Staff Updates: Mattingly, Tino, O’Neill, Davis, Harkey, Hillman, Eppler

(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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Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s No. 6, add plaques to Monument Park for Gossage, O’Neill, Tino

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees will be making some additions to Monument Park this summer. The team announced they will retire Joe Torre’s uniform No. 6 later this year, as well as honor Goose Gossage, Paul O’Neill, and Tino Martinez with plaques. Bernie Williams will be honored in some way next year. Here is the ceremony schedule:

  • Martinez – Saturday, June 21st
  • Gossage – Sunday, June 22nd (Old Timers’ Day)
  • O’Neill – Saturday, August 9th
  • Torre – Saturday, August 23rd

No date has been set for Bernie’s ceremony next year, and there is no indication whether he will have his number retired or simply receive a plaque. No. 51 has been out of circulation since Williams left and it should be retired, in my opinion.

CluelessJoeCoverTorre, now 73, was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee over the winter. He had one heck of a playing career and did manage four other clubs, but he is going to Cooperstown for his success leading the Yankees through their most recent dynasty.

Torre managed the club from 1996-2007, and during that time the Yankees won ten AL East titles, six AL pennants and four World Series championships. They went 1,173-767 (.605) under his watch. Torre is second on the franchise’s all-time wins and games managed (1,943) list behind Joe McCarthy.

The divorce was ugly, especially once Torre’s book The Yankee Years was published. The two sides have repaired their relationship over the last few years and Torre is now a regular at Old Timers’ Day and other team events. I’m glad they worked it out. Torre is very deserving of having his number retired.

With No. 6 being retired and Derek Jeter‘s No. 2 certain to be retired at some point in the future, the Yankees are officially out of single digit numbers. They are all retired. Here’s the list:

  1. Billy Martin
  2. Jeter (eventually)
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Lou Gehrig
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Torre
  7. Mickey Mantle
  8. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
  9. Roger Maris

The numbers 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Mariano Rivera and Jackie Robinson), 44 (Reggie Jackson), and 49 (Ron Guidry) are also retired. Williams, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada are strong candidates to have their numbers retired. Add in Torre and Jeter and maybe it’ll be one number retirement per year from 2014-18? We’ll see.

Martinez spent seven years in pinstripes and had more than his fair share of huge moments, particularly in the postseason, but giving him a plaque seems like a stretch to me. They re-issued his No. 24 almost instantly. O’Neill played nine years with the Yankees and won a batting title while with the team (.359 in 1994), though his No. 21 has been mostly out of circulation since his retirement, outside of the LaTroy Hawkins fiasco. Gossage played seven years in New York and is wearing a Yankees hat on his Hall of Fame plaque. Giving him and O’Neill plaques works for me.

The Yankees, particularly Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, indicated over the winter that the team is planning to beginning honoring its recent history. Rivera’s number retirement last September was the first big ceremony and we now know there will be several more over the next two years.

Staff Notes: Rothschild, Thomson, Mackanin

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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.”

How good has Nick Swisher been compared to previous Yankee right-fielders?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

While I’m sure Nick Swisher doesn’t need defending among RAB’s audience, his name has continued to arise this offseason due to a variety of factors: (a) As the Yankees’ only position-player free agent among the starting nine next offseason, he would seem to be the most tradeable; (b) Some folks are still irrationally mad at Swish for underperforming in three separate and completely unrelated small sample sizes; and (c) the Yankees need pitching, which is basically an extension of (a).

Here’s the problem with any trade speculation involving Swish: Nick Swisher is (as I mentioned in the above-linked piece) the living and breathing embodiment of the ideal New York Yankee on offense, a sabermetrician’s dream of patience and power who led the team in OBP in 2011 with a .374 mark despite starting the season in a horrid slump, notched the best BB% on the team, at 15% — a massive jump from 2010’s 9.1% not to mention the third-best mark in the American League — and finished 11th in the AL in pitches per plate appearance (20th in 2010 and 2nd in the league in 2009).

He’s really quite good at what he does, random postseason struggles aside. This becomes even clearer when taking a quick scan of the 2013 outfield free agent class:

Left fielders
Josh Hamilton (32)
Eric Hinske (35)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Lee (37)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Luke Scott (35)
Delmon Young (27)

Center fielders
Michael Bourn (30)
Marlon Byrd (35)
Melky Cabrera (28)
Curtis Granderson (32) – $13MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Angel Pagan (31)
B.J. Upton (28)
Shane Victorino (32)

Right fielders
Matt Diaz (35)
Andre Ethier (31)
Torii Hunter (37)
Mark Kotsay (37)
Carlos Quentin (30)
Juan Rivera (34) – $4MM club option for 2013 with a $500K buyout
Ryan Spilborghs (33)
Ichiro Suzuki (39)
Nick Swisher (32)

Before the Dodgers extended Matt Kemp, fine, I’d have been alright with letting Swish walk in favor of Kemp patrolling whichever section of Yankee Stadium’s outfield he wanted. However, as it currently stands, none of next year’s pending free agent outfielders are better than Swish. The only names on that list that I would maybe think twice about are Carlos Quentin and Shane Victorino, and Swish has been a better offensive player (.370 wOBA) than both outfielders over the last three seasons (both Victorino and Quentin have matching .354 wOBAs during that same timeframe). Yes, we all know Josh Hamilton’s been a beast (.388 wOBA over the last three seasons), but he also can’t stay healthy and will presumably be looking for a huge deal. With all of these players essentially the same age, I’d go with the devil you know who has also played in 150 games in each of his three seasons in pinstripes.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s a rundown of Yankee right-fielders over the last 20 individual seasons, sorted by OPS+:

