Phil Plantier

Phil Plantier is a hitting coach? Really?

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In case you missed it, the Padres announced over the weekend that they had hired Phil Plantier as their new hitting coach, replacing Randy Ready. It was a pretty meteoric rise for a guy who was coaching at Point Loma Nazarene University three years ago. Plantier was the Mariners’ minor league hitting coordinator in 2010 and the hitting coach for high-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres’ chain to start the 2011 season.

But while that’s interesting enough, the more notable fact is that the Padres are hiring Phil Plantier as their hitting coach. This is a guy who competed with catchers to see who could squat lower when he was at the plate. It’s like he was sitting on an imaginary chair two feet off the ground.

Plantier was my favorite player in the early-90s. When he burst onto the scene with the Red Sox in 1991, the New Hampshire native created a minor sensation in New England. Living in Maine at the time, I met him and got his autograph at a card show. I had a Plantier t-shirt that I adored.

(Even today, Plantier’s page in the Rotoworld database is my Internet Explorer home page. I wanted a player page that was completely empty, making it quicker to load, and since Plantier has been out of baseball since 1998, it doesn’t get any emptier than that. I have no idea why he wasn’t purged from the database a decade ago.)

Plantier was also really, really good, if only for a brief spell. As a 22-year-old rookie, Plantier hit .331/.420/.615 with 11 homers in 53 games in 1991. That was before the offensive explosion that followed, and Plantier’s slugging percentage and OPS would have led the AL at those rates.

Plantier, though, had a rough go of it in 1992, hitting .246/.332/.361 with seven homers in 349 at-bats. The Red Sox opted to trade him to the Padres for middle reliever Jose Melendez after that season. It was probably the first baseball trade that I absolutely loathed. Melendez proved completely worthless to Boston, getting hurt and throwing just 19 innings in two seasons before his career came to an end.

Meanwhile, Plantier busted out in San Diego, hitting .240/.335/.509 with 34 homers and 100 RBI in 138 games. He finished seventh in the NL in homers and ninth in RBI.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for him. Injuries limited Plantier to 96 games the next season, and he hit just .220/.302/.440. He became a journeyman afterwards, playing for Houston, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis again. Something of a “Moneyball player” before Moneyball, he ended his career with a .243/.332/.439 line and 91 homers in 1,883 at-bats. But Plantier was more a victim of injuries than of managers not appreciating him because of his low average.

Now the guy with the funky stance who struggled to hit better than .250 is going to try to teach others to hit. And I’m finding myself rooting for him again.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.