Chili Davis ‘not going to blame myself,’ wishes next Cubs hitting coach better

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Chili Davis works with first baseman Anthony Rizzo during spring training in February. (John Antonoff photo)

About the time the Cubs announced the hiring of the sixth hitting coach in eight seasons of Theo Epstein’s front office regime, Chili Davis got in his truck and headed out of Chicago on Monday – still sorting out how he took the fall for a group of hitters unable or unwilling to hear his message.

“The driving gives me a little time think about things,” said Davis, who was fired last week after just one season into a multiyear contract. “I guess I need to make some adjustments in the way I deliver my message to the millennial players now. I need to make those adjustments for the next job I get, if there is one.

“But without losing my identity,” he added. “Because I know what I know. And I know what I bring is not wrong. I’m not going to blame myself for this. I’m not going to blame anyone. It didn’t work.

“It’s surprising. It’s disappointing,” he said. “But Jed and Theo had to make a decision, and they did. All I can say is I appreciate the opportunity they gave me, and the next time around I’ll do a better job.”

Davis, who spent the previous six seasons as a successful hitting coach in Oakland (2012-14) and Boston (2015-17), was replaced by Rangers hitting coach Anthony Iapoce on Monday.

Iapoce, 45, returns to the organization after spending 2013-15 running the Cubs’ minor-league hitting program.


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“Hopefully, he has better success at this than I did,” said Davis, who stressed no hard feelings with the Cubs. “But regardless of who’s there, certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments, because the game’s changed, and pitchers are pitching them differently. They’re not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They’re pitching away from that.

“They’re going to have to make that adjustment whether I’m there or not.”

Davis, who said he’s already been contacted by “three or four” other teams, had high praise for veteran Ben Zobrist, who had a big bounce-back year in 2018, but when asked about some others said, “I’m not going to say anything about other players.”

Davis played a big role in the development of Boston’s young core of hitters now playing in the American League Championship Series. He said he had expected to return to Chicago – a city he said he had idealized during his career and that exceeded his expectations.

“I’ve got to flush it out, get it out of my head, start over,” said Davis, who paused when asked if he was given enough time to fairly deliver his message.

“I guess I did. A year,” Davis said. “I made a bogey. I’ve got to make a birdie on the next hole to counter that bogey. Actually, I made a double bogey. I hope there’s a par 5 ahead, and I can reach in two and make an eagle.”

Nobody this front office regime has employed in that role had the credentials Davis brought, between his successful track record as a big-league coach and as a 19-year big-league switch-hitter with three All-Star selections and three World Series rings.

“What I did doesn’t matter,” said Davis, who not surprisingly plans to do a lot of golfing at home in Arizona as he continues to process what happened in Chicago. “What I know I guess doesn’t matter. I think what really matters is what they want, the players.

“I learned a lot this year,” he added. “I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I’ll be dealing with in the clubhouse.

“I hope that the next guy connects better with the players, because I felt that there were multiple players there I didn’t connect with. It wasn’t that I didn’t try. It just wasn’t there.”

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