Archive for Coaching Staff
Joe Girardi‘s coaching staff was shaken up a bit last week when we learned bullpen coach Mike Harkey is leaving the Yankees to become the Diamondbacks’ pitching coach. Harkey was one of Girardi’s closest friends and confidants, so replacing him won’t be easy in that sense. Here’s the latest on some coaching and front office positions courtesy of George King, George King (again), George King (yet again), and Josh Norris.
- The Yankees have hired Matthew Krause as their new strength and conditioning coach after declining to renew Dana Cavalea’s contract a few weeks ago. Krause held the same role with the Reds from 2005-2013. He also spent three years with the Pirates and eight years in the Marines, so the Yankees are in good shape for potential benches-clearing brawls. New York has been one of the most injured teams in baseball over the last four years while Cincinnati has been one of the least injured, though obviously not all of that can be attributed to the strength and conditioning coach.
- Gary Tuck is one candidate to replace Harkey as bullpen coach. He held that role with the Yankees in 1990 and with the Red Sox from 2007-2012. Tuck also served as Joe Girardi’s bench coach with the Marlins in 2006 and spent 1998-1999 as a catching instructor in the Yankees’ minor league system.
- Among the internal candidates to replace Harkey are Triple-A Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred, Triple-A manager Dave Miley, Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar, senior pitching instructor Greg Pavlick, minor league pitching instructor Gil Patterson, catching coordinator Julio Mosquera, and Rookie GCL Yanks manager Tom Nieto. All except Aldred have some kind of big league coaching experience.
- Pro scout Rick Williams has left the Yankees to take a job with the Braves. He and Atlanta GM Frank Wren have known each other for a while, dating back to their playing days and time working for the Marlins. Williams was most often used to scout pitchers prior to the trade deadline.
- Double-A Trenton hitting coach Justin Turner is out for whatever reason. He has been with the organization for a while but this was his first season with the Thunder. It appears High-A Tampa hitting coach Marcus Thames (yes, that Marcus Thames) will take over in Trenton.
Via Jack Magruder: The Diamondbacks are set to name Mike Harkey their new pitching coach on Monday. Good for him. Harkey, 47, has been the Yankees’ bullpen coach since 2008 and he is one of Joe Girardi‘s closest friends and confidants. Obviously the team will need to dig up a replacement now. Triple-A pitching Scott Aldred, who also interviewed for the D’Backs pitching coach gig, could be a candidate for the job.
When a team expects to win and fails, the players are typically at fault. They are, after all, the ones who take the field every day and therefore control the team’s fate. But as the old saying goes, you can’t fire all the players.* As an alternative, teams often opt to fire the manager. Leaders make for good scapegoats, even if they do not directly participate. It’s also easier to get rid of one man and one contract (coaches typically go year-to-year) than to publicly identify the players at fault and get rid of them.
* Unless you’re the Red Sox, who fired three highly paid players and the manager. It’s almost as if winning the World Series was a reward for that decision.
It would have been easy to blame the Yankees’ 2013 season on the manager. The team was expected to win and it did not. The Yankees could have walked away from Girardi cleanly, too, since his contract expired after the season. Instead they signed him to a new four-year deal that exceeds his previous three-year contract. It shows just what upper management thinks of the on-field boss. If anything, 2013 further solidified Girardi as one of the game’s top skippers.
Many fans disagree with that sentiment, but certain fans will always hate the manager for one reason or another. It’s just the nature of baseball. A few close friends of mine dislike Girardi.* They have their criticisms, and while I disagree they do deserve fair trial.
* One of them dislikes Girardi, but likes Big Bang Theory, so I think it’s fair to call his judgment into question.
They don’t like his bullpen management
Pardon me if I don’t pay this critique much credence. While there are managers who handle their bullpens poorly, it seems that vocal, if not large, groups of fans from every team bemoan the manager’s pitching changes. All managers could be wrong, and fans could be right, about bullpen management tactics — in theory. In theory Communism works. In theory.
