Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Will Kevin Long Be Fired?

This has been a topic of discussion recently, and so I thought it was time to move it to a post. The question is whether Kevin Long will be fired over the Yankees being swept out of the ALCS.

Note that the question is not whether Kevin Long should be fired, but whether he will be fired. Cashman's recent endorsement not withstanding, I think he will. Here are my reasons.

First, the Yankees' failure in the ALCS was completely offensive. Pitching and defense did not lose this series. Particularly glaring was the Yankees' inability to hit with RISP, a season-long problem that we heard over and over again the line-up would snap out of and never did.

Second, while a lot of anger has certainly been directed at the players, there is no clear way to scapegoat one of them. Cano, Granderson, and even A-Rod are unlikely to go anywhere. Even if the Yankees were to trade Grandy or A-Rod, it would likely come off more as a move to improve the team long-term and reduce payroll than it would as a move to send a message to a team that underperformed.

Third, while Long has been a defensible hitting coach, and he may not be responsible for the hitting woes, the buck has to stop with him. This is a season-long issue, and both Granderson and Cano seemed to regress as hitters. Let's not forget that the last person Long tried to remake, Jeter, completely ignored him. Then Jeter broke his ankle, which I can only assume was a result of Kevin Long trying to get rid of the leg-kick, which weakened the bone since it was no longer being strengthened from regular leg-kicking.

More importantly, Lonn Trost and Randy Levine are still loud voices in the organization. They are the reason we signed Soriano to my brother's favorite contract, and they are of the elder Steinbrenner school of thought. That means that someone must answer for the postseason failure, a failure of hitting, and the person most likely to bear that burden is Kevin Long, fair or not.

Fifth, coaches are always held to account for perceived failures far more than they are praised for success. Just ask Terry Francona.

Sixth, Cashman is unlikely to go anywhere and so is Girardi. The easiest person to replace if blamed and fired is Long. Pitching coaches, hitting coaches, bench coaches, first base coaches, and third base coaches are all imminently replaceable. If Trost and Levine decide someone must be made an example of, I have to believe it will be Long.

Seventh, Cashman assured us Long would not be fired. Pretty much every Cashman statement made prior to the Winter Meetings is a lie, or turns out to be, sometimes unbeknownst to Cashman himself (Soriano anyone?). The fact that Cashman vouched for him in public is as good as a pink-slip.


Fernando Alejandro said...

I'm voting on him staying, because Lonn Trost lost all internal credibility when his overpriced seats in the stadium remained empty, and Levine lost all credibility when he told Hank that A-Rod was the next clean homerun leader. I don't know if he actually did that, but I'm sticking with it.

Rich Mahogany said...

The players seem to like Long so maybe no one will be fired.

I do not believe that Long could have sabotaged the team's ability to hit with RISP even if he tried. I do not think he could have made Cano go from red hot in September to ice cold in October, or had anything to do with Swisher and ARod having so many problems in the playoffs. If he is fired, it will be for two reasons:

1. Someone has to pay, as you explained, and

2. His giving advice that some players did not like. There's the Jeter example you mentioned, and then there's Teixeira's comments about the team trying to change his approach of pulling the ball so much, which he thought messed up his approach.

I wonder whether any hitting coach has much of an effect on players. Aside from Granderson reconfiguring his swing under Long's supervision, I can't think of any concrete examples of a hitting coach noticeably changing a player's ability to hit. Unlike pitching coaches like Leo Mazzone and Don Cooper, I can't think of any hitting coaches who are credited with being major benefits to the team.

So maybe he is just expendable.

The Yankees' overall numbers with RISP this season were not that bad (about 30 points of OPS worse than last season). The real problem was bases loaded situations. Hitters get a big advantage with the bases loaded and team stats should reflect a bump in production. The 2012 Yankees performed worse with the bases loaded than in other situations, with a team .247 average and an anemic .290 OBP. This magnified the Yankees' problems with RISP because the team was so often failing in the biggest situations.

Uncle Mike said...

As you suggested, there is often a difference between "should be" and "will be." Long should go, but I think he will stay.

Face it, if he was going to get the sack, it would have happened by now -- especially since, as the Yankees found out in 2007, MLB doesn't like it when teams make big announcements during the World Series, especially when they're not in it.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Mike, they can quietly fire him during the off season. They have no rush to do it now. They are not the Red Soxs.

cost per head said...

well it is well known that Kevin Long had not had a pretty good season with the team, but I think he needs more time and I believe in his work, I also voted on him staying