DockHounds Part Ways with Manager Jim Bennett
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier discusses the departure of Lake Country DockHounds Manager Jim Bennett on Monday.
Jim Bennett Removed as DockHounds Manager
In a surprising move on Monday, the Lake Country DockHounds announced that they had removed Manager Jim Bennett from his duties. According to a release provided by the team, “Following the 2-6 start, manager Jim Bennett and the Lake Country DockHounds came to a mutual agreement to go separate ways Monday morning.”
In addition to the sacking of Bennett, hitting Coach Bruce Hines and bench coach Mike Couchee also departed. The team announced that pitching coach Paul Wagner would serve as interim manager until a new selection was made.
The Numbers Don’t Look Good
When one looks at the numbers for the DockHounds, a case can be made for the removal of Bennett and his staff. The team started out the season 2-6 after going 34-66 last year. That gives the team a 36-72 mark through the first 108 games for the franchise.
In addition, the pitching staff has struggled in their first 1+ seasons. They were last in the American Association last season in team ERA (6.56), and have not been much better through the first eight games, posting a 5.84 mark, 10th overall. The pitching staff has clearly proven to be the Achilles’ heel for Lake Country, but this poses an interesting question. When the pitching staff has struggled as they have, why would the pitching coach be the one man to remain from the coaching staff?
This is not to assume that Wagner is doing a terrible job. He had a seven-year Major League career, clearly demonstrating his ability to play at the highest level in this game. However, the team has not responded early on, and it would seem that if anyone was to be scrutinized for the poor performance of the staff, it would be the pitching coach.
Isn’t It Too Early?
There are those who have been around baseball long enough to understand that a removal of a manager by “mutual agreement” means that management decided to remove the manager and the manager had no other alternative but to agree to the decision. Jim Bennett is very loyal to his players. Unless he was battling through some type of personal issue that needed his full attention, he would not be walking away from the club.
I am not claiming to have all of the inside information of what went into this decision. Unless there was a total loss of the clubhouse by Bennett, something that seems unlikely, this move seems to be a bit premature. This is a brand-new club, who have played just eight games this season. They had some very tough early-season series, having to face one of the two teams who made it to the American Association Championship Series last season (Milwaukee Milkmen), then facing the top team in the league this year (Sioux City Explorers), before traveling to Winnipeg to take on the Goldeyes in their home opener. Those are three very challenging series, and it would not be surprising to see any team go 2-6 out of the gate with that schedule.
It is the purview of the ownership to make a decision they feel is in the best interests of the club. After all, they are the owners, and they are the ones who have spent money to build a club and make it competitive. It just seems that this decision was a bit premature. Every manager struggles. If this eight-game stretch had happened in June or July, no one would have given it a second thought. The problem was that this happened at the beginning of the season.
If there was an issue in the clubhouse, and the team suddenly turns things around and starts winning games, then this will look like a brilliant move on the part of management. I will gladly eat my words in that case. However, if this is a team just going through some growing pains, then Jim Bennett was the kind of man who could have helped this team to become contenders in a very difficult East Division. I guess we will soon find out which one of those scenarios plays out.
By Robert Pannier