Three main factors are at play here. First is the now-tired, but still relevant, trope that managers possess far more information than fans. Girardi, we learned early in his tenure, keeps track of not only when his relievers get into games, but also when they warm up in the pen. You might not have seen David Robertson for a few days, but if he pitched two days in a row and then warmed up in each of the next two, he might not be available. This information gap also extends to Girardi’s knowledge of the individual player. Perhaps he doesn’t feel a particular player, on a particular day, is well-suited for a particular situation. We can criticize that, but it doesn’t hold much water if we don’t know the players and the circumstances.
Second is negativity bias. We tend to remember the bad decisions, because they result in agita and, in many instances, losses. Losing sucks, so that feeling sticks in our craws far longer than, say, the time when Girardi brought in David Robertson in the third inning after Andy Pettitte, who left with an injury, put two on with one out and had three balls on the batter. We might not remember that Robertson got out of the bases loaded, one out situation unscathed, which kept the game close at hand for when the Yanks exploded for seven runs and won.
The third is general discontent with managers. Moe Szyslak aptly sums up the sentiment: “The only thing I know about strategy is that whatever the manager does, it’s wrong. Unless it works, in which case he’s a button pusher.”
They don’t like how he deals with the media
I find this gripe odd. Why do fans care if the manager gets testy when the media asks its typically dumb questions? In many instances it comes off as endearing. There are good reporters who ask thoughtful questions, and they certainly deserve a respectful answer. So far as I have seen, Girardi has done just that. There are other reporters who ask the same pointless questions, or cliched and meaningless questions, all the time.* There comes a point where it’s reasonable to lose patience with them. We saw Girardi get a little angry in those situations in 2013.
* At a game I was covering in 2010, Girardi was giving his pre-game press talk. Javy Vazquez had pitched the previous night, and Phil Hughes was on the mound that night. The reporter asked a random question about A.J. Burnett — something asinine, too, along the lines of, “how would you characterize your confidence in A.J. Burnett?”
Honestly, I appreciate it when players and personnel take an attitude with the media. Yes, the reporters are just doing their jobs, but the good ones recognize that asking dumb, repetitive questions don’t help their causes. I miss the days when Mike Mussina scoffed at reporters. In 2013 I missed Derek Jeter poking fun at Kim Jones’s generic questions. It sure beats hearing players give the same boring responses to the same boring questions.
They mock the binder
Heaven forbid the manager has material at hand to inform his decision. For some reason, the media started mocking Girardi for consulting this binder in 2008, and fans followed in kind. This I will never understand. You mock a guy who makes poor “gut” decisions, but also mock a guy who employs data when making those same decisions? It’s senseless, and it goes right back to what Moe said.
Friend of RAB R.J. Anderson wrote about this issue at the time of Girardi’s previous extension:
Pretend for a moment that Girardi’s binder contains information about platoon splits and the basic rundown of data that a manager should be equipped with for in-game decisions. Whether this is the case or not is unbeknown to outsiders, but just pretend. Is there any downside to a manager having the information on hand with which to consult? Perhaps if the information itself is trivial or useless (i.e. how batters fared versus lefties over the last week or on Sundays), then Girardi is hurting the club, otherwise it’s hard to think of a downside.
Assuming that is not the case, the mocking of Girardi’s binder highlights the weird juxtaposition of the media’s treatment toward baseball managers who use information and prep work and their football counterparts who absorb film and schemes. Using numbers does not make Girardi a great manager, but it also does not make him a nincompoop. If he acknowledges that his gut and experience in the game does not hold all of the game’s answers, then he might be more self-aware and conscious than quite a few of his managing counterparts.
The binder contains information that can help balance data and gut feelings. It can influence better decisions. I’m sure that if he kept all the data in an iPad (which, as far as I can tell, isn’t allowed in an MLB dugout), fans and media wouldn’t say a word.
There are, to be sure, a number of other reasons why fans dislike Girardi, and I encourage detractors to elaborate in the comments. For our current purposes, I’ll list the one reason, above all others, I like Joe Girardi and think that he’s a great fit for the Yankees:
He protects his players
When the media asks questions of his players, he refocuses the conversation to himself. In other contexts that might sound egotistical, but in the case of a baseball manager it’s a virtue. Fans lauded Joe Torre his ability to manage the media, and Girardi is in many ways growing into that role (though he’s quite a bit surlier than his predecessor). Girardi never speaks even a drop of ill about his players, even when they deserve it.
