Assistant hitting coaches. Everybody’s doing it. Remember last year, when the White Sox just had Jeff Manto? Remember the year before when it was just Greg Walker? Everybody would get upset and say things like, “fire Greg Walker!” and “fire Jeff Manto!” Well Walker did eventually leave, and at his new post he wasn’t alone. Perhaps the powers that be decided might be tougher for fans to call for the firing of two hitting coaches. Maybe they figured fans would no longer be sure who blame. Maybe it was assumed the coaches would be better able to absorb the taunts of fans as a unit. Regardless, when Greg Walker brought his hitting coach expertise to the Braves, he had an assistant hitting coach come along with him. Somebody else that we’ve seen before here in Chicago, Scott Fletcher.
The White Sox liked Scott Fletcher so much they brought him in for two separate tours of duty. The first coming after the Cubs found themselves in a position to benefit from Fletcher’s ever expiring collegiate eligibility. When they drafted him in 1979 it was the 4th time he was drafted, though he had just completed his Junior year at Georgia Southern. After some productive minor league seasons the Cubs gave him a shot. In less than 30 games they weren’t impressed and they traded him to the other side of town. The White Sox gave him a shot immediately during the 1983 AL West Championship year, mostly at shortstop where he would play until the Sox acquired a slick fielding 21-year old named Ozzie Guillen in 1985. Despite playing in just 113 games in ’83, bWAR says he was the second most valuable position player on the team, behind only Carlton Fisk.
Chicago would miss out when he exceeded that value. Following the 1985 season Roland Hemond was fired, and his successor Ken Harrelson made one of his first acts trading Fletcher to the Rangers where he had his best offensive season, producing a .300/.360/.400 line and enjoying his only year above league average in hitting according to OPS+. When the Rangers started July of the 1989 season less than 4 games back of the division leading Oakland Athletics, they started plotting a move. As the deadline neared, the last place White Sox obliged by sending over Fred Manrique, in the midst of by far the best season he would ever know, and enraged the White Sox fan base by including Harold Baines in the deal. In return the Rangers sent Fletcher back as well as a 19 year old Venezuelan pitcher and a 20 year old Dominican outfielder. Two seasons later that Venezuelan, Wilson Alvarez, would make his White Sox debut with a no-hitter against the Orioles. The Dominican outfielder would go on to tally up over 600 HRs in his Major League career, most of them for the city’s other baseball team.
After the following year the White Sox let Fletcher walk away for good. He’d play with 3 teams in the next 4 years before calling it quits. A few years after retirement he found himself managing the Charleston River Dogs, and in 1999 he joined the coaching staff at Emory University in Atlanta. The Rockies would welcome him back into the majors in 2009 and he stayed with the organization until joining the Greg Walker and the Braves at the conclusion of the 2011 season.
’85 Topps was a good set, the “talkin’ baseball” info on the back side better than the blurbs on the backs of most cards. And Luke Appling references always welcome!