Archive for Coaching Staff

Via David Waldstein: Joe Girardi held a “stern postgame meeting” following Sunday’s loss to the Red Sox to let the team know he was disappointed with their effort in the three-game sweep. “We stunk here,” said the skipper. “We didn’t play well here. But we’ve got options. We can either continue to stink or play better. If we play better, we have a shot.”

The Yankees have held team meetings under Girardi before — including last month, during the sweep by the White Sox in Chicago — but the message has always had some kind of positive spin. “We’re better than this, let’s not make losing a habit,” that type of stuff. This is the first time I can remember hearing about Girardi ripping into the team, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before. This is the time to be stern anyway. The time for delivering a gentle message has come and gone.

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Via Jon Heyman: It’s a “foregone conclusion” the Yankees and Joe Girardi will work out a new deal when the manager’s contract expires after the season. “[Hal Steinbrenner] loves Joe,” said a source to Heyman. Brian Cashman confirmed they hope to re-sign him earlier this season.

In my opinion, the 48-year-old Girardi has done by far his best work as the team’s skipper this season. The Yankees still have a shot — albeit a small one, obviously — at the postseason despite all of the injuries and under-performance, plus his handling of the Alex Rodriguez circus has been masterful. The front office hand-picked Girardi for the job close to six years ago now, and as I’ve said before, I think the only way he doesn’t return after the season is if he decides he head elsewhere. I have a hard time thinking that will happen.

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June 3rd: Cashman confirmed to Ian O’Connor that the team does indeed want to re-sign Girardi. “We’d like to have Joe Girardi back … We have a great interest in keeping him, and hopefully Joe will be here. I think there’s really no reason to believe Joe won’t be here,” said the GM to no one’s surprise.

May 18th: Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have not yet had contract extension talks with either Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman. Cashman is under contract through 2014, so that’s no big deal, but Girardi’s deal expires after this season.

The Yankees do not negotiate new contracts until the current one expires thanks to their archaic team policy, and right now I have no reason to believe they won’t try to bring Girardi back after the season. The team is far exceeding post-injury expectations and the credit for that deservingly goes to the manager. If Girardi doesn’t return, my guess it will be his decision — wants a new challenge, another club makes a huge offer, burnout, etc. — and not the team’s.

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(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

Even before last night’s come-from-behind extra-innings win over the Orioles, it was obvious the Yankees are far exceeding expectations this year. The injuries piled up during the offseason and in Spring Training, leading to a bunch of scrap heap pickups forced into everyday roles come Opening Day. Lyle Overbay? Vernon Wells? Frankie Cervelli? This guys had no business starting the season assured of regular playing time for a team with World Series aspirations.

The Yankees were widely picked to collapse completely and perhaps finish last, the kind of collapse that has been predicted every year since about 2007. Instead, they’ve thrived and currently sit atop the AL East with a little less than three-quarters of the season remaining. Yes, there is very long way to go, but New York has fared far better than even the most optimistic of fans could have expected. When Opening Day rolled around, I remember the mantra was “tread water until the injured guys return.” Expectations were definitely lower.

Thanks to the team’s better-than-expected performance, Joe Girardi has started to get some super early Manager of the Year love. My CBS colleague Dayn Perry recently dubbed him the 25% AL Manager of the Year — basically the MoY to date — for example. The Manager of the Year Award has morphed into the “Manager Of The Team Who Most Exceeds Expectations” Award in recent years, and Girardi definitely fits that bill right now. Some late-season ridiculousness — just ask 2012 Bob Melvin and 2011 Joe Maddon — would help his cause too, but I’m hoping for a less stressful finish to the season.

Looking around the rest of the league, the only other early-season AL MoY candidates are Terry Francona and John Farrell. Both the Indians and Red Sox are exceeding expectations so far, but both teams did make splashy offseason moves. Were expectations lower in Cleveland and Boston than they were in New York coming into the season? I’m not sure, but those two deserve the same kind of early MoY attention as Girardi. The next 120 or so games will sort this out, and some new candidates will inevitably emerge.