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year Age G AB 2B HR BB IBB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Paul O’Neill 176 443 1994 31 103 368 25 21 72 13 56 0 .359 .460 .603 1.064
2 Danny Tartabull 152 526 1992 29 123 421 19 25 103 14 115 0 .266 .409 .489 .898
3 Gary Sheffield 141 684 2004 35 154 573 30 36 92 7 83 11 .290 .393 .534 .927
4 Bobby Abreu 138 248 2006 32 58 209 16 7 33 1 52 1 .330 .419 .507 .926
5 Gary Sheffield 137 675 2005 36 154 584 27 34 78 7 76 8 .291 .379 .512 .891
6 Paul O’Neill 137 637 1997 34 149 553 42 21 75 8 92 0 .324 .399 .514 .912
7 Paul O’Neill 137 543 1995 32 127 460 30 22 71 8 76 1 .300 .387 .526 .913
8 Paul O’Neill 136 547 1993 30 141 498 34 20 44 5 69 2 .311 .367 .504 .871
9 Paul O’Neill 130 672 1998 35 152 602 40 24 57 2 103 2 .317 .372 .510 .882
10 Nick Swisher 129 635 2010 29 150 566 33 29 58 0 139 6 .288 .359 .511 .870
11 Paul O’Neill 123 660 1996 33 150 546 35 19 102 8 76 4 .302 .411 .474 .885
12 Nick Swisher 122 607 2009 28 150 498 35 29 97 2 126 3 .249 .371 .498 .869
13 Bobby Abreu 120 684 2008 34 156 609 39 20 73 2 109 1 .296 .371 .471 .843
14 Nick Swisher 117 635 2011 30 150 526 30 23 95 6 125 5 .260 .374 .449 .822
15 Bobby Abreu 113 699 2007 33 158 605 40 16 84 0 115 3 .283 .369 .445 .814
16 Raul Mondesi 110 403 2003 32 98 361 23 16 38 6 66 2 .258 .330 .471 .801
17 Paul O’Neill 107 675 1999 36 153 597 39 19 66 1 89 2 .285 .353 .459 .812
18 Paul O’Neill 104 563 2001 38 137 510 33 21 48 4 59 2 .267 .330 .459 .789
19 Raul Mondesi 96 302 2002 31 71 270 18 11 28 2 46 2 .241 .315 .430 .744
20 Paul O’Neill 92 628 2000 37 142 566 26 18 51 2 90 0 .283 .336 .424 .760
21 Shane Spencer 86 329 2002 30 94 288 15 6 31 4 62 4 .247 .324 .375 .699
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/1/2011.

Swish’s three seasons didn’t end up ranking quite as high as I’d have expected, although that’s really more a tribute to how beastly Paul O’Neill was in pinstripes than any shortcomings on Nick’s part.

However, the case for Nick Swisher as one of the best Yankee right-fielders of the past two decades really comes into focus when we look at the cumulative numbers (minimum 300 PAs, sorted by fWAR), courtesy of FanGraphs:

Who knew Danny Tartabull was a regular OBP machine? The Yankees have gotten some pretty robust offensive production out of their right-fielders for a large chunk of the past 20 years. As you can see, Swish is tied for third-best wOBA with Bobby Abreu and Tartabull, but more importantly, has been considerably more valuable than both men in a similar amount of PAs due to his superior glovework.

While the Yankees may not see another Paul O’Neill for a good while — believe it or not, O’Neill actually has a decent case for one of the top Yankee rightfielders of the last 50 years (2nd-highest fWAR, 3rd-highest OBP, 6th-highest wOBA) — they’ve arguably got the second-best thing in Nick Swisher.

Open Thread: The Paul O’Neill (Almost) Comeback Story

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to watch this afternoon’s game on YES, Paul O’Neill told a rather interesting story in the top of the fourth inning. The Yankees, remember, went with a Shane Spencer-John Vander Wal platoon in right field to start the 2002 season after O’Neill retired, but in early-June they called up a then 23-year-old Juan Rivera (.324/.359/.500 in Triple-A) to take over the position full-time. Unfortunately Rivera crashed into a golf cart and tore up his knee a few days later, sidelining him for the next three months.

O’Neill said during today’s broadcast that after Rivera’s injury, he got a call from Joe Torre asking him about possibly coming back. So O’Neill, who was on vacation with his family at the time, starting working out and throwing and what not with his goal to join the team at midseason. Before he was ready and committed to the return though, the Yankees went out and traded for Raul Mondesi, putting an end to the comeback. Could you imagine that? That sure would have been neat.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Cubs (Gee vs. Coleman) and the Reds and Phillies (Wood vs. Halladay) will be on ESPN2, plus you’ve also got the NHL playoffs on Versus and the NBA playoffs on regular old ESPN. Talk about whatever you want here, so go nuts.