pirates lost him--he has a good reputation. But it's not really clear to me that his loss will be felt much. Hill's greatest value lies in his reputation as an infield coach, and it's true that the Pirates made big strides in their defense last year. But most of that improvement was in the outfield, not the infield, as good defenders like Andrew McCutchen, Nyjer Morgan and Brandon Moss (and, if you believe the numbers, even Lastings Milledge) replaced mediocre or outright bad ones like Jason Bay and Nate McLouth. Hill may well deserve some credit for Andy LaRoche's good play at third, and the Delwyn Young experiment at second turned out better than I thought it might have (although it was still pretty bad). But improvement in the infield was a small percentage of the overall improvement. Hill will be missed, but a coach is just a coach.

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I'm on the road tomorrow through next Tuesday. I suspect I will have some internet access, but I'm not sure how much, so please hang tight if the updates aren't as regular as you'd like.

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