Inside the Phillies: Dismissal by Phillies still stings ex-hitting coach Greg Gross

Greg Gross, here in 2010, is now with Arizona's triple-A team.
Greg Gross, here in 2010, is now with Arizona's triple-A team. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: February 18, 2013

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The last month was uncomfortable, the last day infuriating.

After a dozen years as a coach in the Phillies organization, Greg Gross said he knew his job security was in question when he read an early September comment in The Inquirer from manager Charlie Manuel that insinuated it would not be a bad idea to make some changes in the coaching staff.

"We knew then that people were gone," Gross said last week by telephone from Scottsdale, Ariz. "We didn't know who or how many, but you knew some guys were not going to be back."

Knowing the possibility existed that he'd be among the dismissals did not help ease the sting on the final day of the 2012 season, when general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. summoned Gross into the manager's office at Nationals Park.

"They called me in right after the game was over in Washington," Gross said. "They told me they were going in a different direction, and they weren't going to have me back."

Gross said he walked out without saying a word.

"I basically thought I had been thrown under the bus," he said. "I know we didn't hit, but we also didn't have much of a lineup for most of the year. It was disappointing."

If Gross thought he deserved better than a pink slip after last season's uphill battle without Ryan Howard and Chase Utley for half the season, he's right. The Phillies also fired bench coach Pete Mackanin and first-base coach Sam Perlozzo, two men who were around when the team won its second straight National League pennant in 2009.

"It took me a long time to think about what I wanted to do," Gross said. "I knew I probably wouldn't be able to go back into [the Phillies'] system. That wouldn't have happened. But going to a whole different organization where I don't really know anybody, I looked at that as a positive thing."

He landed with the Arizona Diamonbacks as the team's hitting instructor for triple-A Reno in the Pacific Coast League. He likes the distance between himself and Philadelphia.

"Nothing I can do or say is going to change what happened," he said. "I didn't want to be coming through the area and rehash things that happened last year. It wouldn't be healthy."

There's no denying that the Phillies offense has taken some giant steps backward in recent years. Gross' work was not to blame.

"A lot of guys were pressed into being everyday players, and they didn't handle that well," Gross said. "It's not their fault. They were asked to play more, and other guys like Hunter [Pence] tried to do more, and it just didn't pan out."

Manuel cut his teeth as a big-league hitting instructor with some explosive Cleveland teams and loves talking hitting. Gross admitted that being a hitting instructor on a team managed by Manuel can be challenging.

"Yeah, it is," he said after a long pause. "You know that's what Charlie always did, and that's his part of the game, and he loves to talk about it. It's not that Charlie and I weren't on the same page, it's just different ideas a lot of times. If Charlie is saying something to a hitter, and I'm saying something to a hitter, and those things don't mesh, then you might have a problem."

Gross does not think that happened.

"No player ever said, 'Charlie told me to do this or that,' " he said.

Manuel said firing Gross last season and former hitting instructor Milt Thompson in the middle of the 2010 season were among his most difficult tasks during his time as the Phillies manager.

"I know how much his job meant to him, and I know how much he likes baseball," Manuel said. "You get into a situation sometimes where the hitters don't listen. It might not be G.G.'s fault that they don't listen. That just might be who they are."

Manuel said he thinks Gross is a good hitting instructor.

"I like G.G., and this winter whenever I heard somebody say something about an opening, I definitely recommended him," Manuel said. "He's a worker. Sometimes changes are just part of baseball. It can happen to anybody. It can happen to me."

The job Gross did the last 2½ seasons now is being shared by Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner. Henderson is the hitting coach, and Joyner is his assistant. Gross likes the idea of two hitting instructors because he said the demands of the job have intensified in the video age.

"I think it will work fine," he said. "There is so much to do, along with being able to have the cage time and video and things like that. I don't think that's going to be a problem. Players talk to everybody, and it gives them another voice to hear."

The only thing Gross does not understand is why his voice is no longer among the ones giving advice to Phillies hitters.


Inside the Phillies: Declining Numbers

When Charlie Manuel took over as the Phillies manager in 2005, the team was among the best offensive squads in baseball. That has changed drastically in the last two seasons, with last year's team being the worst of the Manuel era. Here's a year-by-year look at four offensive categories during Manuel's tenure, with Major League Baseball ranking in parentheses:

YEAR   RUNS   HRs   On-base pct.   OPS   

2005   807 (5th)   167 (15th)   .348 (3d)   .772 (6th)   

2006   865 (4th)   216 (4th)   .347 (6th)   .794 (5th)   

2007   892 (2d)   213 (2d)   .354 (4th)   .812 (2d)   

2008   799 (9th)   214 (2d)   .332 (16th)   .770 (7th)   

2009   820 (4th)   224 (3d)   .334 (14th)   .781 (6th)   

2010   772 (7th)   166 (9th)   .332 (11th)   .745 (11th)   

2011   713 (13th)   153 (18th)   .323 (11th)   .717 (15th)   

2012   684 (19th)   158 (18th)   .317 (17th)   .716 (16th)   

Source: MLB.com - Bob Brookover


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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