It’s obvious these days that a Yankee needs to have an outrageous season to win any kind of major award, like a 2007 Alex Rodriguez season. Without that big gap in performance, the other guy always seems to get the benefit of the doubt. That might work against Girardi because the Yankees still have the largest payroll in baseball and hey, they should be able to plug their holes on short-notice. Not every team can absorb $13M of Wells’ salary at a moment’s notice. That mentality exists and it could come into play.

Only two Yankees managers have won the award since it was first handed out in 1983 — Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998, and Buck Showalter during the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. That’s all. Girardi has already been named MoY once before, taking home the award during his lone season with the Marlins in 2006, but that shouldn’t matter. I’ve never been an ardent Girardi supporter, but he’s done one hell of a job keeping this ship afloat through the injuries. If there was ever a time a Yankees manager deserved the Manager of the Year Award, this is it.

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(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

Spring Training is less than a week old, but we’ve already spent an awful lot of time talking about Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency. It’s going to be a major story from now right up until he signs his new contract, either with the Yankees or another team. We’ve also talked very briefly about Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson, two important Yankees who will also become free agents next winter. Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan have been free agency afterthoughts so far, but they are important pieces of the bullpen.

Those five players do not represent the team’s only notable impending free agents, however. Joe Girardi is a lame duck manager at the moment, entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed during the 2010-2011 offseason. It will be his sixth season with the team and his success is undeniable: one World Championship, two other ALCS appearances, three division titles, four postseason berths and four 95+ win seasons. As expected, Girardi has said all the right things and handled his lame duck status well so far.

“My faith is that God is going to put me where he wants me,” he said last week. “That’s what I believe. I don’t worry about where I’m going to be next year. We’re probably going to get into this later, so I’ll say it, we talk about payroll – I’m not worried about next year’s payroll. I’m worried about the next 162 games and getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series. That’s my concern. That’s what I worry about. I think in the game of baseball you get a lot of practice only worrying about that day or that year as a player, as a coach, as a manager, because you never know what it’s going to be. When I signed, I was called up in 1989 and thought I’d be a Cub the rest of my life. Lo and behold, I was with three other teams, back with the Cubs. I was all over the place. So you get used to not worrying about next year, and I’m not worried about it.”

As I wrote in our Season Review, I don’t think Girardi had a great year in 2012, at least compared to his first four years on the job. He has his annoying tendencies — specifically ill-timed intentional walks and sacrifice bunts in the early-to-mid-innings — like every other manager, but he typically does a very good job running his bullpen and keeping his older players rested. There haven’t been any whispers of clubhouse problems — though the team does go out of the way to acquire good makeup players — over the last five years, so Girardi’s clubhouse skills should be considered a plus as well.

Now, that said, big league manager is one of those jobs with a relatively short shelf life. Unless the guy has immediate and unprecedented success like Joe Torre, the odds of him sticking around for 10+ years are tiny. Only eight managers have been with their current team longer than Girardi, and there are more than a few teams who have cycled through multiple managers over the last five seasons. Managers typically lose effectiveness when they’ve been around too long, mostly because their style becomes routine and players get a little too comfortable (i.e. Red Sox and Terry Francona). I don’t see any reason to think that’s happened with Girardi’s team yet.

The Yankees have a very wide range of possible outcomes this year, and how they finish will inevitably impact the decision whether to retain Girardi. Everything could click and they would win 95+ games or everyone could break down and they could finish in fourth place. Girardi would clearly be retained — or at least offered the opportunity to stay — should the former happen, but I don’t think the latter would automatically result in his dismissal. It depends why they finished in fourth, really. Did all the old guys who are injury risks get hurt, or did important players underperform? Only one of those can really be charged to the skipper, and even that isn’t cut and dry.

The last time the Yankees needed a manager, they only interviewed three candidates: Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena. Brian Cashman said afterwards they interviewed only those three because they were familiar with the Yankees and the market they play in, which is why no outside candidates were brought in. Outside of Pena, pitching coach Larry Rothschild (first manager in Devil Rays history), and I guess Mattingly (contract is up after this season), I don’t know who else the team could bring in to meet that “familiar with New York” criteria. Then again, they could always change course.

Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner hand-picked Girardi for the job following the 2007 season, so I have a hard time thinking they’ll replace him next winter for something less that an outright clubhouse mutiny. He’s a fine manager — I don’t think he’s top five or even top ten, but clearly better than average in terms of on-field decisions — and has done a better job of handling the media over the years. Girardi could always choose to leave on his own for another job, but he didn’t even let the Cubs make him an offer three years ago. If he didn’t walk away for his hometown team, I can’t imagine what it would take to lure him away. Girardi is already one of the two or three highest paid managers in the game, so that’s not an issue.

Obviously the Cano, Hughes, and Granderson free agencies are much more important than the manager’s, especially since their salaries will be impacted by the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year. The skipper’s salary is separate and, theoretically, not limited by any kind of payroll threshold. Maybe the Yankees won’t want to pay their manager top dollar anymore — “I don’t believe you need a top-five salaried manager to win,” sure sounds like something Hal Steinbrenner would mutter these days — but I’ll believe that when I see it. Barring something completely unexpected, Girardi seems like a safe bet to re-sign with the team this winter and lead them for another three years or so.

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The Yankees have hired Marcus Thames as the hitting coach for their High-A Tampa affiliate, the club announced. He joins long-time manager and former Yankee Luis Sojo, the winningest manager in Florida State League history.

Thames, 35, last played with the Dodgers back in 2011. He was originally drafted by the Yankees back in 1996 and broke into the show with them in 2002, famously homering off Randy Johnson on the first pitch he saw as a big leaguer. He’s perhaps best remembered around these parts for being a force off the bench back in 2010 — .288/.350/.491 with a dozen homers. Thames is a super nice guy and incredibly easy to like, so I wish him well down in Tampa. Plus, you know, I get to link to this.

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Via Andrew Marchand: The Yankees and looking into hiring an assistant hitting coach to pair with the incumbent Kevin Long. Two hitting coaches is one of baseball’s newest trends, and a recent article by The Sporting News says eleven teams currently staff an assistant or are seeking one this winter. Obviously we don’t know when the team started talking about this, but it seems odd that this is coming out after Greg Colbrunn (Red Sox) and Tino Martinez (Marlins) left the organization for hitting coach gigs elsewhere.

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(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Evaluating a manager and his coaching staff is a very difficult thing for outsiders. The vast majority of their work takes place behind the scenes, so we’re left looking for clues in places they might not be. That pitcher learned a changeup? Great job by the pitching coach! That hitter is only hitting .250 when he usually hits .280? Fire the hitting coach! We have no idea what clues we dig up are actually attributable to the coaching staff, so we end up guessing.

Because of that, I don’t want to review Joe Girardi and his coaching staff in our typical “What Went Right/What Went Wrong” format. This review is almost entirely subjective and we can’t really pin anything (good or bad) on the coaching staff specifically. We know Curtis Granderson essentially revived his career after working with Kevin Long two summers ago, but having a specific example like that is very rare. Instead, we’ll have to take a broader approach.

Joe Girardi
I think 2012 was Girardi’s worst year as Yankees’ manager. Every manager makes questionable in-game moves during the season, but I felt Girardi made more this year than he had in any year since 2008, and it all started in the very first inning on Opening Day with the intentional walk to Sean Rodriguez. That still bugs me.

Girardi has long been considered a strong bullpen manager given his ability to spread the workload around and squeeze water out of scrap heap rocks, but this year he leaned very heavily on Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano. Working Soriano hard wasn’t a huge deal because he was expected to leave after the season, but Logan made more appearances in 2012 (80) than any other reliever under Girardi, including his time with the Marlins. Robertson appeared in 65 games despite missing a month with an oblique injury. Part of it was a lack of alternatives (blame the front office for that) and the tight race, but this was something that started before the Yankees blew their ten-game lead.

