Archive for Coaching Staff

Via George King: The Yankees may have been waiting until the end of the World Series to contact Raul Ibanez and “gauge his interest in becoming their hitting coach.” Ibanez was not on the Royals’ World Series roster but he was still traveling with the team and stuff. They kept him around for his leadership.

Ibanez, 42, is more or less done as a player (61 wRC+ in 2014) and he’s long been considered a future coaching candidate because he’s very well-liked and a great communicator. He has zero coaching experience though — Ibanez has said he’d be open to coaching down the road — so who knows what kind of hitting coach he would be. The Yankees reportedly contacted Eric Hinske about the job as well, which shows they aren’t necessarily prioritizing experience at the position.

Shelton. (Presswire)

Shelton. (Presswire)

Long-time manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays yesterday, and a few hours later new Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman released a statement saying Don Mattingly will remain the team’s manager in 2015. I think they should quit screwing around and just hire Maddon, otherwise it’s going to be hanging over the team all season. We all know how this movie is going to end.

Anyway, with Mattingly supposedly staying put, he remains a non-option for the Yankees and their hitting coach job. We don’t even know if he would have interest in the gig, but it’s the Yankees and Mattingly. They’ll be connected forever. Here are some other miscellaneous coaching staff notes, courtesy of George King, Nick Cafardo, Buster Olney, Erik Boland, Mark Feinsand, and Sweeny Murti.

  • The Yankees reached out to Eric Hinske to see if he had interest in their hitting coach job, but he said no. Hinske was the Cubs first base coach last year and he will be their assistant hitting coach next year. If nothing else, the interest in Hinske shows the Yankees are not prioritizing experience.
  • With Maddon gone, the Yankees could show interest in Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton for their hitting coach position. He managed in the team’s farm system from 2000-02 and is said to be close with Joe Girardi and new VP of Baseball Ops Gary Denbo.
  • The Red Sox gave new hitting coach Chili Davis a three-year contract because it “was the only way Davis could be kept from signing with the Yankees.” After earning $155k annually with the A’s, Davis will make $400k per year with Boston.
  • Greg Colbrunn has rejoined the organization as Low-A Charleston’s hitting coach, a position he held from 2007-12. He was the Red Sox hitting coach from 2013-14 before leaving the team a few weeks ago so he could be closer to home. I thought maybe the Yankees would interview him for the MLB hitting coach position, but I guess not.
  • As you probably know, ex-hitting coach Kevin Long has been hired by the Mets. The Yankees owe him $750k next season and whatever the Mets pay him will be subtracted from that, so the Bombers will save some cash.
  • And finally, ex-first base coach Mick Kelleher has decided to retire and will not pursue another coaching job. He spent 46 years in baseball, including 16 as a coach with the Yankees. I had no idea Kelleher was 67. I would have guessed 50-something.
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Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan did not get the Yankees hitting coach job, he confirmed to Susan Slusser. Magadan and Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis are the only people who have been confirmed to have interviewed for the job, and the Red Sox are set to hire Davis. The Yankees hired Larry Rothschild as pitching coach out of nowhere four years ago. Seems like we’re in for the same thing with the hitting coach job. Intrigue!

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Via George King: The Yankees are expected to hire a new coaching shortly and could have one in place before Game One of the World Series on Tuesday. “I interviewed Wednesday in New York with the Yankees. They told me they were going to interview a couple of other candidates. I don’t know if that was going to happen Thursday or Friday. They said they would make a decision shortly thereafter,’’ said Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan to King.

In addition to Magadan, the Yankees also interviewed Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis this year as well as some other unknown candidates. They reportedly have some interest in Dante Bichette, Marcus Thames, and James Rowson. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, assistant GMs Billy Eppler and Jean Afterman, and pro scout Gary Denbo were involved into the interview process according to King. Denbo was the team’s hitting coach in 2001 and he could be moving into a more prominent front office role with Mark Newman retiring and Gordon Blakeley leaving for the Braves.

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Wednesday: The Yankees will indeed interview Magadan for the hitting coach job, according to King. He was scheduled to be in New York today for the interview. It’s unclear when Davis will interview for the position.

Tuesday: According to John Hickey, the Yankees will interview Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis for their vacant hitting coach position. Davis confirmed he’ll soon travel to New York for the interview. He was mentioned as a candidate for the job recently. The 54-year-old Davis has been Oakland’s hitting coach since 2012, and before that he was a minor league hitting instructor with the Dodgers and Red Sox. He played 19 years in the big leagues and finished his career with the Yankees from 1998-99.

The Yankees are also talking to Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan about the position, according to George King and Joel Sherman. “I have been called about that, it’s in the preliminary stages and that’s all I can say about it,” he said. Magadan, 52, has been Texas’ hitting coach since 2012. He held the same job with the Padres (2003-06) and Red Sox (2007-11) in the past. Magadan played 16 years in the show, including his first seven with the Mets. Both he and Davis are well-regarded around the game and that’s pretty much all I know about their coaching skills.

