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The Off-Season: Winter is Coming

The Off-Season: Winter is Coming

by Tim Kabel

December 4, 2022


Ned Stark was right. Winter is coming and it will be a long cold one. There might not be white walkers or ice dragons but, this could be worse. This is the winter of the Lockout.

As we sit here at the beginning of December, Major League Baseball is frozen, stagnant, and immobile. Until there is a new collective bargaining agreement, there can be no trades, free agent signings or other roster moves. It’s as if baseball is in a state of hibernation. Until it ends, nothing can happen. At least, the Yankees can’t fall any further behind in the race to improve their team. Conversely, they can’t catch up or jump ahead, either. I firmly believe the Yankees will make moves once the lockout ends.

Like most Yankees’ fans, I was frustrated at their complete and total inactivity before December first. However, there are still many viable options at all the positions where the Yankees have needs. It might have been prudent of Brian Cashman to wait, as the lay of the land could change completely with the new CBA. It may turn out that he made the smart move by waiting. Once the new rules are in place, he will be able to operate within them and ideally and hopefully fill out his roster with the best players.

Until then, there is little for any of us to do. You will read many articles about how baseball insiders think the Yankees are on the fast track to sign Carlos Correa. A few moments later, you will read another article saying that baseball insiders declare the Yankees have no chance to sign Carlos Correa. You will be pulled back and forth, up and down, this way and that. For the most part, it will just be idle blathering. No one can definitively declare anything at this point. We simply need to be patient and wait. We all know what the Yankees need. We all have our opinions as to whom they should get. It is almost pointless to continue with the speculation at this point. What then, can we do? Well, we could organize our sock drawers. We could string popcorn to hang on the tree. We could eat the popcorn instead of stringing it. We could purchase the boxed DVD set of Daktari and see what shenanigans Clarence the cross-eyed lion is up to these days. Or we could discuss what the Yankees can do during the lockout.

Yesterday, the Yankees reportedly hired Dillon Lawson as the hitting coach and Desi Druschel as the assistant pitching coach under Matt Blake. Lawson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the team and Druschel was the minor league manager of pitch development. Apparently, the Yankees will also hire two assistant hitting coaches, who have yet to be named. They will now have a pitching coach, an assistant pitching coach, and a bullpen coach. If we assume they will carry a thirteen man pitching staff, that’s approximately a four to one pitcher to coach ratio. That’s better than the student-teacher ratio at the most prestigious colleges in the country. The same will apply to the hitters, with a total of three coaches.

The fact that the Yankees will have three hitting and pitching coaches should tell you something. The Yankees would not hire these people just to have them sit around and twiddle their thumbs. They will most certainly earn their pay. That means they will be breaking pitching and hitting down to such a level that everything will be analyzed and scrutinized to the nth degree. I certainly don’t think that’s a bad thing. When I originally wrote about the hitting coach who would be hired for the 2022 season and beyond, I stated that the hire would be indicative of the direction the team was going and the degree to which Aaron Boone would be running the show. I used the term Boone-proofing at the time. Dylan Lawson is apparently extremely analytical and is the hitting coach version of Matt Blake. I fully expect the new coaching staff to be extremely detailed, analytical, and insightful.

Gone are the days when the pitching coach or hitting coach was hired chiefly to be the manager’s friend and possibly his drinking companion. The late Art Fowler filled that role for Billy Martin. He was known to visit struggling pitchers on the mound and say:

“I don’t know what the hell you’re doing, but whatever it is, you’d better stop because Billy is getting awfully mad.”

In the more than forty years since that time, coaching his evolved. I could never imagine Matt Blake or Dylan Lawson saying what Art Fowler did. I suspect the approach of the new hitting coaches will be quite similar to the way Matt Blake does things. I would also expect that all the coaches in the disciplines of hitting and pitching will have specific functions, roles and focuses. It would be easy to say that things are going too far, and we would be better off with the way things used to be and whatever was good enough for good old Billy Martin or Casey Stengel should be good enough today. Well, Billy Martin and Casey Stengel did not have the information at their disposal that Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone do. I fully believe that the great managers of the past would embrace the modern technology and data usage if it existed in their time. After all, Casey Stengel embraced the platoon system, and turned it into an art form. Look at it this way, if George Washington were alive today as a military commander, would he still be riding a horse, waving his sword and shooting a musket.? If he did, he would be either fired, committed, or blown up on the battlefield. When I threw the shot put in high school, the fellow who coached me used to send me off with the shot put and tell me to throw until my arm was tired. Guess what, I wound up with a sore arm. These days when I reach for a bowl of cereal, my shoulder makes noises as if it was a bowl of cereal. I became a coach later on, and worked with the shot putters on technique, explosiveness and release angles. They did very little throwing. This was many years ago and I achieved some level of success. One of my athletes was All New England as a high school senior. The point is that using science, statistics, and any information at our disposal is a good thing.

The fact that the Yankees hired Lawson and Druschel provided a bit of respite from the frozen tundra of the lockout. It was a brief thaw but an encouraging one. Over the next weeks and possibly months, while we sit around like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we can be encouraged by the fact that the Yankee seem to be headed in the right direction with their coaching staff, at least.

Now, back to the adventures of Clarence, the cross-eyed lion.


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