Girardi also had two notable meltdowns (for lack of a better term), lashing out at a fan following a loss in Chicago and then getting into a shouting match with Joel Sherman after calling him into his office. Maybe my conduct standards are too high, but that kind of stuff is a major no-no in my book. It stems from pure frustration and there is zero good to come from it. Girardi didn’t have a bad year as manager, he did a fine job guiding the team despite an overwhelming about of injuries, but I feel that he’s had better years in the past.

(Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Larry Rothschild & Kevin Long
When the Yankees hired Rothschild as pitching coach two years ago, he came to the club with a reputation of improving both strikeout and walk rates. That is exactly what has happened overall, and we can see it specifically with someone like CC Sabathia (strikeouts, walks). Obviously the personnel has changed over the last few years, but the Yankees managed to get productive seasons from scrap heap pickups like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia last year while getting better than expected production from Hiroki Kuroda and even Andy Pettitte this year. We don’t know how much of a role Rothschild played in all of this, but the team’s pitching staff has exceeded expectations the last two years.

Long, on the other hand, came under big-time scrutiny following the club’s offensively-inept postseason showing and Mark Teixeira‘s continued decline from elite all-around hitter to pull-happy, one-dimensional slugger. At same time, he remade Granderson and helped Robinson Cano go from good to great. Long does preach pulling the ball for power and apparently that contributed to the team’s poor postseason, but the roster overall is built around guys who pull the ball for power. Outside of Cano and Derek Jeter (and later on, Ichiro Suzuki), the Yankees lacked hitters who could hit to the opposite field. Like Rothschild, we don’t know how much a role Long has played in all of this, and I’m not even convinced preaching power these days is a bad thing given the decline in offense around the league.

Tony Pena, Mike Harkey, Rob Thomson & Mick Kelleher
Not really much to add here. Thomson, the third base coach, does have a knack for being a little overly-aggressive with his sends in tight games while at other times he will hold guys who would have clearly been safe, but every third base coach does that. The Yankees have had an above-average stolen base success rate in recent years (77-79%), so I guess Kelleher is doing a fine job of reading moves and relaying that info over at first base. Other than that, we have very little basis for which to judge these guys on. Despite the whole “everyone should be fired because there are obviously better coaches available!” mentality than can fester following an embarrassing playoff loss, all indications are the entire staff will return fully intact next year.

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Via the NY Post: The Yankees have reassigned minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras and replaced him with Gil Patterson. Patterson has held the same role with the Athletics since 2008 and he’s had a number of coaching stints in the New York system dating back to the mid-80s. The Yankees interviewed Patterson for their pitching coach job before hiring Larry Rothschild in 2010. Contreras had been the club’s minor league pitching coordinator since 2005.

Between this move and the recent Billy Connors firing, it seems pretty obvious that the Yankees are not happy with how their minor league pitchers are developing, and they shouldn’t be. The only starting pitcher to really reach his ceiling under their watch in the last 10-15 years was Chien-Ming Wang. We all focus on the draft and international signings and all that, but acquiring talented amateur players means little if you can’t develop them properly. The Yankees have really struggled with their young pitchers in recent years, so change was in order.

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(Seth Wenig / AP Photo)

The Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers almost a week ago, but it wasn’t until today that Joe Girardi conducted every manager’s annual end-of-season press conference. He said the team has yet to look back and evaluate the 2012 campaign just because everyone takes a few days off to be with their families and kinda get away from baseball immediately after the season ends. They’ll obviously evaluate the club top to bottom in the coming weeks. Here are the important notes from the press conference…

On Alex Rodriguez

  • “These were things that we evaluated a lot before we made our decisions,” said Girardi when asked about benching A-Rod in the postseason. “I don’t go back and second guess myself.”
  • Girardi has not yet spoken to Alex (or any other player for that matter) about their relationship, but said “that will take place … it just hasn’t yet.” He isn’t worried about things being strained but acknowledged that actions have consequences and he will deal with them if need be.
  • Girardi said he believes A-Rod was healthy in the postseason and was just struggling, particularly against righties.
  • “Can Alex be a very good player again? Absolutely, I don’t have any question in my mind,” said the skipper. He praised A-Rod’s baseball smarts and said he expects him to be his everyday third baseman next season.
  • Chad Jennings has Girardi’s full quotes about A-Rod if you aren’t sick of hearing about it yet.