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Kevin Long

Maybe if you spent more time with, you know, the hitters you’d still have a job. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

When the offense doesn’t perform, who do you blame?

The hitters? Sure, they’re overpaid bums. But they have guaranteed contracts worth millions. Getting rid of them is rarely feasible.

Not content with this reality, we turn our ire to the hitting coach. If the hitters didn’t hit, surely we can blame the guy who coaches them.

The Yankees did just that, dismissing Kevin Long last week despite the year remaining on his contract.

Did Long deserve the axe? Survey fans and you’ll find little dispute. For the second straight year the offense dumpster dived for runs. Isn’t the hitting coach the obvious problem?

In some cases, perhaps. But Long worked exceedingly well with the team since taking over as hitting coach in 2007. Only three times during Long’s first six years did the Yankees not lead the league in runs.

2008: When injuries just devastated the offense.
2011: When they scored eight fewer runs than the leading Red Sox
2012: When they scored four fewer runs than the leading Rangers (and 37 more than the next-highest team)

Wait a minute, you might say. How can you credit Long with the offense’s performance? The Yankees employed really good hitters.

You don’t say.

Let’s look at 2012, the last year the Yankees featured a dominant offense. Did Long help produce a career year from Robinson Cano? Did his work lead to yet another solid year from Nick Swisher? How much did he work with Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez, and did the results on the field reflect that work?

From the stands and our couches we just can’t know this. What we do know is that the Yankees lost two of their best hitters (by OPS+) to free agency following the 2012 season. Their fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-best missed most of 2013 with injuries. After the 2013 season they lost their best hitter. They also lost Curtis Granderson, one of the top four or five hitters on a team that was either first or second in runs scored during his tenure.

How is any of this the hitting coach’s fault?

Take a look at the 2014 Yankees hitters and ask yourself: which of these guys severely underperformed expectations?

Brian McCann immediately comes to mind. Even with world-class defense behind the plate, his 94 OPS+ isn’t even close what the Yankees signed up for. While his .232 average looks pathetic, McCann’s lack of patience ruined him. With even his career-average walk rate his OBP would have been more than 30 points higher. Don’t get me started on BABIP (and as Mike says, don’t blame that on the shift, since teams have been shifting on McCann for years).

So maybe we can blame Long for McCann’s putrid performance throughout 2014, second half power numbers excepted.

Mark Teixeira? Hard to blame the hitting coach for a guy coming off serious wrist surgery. Derek Jeter? Hardly. Beltran? Again, the guy was hurt — and was doing just fine until he got hurt. Ichiro? Brian Roberts? Alfonso Soriano? Please. You need only look at the age columns on their Baseball Reference pages to understand their numbers.

Given this it might seem as though blaming Long is more an act of scapegoating than actual fault-finding. But then I read this and wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

He talked about this two years ago where you said you weren’t going to become the Bronx Bunters, but the way the offense is trending now, do you have to start thinking about doing more things differently?

Kevin Long: “No we’re not constructed like that. (GM Brian Cashman) doesn’t get a whole lot of speed guys. He goes out and gets guys that can hit the ball out of the park. I don’t think hitting the ball out of the park was as much of an issue as the other things. We had about 150 home runs [147 to be exact]. At one point it didn’t even look like we’d get close to that. We did hit some home runs and we did some things (in the second half), but it’s more about the little things. Executing and not missing a pitch when you need to. And I’m going to go to baserunning again — we have to better there, we have to better with men in scoring position.

Did Long even look at the players Cashman handed him in 2014? Did he expect McCann and Beltran to return the offense to its homer-mashing glory of 2012? I found this comment completely out of touch with the reality of the 2014 Yankees. And yeah, the Yankees had 147 homers, which was pretty much average.

If you hit 245 home runs, 31 more than any other team, as the 2012 Yankees did, you might not have to play much small ball. You can do things the way you always have. When you’re right in the middle of the pack, though, changing your approach might make some sense. Don’t you think?

Yes, this is just an interview and might not be reflective of Long’s actual work with the hitters. But that doesn’t make it any less off-putting. (And blaming the baserunning is an unnecessary, finger-pointing aside.)

Another factor, one we are again unable to fully discern: did the 2014 Yankees buy into Long’s style? In the past Long had big fans in Swisher, Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez. None were on the 2014 Yankees. Did the new guys buy in, in the same way the old guys did?

Take one hitting coach and put him into two different situations. You’ll see different results. It’s not as though he’s teaching these guys how to hit. They’ve been doing that all their lives. What he does is help them work through issues as they crop up. If the players don’t buy into the coach’s system, then he’s doomed from the start.

For Kevin Long, the 2007 through 2012 Yankees were a completely different situation than the 2013 and 2014 Yankees. Perhaps the new personnel didn’t work for him in the way the previous personnel did.

Whatever the case, it’s difficult to fault the Yankees for firing Long. They stand to lose little by finding a new hitting coach. It’s not like replacing the GM, where you put an entire new system and vision in place for the organization. There are plenty of qualified coaches out there, and players are used to working with many different hitting coaches throughout their careers.