If you stick up for your players, you can earn their respect. It does seem that Girardi has the team’s respect, which is all you can really ask of a manager. What effect did that have on the team? Well, they did outperform their Pythagorean record by six wins and their third-order wins by more than 10. Not all of that was due to Girardi’s influence, but if even one of those wins stemmed from something intangible he brings to the table it speaks well of his clubhouse presence.
In terms of the 2013 season, Girardi took an impossible situation, which started with shaky roster construction and continued with key injuries, and did a good a job as you can expect from anyone in that position. What could he done to further tip the scales in his team’s favor? From this perspective, little to nothing. The four-year deal he just signed signals the Yankees feel the same way.
9:00pm: Joel Sherman reports the D’Backs also have interest in Triple-A Scranton pitching coach Scott Aldred for their pitching coach job. He’s been the pitching coach at various levels of New York’s farm system since 2007. Sherman says Arizona will ask for permission to interview both Harkey and Aldred, and the Yankees will grant it because they’re seeking promotions.
5:35pm: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Diamondbacks are interested in Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey for their vacant pitching coach position. It’s unclear if he’s interviewed yet. Arizona GM Kevin Towers is surely familiar with him after spending the 2010 season with New York. Harkey, who is one of Joe Girardi‘s closest friends and confidants, signed a new contract with the team last week along with the rest of the coaching staff. I assume the club wouldn’t block him from making an upward move if the opportunity comes along, however.
The Yankees have re-signed their entire coaching staff for 2014, the team announced. That includes Tony Pena (bench coach), Larry Rothschild (pitching coach), Kevin Long (hitting coach), Mick Kelleher (first base coach), Rob Thomson (third base coach), and Mike Harkey (bullpen coach). All of their contracts had expired on October 31st. Not surprising news.
Via George King: Brian Cashman confirmed there is still no update on the status of Joe Girardi‘s coaching staff. Girardi signed a new deal a few weeks ago, but all of his coaches’ contracts expire at midnight tonight. “I wouldn’t say [what's going to happen], once the deals are done we will put out a release. I won’t say until it’s done,” said the GM.
The Yankees reportedly agreed to a new contract with pitching coach Larry Rothschild two weeks ago, but there haven’t been any updates and nothing has been made official. It’s been rumored that hitting coach Kevin Long could leave to join close friend Don Mattingly, either with the Dodgers or elsewhere if he winds up with another team. Third base coach Rob Thomson and Tony Pena seem to interview for managerial openings every winter (Thomson has already been connected to the Mariners). Bullpen coach Mike Harkey is one of Girardi’s closest friends and confidants, and he’s expected to return. Have to think this stuff will be taken care of relatively soon.
- Brian Cashman reached out to the coaching staff last week to discuss new contracts. Their deals all expire on October 31st. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has reportedly agreed to a new contract and bullpen coach Mike Harkey — Joe Girardi‘s closest confidant — is expected to return as well.
- There’s a chance hitting coach Kevin Long will leave the team to join Don Mattingly, either with the Dodgers if he gets a contract extension or with a new team if he is let go and winds up elsewhere. The two grew close in 2007, when they were both on New York’s coaching staff.
- Strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea will not be brought back when his contract expires next week. He had been with the team since 2007. The Yankees told Cavalea they plan to go “in a different direction with the position.”
- Pro scout Don Wakamatsu recently interviewed for the Rangers’ bench coach job. They hired Tim Bogar away from the Angels instead. The Yankees brought Wakamatsu on board last winter and I assume he’s still with the team.
Via Mark Feinsand: The Yankees have agreed to terms on a new contract with pitching coach Larry Rothschild. We first heard a new deal was in the works last week and an official announcement is expected shortly. Terms of the contract are unknown, but Rothschild signed a three-year deal when he first joined the team. There is “nothing to report” about the status of the rest of the coaching staff, according to Brian Cashman. The coaches’ contracts all expire on October 31st.
