Supporting Padres' decisions on Kotsay, Cabrera

Supporting Padres' decisions on Kotsay, Cabrera

Editors Note: Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

I expected one of the moves the Padres made this week.

The other caught me by surprise.

But I like them both … a lot.

I am talking about the Padres' decisions this week to make former outfielder Mark Kotsay the club's hitting coach and part ways with shortstop Everth Cabrera.

Both decisions represent a gamble by general manager A.J. Preller. Kotsay has never before been a hitting coach. Not offering Cabrera a contract leaves the Padres short at a key position.

The safe decisions would have been for the Padres to hire a veteran hitting coach and hold onto Cabrera until the club could either trade him or first find another shortstop.

Preller and manager Bud Black looked outside the box on both questions.

Honestly, the announcement of Kotsay as hitting coach caught me by surprise. But the more I thought about it, I think he could be the right man for the job -- partially because he's not the only man in the job.

Alonzo Powell continues as the Padres assistant hitting coach, a role that he has a decade-worth of experience in. He knows the mechanics of hitting as well as the Padres hitters.

Padres tab Kotsay new hitting coach

Kotsay, who turned 39 on Tuesday, spent five of his 17 seasons with the Padres.

He knows hitting with a .276 career batting average and 1,784 hits. He knows the players, having spent the final two seasons (2012-2013) with the Padres before serving the franchise last season as a special assistant to the general manager.

Kotsay also knows Petco Park and the frustrations teammates have had with the pitcher-friendly facility.

Here's how I think Kotsay helps the Padres as the hitting coach. Before retiring, he was the clubhouse leader and a player other Padres looked up to and sought out for guidance. He is a respected figure. He is also a positive figure.

Kotsay knows the game and how it is played. I think the Padres are going to benefit not only by his knowledge of hitting but by his approach to playing the game. And Powell compliments Kotsay.

As for Cabrera, I expected the decision to non-tender the shortstop.

Padres non-tender shortshop Cabrera

Although I liked Cabrera's skills at shortstop, he had out-lived his welcome in San Diego. There was at least one too many strikes against him. My guess is the Padres did try to trade Cabrera and found no takers for the 28-year-old who was the Padres representative in the 2013 All-Star Game.

Cabrera the player has skills. But his baggage became too much for the Padres to handle. And the weight was getting heavier.

Shortly after his All-Star selection, Cabrera was identified as one of the players involved in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing-drug scandal and was suspended for the final 50 games of 2013 season.

Things got worse in 2014.

After a slow start on the field (.239 with a .286 on-base percentage), Cabrera twice went on the disabled list during the second half of the season with hamstring strains. During his second stay on the disabled list, Cabrera was stopped at a remote East County checkpoint and arrested for allegedly being under the influence of marijuana.

While the marijuana charge was dropped, Cabrera is scheduled to appear in court Monday to face resisting arrest charges.

Cabrera says he is turning his life around. That might very well be the case. Hopefully, it is.

But his future with the Padres was untenable. Given the past, the risk wasn't worth the reward. Apparently, other teams agree.