On the playoffs…

  • “Yes it was somewhat puzzling,” said Girardi on the offense’s struggles. He attributed Robinson Cano‘s disappearing act to being pitched well and just falling into a poorly-timed slump. He did acknowledge that Robbie was frustrated, which likely compounded the problem.
  • Girardi said he doesn’t think the team’s unfavorable postseason schedule contributed to their lack of hitting, ditto all the tough games they had to play down the stretch in September. He basically said he doesn’t believe his team was worn out after a month of playoff-type games.
  • “I hope not,” said Girardi when asked if he may have he lost the trust of some players by sitting them in the postseason. “I was making moves trying to win ballgames … I’ve been honest with our players and I will continue to do that, and I will do my best for this organization to win every game.”
  • Girardi attributed the dull Yankee Stadium atmosphere in the postseason to a lack of scoring on the team’s part, nothing more. “I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees (because) we see it even on the road.”

On injuries…

  • “(It has) not taken place,” said Girardi when asked if CC Sabathia has gone to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. He is encouraged by his ace left-hander’s performance in September and the ALDS and he expects to have him in Spring Training. “We’re always concerned that it’s maybe something more than you think it is … I don’t like people going to see doctors (but) sometimes people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is okay.”
  • “We expect him to be back and playing for us next year on Opening Day,” said Girardi about Derek Jeter and his fractured ankle. He added that there are always concerns following a surgery, including Jeter pushing his rehab too hard and having some kind of setback.
  • Mariano Rivera did throw sooner than expected this year but Girardi never did ask him if he will definitely return next season. “I don’t think you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in coming back,” he said.
  • There were no undisclosed or “hidden” injuries this year, so to speak. Russell Martin‘s hands are banged up but that is typical catcher stuff and isn’t a long-term concern.
  • Both hitting coach Kevin Long (elbow) and third base coach Rob Thomson (hip) will have surgery this offseason, if you care.

On free agents and the team moving forward, etc…

  • “There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him,” said Girardi about Andy Pettitte, but he doesn’t know if the veteran southpaw will return next year. He expects him to discuss things with his family before making a decision.
  • He mentioned briefly that like Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda is among the players who will make a decision about his future and playing beyond this year.
  • Girardi said he was unsure about Ichiro Suzuki coming back next year but he knows the veteran outfielder enjoyed his time in New York. He also praised Ichiro for making adjustments like playing left field and batting towards the bottom of the order.
  • “I think this kid has something to offer us,” said the manager about Eduardo Nunez while also acknowledging that his role for next year is undetermined because other parts of the club are unsettled. “There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, he has a lot to offer.”
  • “There’s a lot of players we have to decide what we’re going to do with, but I believe when Spring Training starts next year, we’ll be a championship club,” said Girardi, acknowledging that the team has a lot of players with open contract situations.
  • He also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter (i.e. Nick Swisher) if that happens this winter.
  • Girardi acknowledged that the team has a busy offseason coming but doesn’t expect the chaos to be a problem. “Sometimes quiet is a bad thing,” he joked.

On the status of him and his coaches…

  • “No. The pressure you see I put on myself,” said Girardi when asked about the pressure of entering a contract year. He doesn’t expect the team to talk about a new deal until his current one expires and he doesn’t anticipate asking for an extension before then either.
  • Girardi expects the entire coaching staff to return next year but again pointed out that the team has not yet discussed everything.

Miscellaneous…

  • Girardi praised his role players for stepping up into more prominent roles than expected this year, mentioning Raul Ibanez, David Phelps, and Cody Eppley by name.
  • When asked about Cano’s general lack of hustle down the line to first base, Girardi said he “will address with every player to play hard.”