The Phillies announced today that they’ve hired former Major Leaguer Matt Stairs as their new hitting coach. Additionally, the team announced that bench coach Larry Bowa, pitching coach Bob McClure, first base coach Mickey Morandini and third base coach Juan Samuel will all reprise their roles next year. Additionally, 2016 bullpen coach Rick Kranitz will now be McClure’s assistant pitching coach, while 2016 catching coach John McLaren will take over as the bullpen coach.
Despite going undrafted and signing with the Expos as an amateur free agent in 1989, Stairs enjoyed a highly productive 19-year career in the Majors, during which he batted .262/.356/.477 with 265 home runs and 294 doubles. Stairs appeared with 12 organizations over the of his career and holds the all-time record for pinch-hit home runs at 23. Perhaps the best-remembered moment of his career came in one of his final years while playing for the team for which he’ll now coach. In Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS, Stairs teed off on a Jonathan Broxton fastball and hit a massive two-run homer that put the Phillies in front 7-5 and ultimately propelled them to a 3-1 series lead (video link). Philadelphia, of course, would go on to not only win the NLCS but also to top the Rays in the 2008 World Series.
Stairs has been working in broadcasting over the past several years, including the past three with the Phillies. While he doesn’t come with coaching experience, he did serve as a special guest instructor with the Phillies during Spring Training this past year, and between that and his work in the booth he should be familiar with the majority of the team’s young players. However, he’ll have a tall task on his hands in improving a Phillies offense that collectively batted .240/.301/.385 last season. All three of those ratios rated in the bottom three among Major League teams, and no club scored fewer runs in 2016 than Philadelphia’a 610.
Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer sat down with the Phils’ newest coach, with Stairs explaining that his work in the booth for the Phillies has prepared him for the job in a way. “Honestly, the last three years, by sitting in that booth, I can tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly of every swing,” said Stairs. “…I just love hitting. And I’m not tooting my own horn, but I know hitting. A lot of people might think, ‘He was the guy that swung from his heels to try and hit home runs.’ That was only later in my career. I can break down a swing.”