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(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The Yankees fired hitting coach Kevin Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher late last week. Brian Cashman confirmed the rest of the staff will be retained — “If we choose to make any other changes we’ll let you know, otherwise everything is status quo until then,” he said — though there has been speculation bullpen coach Gary Tuck, third base coach Robbie Thomson, and bench coach Tony Pena could be moved into different roles. We’ll see. Here are a bunch of coaching and front office staff updates courtesy of Bob Klapisch, Erik Boland, Sweeny Murti, Chad Jennings, Susan Slusser, Bob Nightengale, Donnie Collins, Andrew Marchand, and George King.

  • Interesting comment from Cashman after the firings were announced (emphasis mine): “There are some individuals, I think, as we move forward (who) will bring more for the global perspective of the coaching staff  … There are some more things that I want to add to the staff with Joe Girardi. And in my dialogue with Joe, we look forward to interviewing some personnel that can bring those things to the table.” Hmmm.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters he is “assuming” he will return to the team next year after they were eliminated from the postseason last week, though nothing has been decided yet. If Mattingly does get canned, I have to think the Yankees will consider bringing him back as hitting coach, the role he held from 2004-06 before taking over as Joe Torre’s bench coach.
  • Tino Martinez is not a hitting coach candidate and Paul O’Neill gave a simple “no” when asked if he was interested in the job. Tino was the Marlins hitting coach in 2013 but resigned that July after word got out that he verbally abused players in the clubhouse and literally choked one player. So yeah, forget that.
  • Former Yankees DH and current Athletics hitting coach Chili Davis is “getting mentioned” as a hitting coach candidate. Davis has been Oakland’s hitting coach since the 2012 season and before that was a minor league coach with the Red Sox and Dodgers. There’s also speculation Dante Bichette could be a candidate for the job. He was the Rockies hitting coach in 2013 and is close with Girardi.
  • There’s also speculation current Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Harkey could return as bullpen coach — Harkey was the Yankees bullpen coach from 2008-13 — with Tuck taking over as bench coach and Pena taking over as first base coach. (Tuck was Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006.) The D’Backs just hired new GM Dave Stewart and fired manager Kirk Gibson, so other coaching staff changes are expected.
  • Triple-A Scranton hitting coach Butch Wynegar was let go after the season and third base coach Luis Sojo won’t return to the team next year. That doesn’t mean Sojo’s leaving the organization, it just means won’t be with the RailRiders in 2015. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is well-regarded within the organization but is not a candidate for the MLB hitting coach job right now.
  • The Dodgers are reportedly mulling over the future of GM Ned Colletti, and Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is already getting consideration as a possible replacement. Eppler interviewed for the Padres GM job earlier this year.
  • Special assistant Trey Hillman may leave the Yankees to become new Astros manager A.J. Hinch’s bench coach. Hillman is considered a candidate to replace retiring VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman as head of the farm system. He’s also a candidate to join the MLB coaching staff in some capacity.

And finally, I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will adopt the two-hitting coach system many teams use nowadays. (Seventeen teams employ two hitting coaches right now.) They were reportedly considering hiring an assistant hitting coach two years ago but never did, and that “globe perspective” talk from Cashman makes me think Hideki Matsui will be considered for the staff. He’s always working with the team’s minor leaguers at the various parks. Anyway, that’s just me thinking out loud. If the Yankees were going to add an assistant hitting coach, now is the perfect time.

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Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees will not retain first base coach Mick Kelleher. He also served as the team’s infield instructor. I’m pretty sure Kelleher’s contract was up, so they technically aren’t firing him. They just aren’t bringing him back. Kelleher had been the team’s first base coach since 2009.

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Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees have fired hitting coach Kevin Long. GM Brian Cashman signed a new three-year extension today and it seems they waited until that was complete to announce any coaching changes. First base coach Mick Kelleher was also let go. Joe Girardi said Long and the rest of the staff were going to be evaluated soon after the end of the season, though that’s no different than every other season.

Long, 47, is essentially being scapegoated for the team’s underperforming offense. He took over as hitting coach in 2007 and the Yankees led baseball with a 113 wRC+ from 2007-12 before falling apart these last two years, when, not coincidentally, the quality of the players on the roster went down. Brian McCann was the only regular this year to perform well below reasonable expectations. No word on who will replace Long, but I’m sure that’s something the Yankees want to address sooner rather than later. Double-A Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames is someone to keep in mind.

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Looking for some Saturday morning reading? David Waldstein wrote a great feature on Danilo Valiente, the Yankees’ batting practice coach. That’s all he does, throw batting practice and soft toss and stuff like that. He joined the staff this season after working down in the minors for several years. The article isn’t about his job though, it focuses on Valiente’s incredible backstory as a guy who used baseball as a way to cope with the death of his wife, which eventually led to a big league coaching job. It’s a fantastic read and gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation. Check it out.

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