Making Sense of the Sean Casey Hiring
By Derek McAdam
July 12, 2023
The New York Yankees finished their “first half” of the season with an absolutely devastating loss to the Chicago Cubs, for several reasons. First, and foremost, the Yankee bullpen imploded when Aaron Boone removed Domingo German in the 7th after allowing a leadoff walk, and the Yankees winning by a 4-1 score.
There were two major issues with Boone’s decision: German had only thrown 74 pitches when he was taken out and only allowed one hit, which was a solo home run. It was another round of bullpen roulette that Boone was playing, and it backfired big-time.
But the second issue that arose from Sunday’s loss was the fact that while the Yankees had managed to get double digit hits on the board, they failed to get those runs across the plate. It was ultimately the straw that broke the camel’s back, and resulted in hitting coach Dillon Lawson being relieved of his duties, the first time Brian Cashman has ever fired a coach mid-season in his 25-year GM career.
Did this need to be done? Yes, it probably did. But as all Yankee fans know, Lawson was another scapegoat for the failures of Cashman.
Could Lawson have helped struggling Yankee veterans such as Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and DJ LeMahieu turn things around? Only time will tell whether or not it’s the coaching or the players. But what I find somewhat concerning is that Anthony Volpe’s turnaround at the plate was due to Double-A catcher Austin Wells assisting him with his swing. It’s a fantastic trait to see in the 23-year-old, but where was Lawson?
It was clear as day that Volpe was struggling at the plate and both Lawson and Wells likely had the same analytics. This was a mechanical issue and not an analytical problem, but it seemed that Lawson just sat back and watched.
On Monday, the Yankees announced that they hired Boone’s former Cincinnati Reds teammate Sean Casey to become the Yankees’ next hitting coach. It’s an interesting move in several different aspects, although it is one that I support.
First, Casey has never been part of a coaching staff since his playing career ended following the 2008 season. However, he has spent many years as an analyst for MLB Network, so he is still familiar with the new age of the game, but just hasn’t been directly involved in it.
The second aspect I like about this hiring is that Casey is likely going to bring a new perspective to the team. He has not spent time in the Yankee organization and learned all the analytics that they like to instill in their players and staff. This leads me to believe that Casey will focus more on the mechanics of players, although analytics will still play a factor. I feel as if there’s a reason that either assistant hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brad Wilkerson weren’t promoted to hitting coach. Maybe Cashman finally realized that there has to be a fresh face in the locker room.
Casey was also a very good hitter in the big leagues, hitting over .300 for his entire career. Lawson never played in the big leagues, but maybe Casey’s experience will allow him to better connect with the players.
The timeliness of Casey’s hiring also leads me to believe that Cashman had considered firing Lawson for a little while. Lawson was fired following Sunday afternoon’s game and Casey was named the new hitting coach less than 24 hours later. Sure, the Yankees only have a few days before play resumes, but hiring someone out of the organization that quickly just isn’t likely without some planning involved.
It’s easy to see why this hiring was in the books. It’s no secret that this is one of the worst offensive teams in recent Yankee history, but this is one of the worst offensive teams this season in the entire league. The Yankees rank in the bottom tier of many offensive categories, except for home runs, where they’re in the top tier. It’s pretty obvious that home runs do not equal success.
Here’s my biggest problem, and it has nothing to do with Casey, but the Yankees will have three hitting coaches since 2021. The biggest problem this roster faces has not changed since 2021, and even several years before that. It’s a home run-or-bust mentality that the players have, and situational hitting is almost non-existent. Come playoff time, the team gets shut down by good pitching, which is the main reason why they’ve been in a World Series drought since 2009.
The finger for that problem can be pointed directly at Cashman. Sure, Boone makes plenty of horrific decisions, but Cashman assembles the roster that Boone has to work with daily. I don’t think it’s entirely Boone’s decision to play Donaldson on a regular basis, but the Yankees are not going to let a $23 million player sit the bench. Of course, it would also be tough for Cashman to swallow his pride and release Donaldson, given he just released Aaron Hicks earlier this season.
How many hitting coaches will Cashman go through before Hal Steinbrenner realizes that the problem is not the coaching staff, but the individual in charge of hiring the coaching staff and assembling the roster?
Casey is not going to come right in and change this entire team around. It is going to take some time for him to become familiar with the players, and vice versa. His contract looks as if it’s for the remainder of the season, so it may be a temporary hire to see if Casey likes being a coach and if the Yankees feel as if he can be effective at the position.
Obviously, I wish Casey all the best in turning this offense around. I believe it’s a hire that needed to be made, but again, was a hire to overlook some of the miserable failures that Cashman had made.