The Yankees re-signed Joe Girardi to a new four-year contract worth $16M yesterday, but there are still some other coaching staff and front office situations to address. Here’s the latest from George King, Andy Martino, and Andrew Marchand.
- Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is close to signing a new contract extension. Brian Cashman recently said the team hoped to bring him back, but they needed to get the manager’s spot settled first. All of the coaches’ contracts expire on October 31st.
- The Mariners have internally discussed the possibility of pursuing Yankees third base coach Rob Thomson for their managerial opening. They have not yet asked New York for permission to interview Thomson or any of their coaches, however.
- The Phillies named Pete Mackanin their new third base coach earlier this week. He spent this past year as a Major League scout with the Yankees. Mackanin is very highly regarded within the game and was reportedly on the team’s short list of managerial candidates if Girardi left.
- The Yankees will not bring back Charlie Wonsowicz, who has been an advance scout/video coordinator for the last five years. The position has being eliminated for whatever reason. Wonsowicz had been in the organization for 21 years.
- Lastly, former Yankee and current YES broadcaster Paul O’Neill has some interest in replacing the since-fired Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. However, Reds GM Walt Jocketty confirmed the team has “not reached out to Paul regarding our managerial vacancy.”
The Yankees have taken care of their first (and arguably the most important) piece of offseason business. The team announced on Wednesday that they’ve re-signed manager Joe Girardi to a four-year contract that will keep him in pinstripes through 2014. Jon Heyman and Howie Rumberg say the deal is worth $16M guaranteed plus another $4M in bonuses, making Girardi the second highest paid manager in baseball behind Mike Scioscia.
“We decided this is where we wanted to come back,” said Girardi to reporters during a conference call. “There were some things I wanted to make sure — in my home (with my family) — that people were okay with what I want doing. My kids love what I do. [My wife] Kim is still extremely supportive and continues to love what I do. I had to make sure everyone was still on board.”
Girardi, 48, just completed his sixth year as the team’s manager. His previous managerial contracts with the Yankees were both three-year deals, but Girardi confirmed his side pushed for a four-year contract this time around. The team made it clear they wanted to bring him back — “We’re going to give him a real good reason to stay,” said Brian Cashman during his end-of-season press conference — so they tacked on the extra year.
“I think stability is important,” added Girardi when asked about the four-year term. “That was something we brought up to them. It is more stability for all of us involved in my household. It was something we brought to them and they were okay with it … It’s good for both sides.”
The Yankees are 564-408 (.580) all-time under Girardi, including 85-77 (.525) this past season. I thought 2013 was his finest year as the team’s manager given all of the major injuries and, of course, the Alex Rodriguez circus. Girardi handled the A-Rod situation well and the club remained in the hunt for a wild-card spot far longer than I think anyone expected. Still, the team’s future is up in the air and is something Girardi considered before returning.
“It was something I definitely thought about,” said Girardi when asked about the state of the franchise going forward. “What will the New York Yankees look like in 2014? I don’t think you can necessarily expect to have everything you want every year … To me, I want to be a part of this. I want to get us back on track. That is important to me.”
Girardi’s contract didn’t expire until October 31st and the Yankees did not grant him permission to speak to other clubs in the meantime for obvious reasons. His hometown Cubs reportedly made it clear through back channels they were willing to top any offer, plus the Nationals had interest as well. It’s not hard to argue those two clubs are better set up for success over the next four years than New York, but Girardi returned anyway.
Assuming Girardi sticks around for the full four years, the Yankees will have had just two managers over the previous 22 years. That’s after having 12 different managers for a total of 21 different stints in the previous 22 years. Yeah, the days of the late George Steinbrenner hiring and firing people on a whim are long gone. The Yankees are going through a rather delicate transitional period at the moment and Girardi has done a pretty good job of getting them through the early stages. Now they can move forward and start focusing on other stuff.
“[There is] a lot more work to do this offseason than there has been in the past,” added Girardi. “It’s a special place to manage. Just to be able to put on the pinstripes as a coach, a player, a manager is special. I’ve always thought about it that way. I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think we could win a championship.”