By MARK FEINSAND
The Yankees have lost five straight games. They’re hitting .174 during that streak, scoring a total of seven runs.
“That’s not good,” Mark Teixeira said, stating the obvious. “But it’s not really baffling, we’re just not getting the job done. You win and lose as a team, and we definitely haven’t been winning as a team lately because up and down the lineup, we just can’t get it done. We all need to step it up.”
I have been hearing for weeks, months and even years that Kevin Long is the problem. “The hitting coach can’t get his team hitting, so he needs to be fired. … He’s the worst hitting coach in baseball. … Useless bum. … Why is he still here?”
Let’s all take a deep breath.
Last year’s Yankees team was a disastrous mix of retreads, has-beens, never-was and never-will-be players, and the fact that they won 85 games was a credit to not only Joe Girardi but every player and coach on the team.
This year, the injuries have been to the pitching staff, as four of the main starters landed on the DL before the All-Star break. The replacements have done a solid job standing in, but the lineup continues to struggle when it comes to finding any hint of consistency.
Is that Long’s fault? I don’t believe so. I don’t give a hitting coach all that much credit when a team is crushing the ball, so why would I blame him when more than half the lineup is going bad? Coaches coach, but hitters hit. The Yankees spent a ton of dough to bring in three big-time free agents. Right now, they’re not hitting. Did Long really ruin all of these All-Star veterans? Come on.
Long was the hitting coach from 2007-12, when the Yankees scored between 789 and 968 runs over a six-year span. They also won a World Series.
Yes, the situational hitting was down in 2012, but the Yankees scored 804 runs and had a .790 OPS. Their RISP average may have been down, but that was thanks in part to having more at-bats with men in scoring position than any other team.
On a team with mostly veterans that have long, productive track records, hitting coaches can make an impact with minor changes here and there, but if you think Long is the reason Brian McCann has struggled this year or why Teixeira is hitting below .200 since the break, I simply don’t agree with you.
Carlos Beltran hit .216/.271/.401 in the first half, but he’s hitting .312/.369/.516 since the break. I didn’t blame Long for Beltran’s first half, so I’m not giving him the credit for the past month, either. See what I mean?
We spoke with Long after Friday’s 5-0 shutout loss. He’s not happy about the current situation his lineup is in, but he plans to continue working hard and doing what he can to help the hitters get out of their funk. If they do, I’ll give the hitters the credit. If not, the blame goes to them, too.
Long on the five-game skid: “It’s been tough. We haven’t been able to score runs and there’s been no consistency. Yeah, we’ve run up against some good pitching, but we’ve got to battle, we’ve got to find ways to get it done, and we’ve got to stay at it. Morale’s down a little bit, but it’s our job to try to keep it up and keep guys as positive as we can during a time like this. That’s one of our biggest challenges. We’ll stay at it and come ready to work tomorrow. We need something to turn – and we need it to turn in a hurry.”
Long on the morale issue and how that shows itself: “When we don’t score runs and we’re locked up in close games and you need a big hit here or there and they’re not coming, guys start to press a little bit and start to get down a little bit. That’s understandable. There’s only one way to turn this thing around, and that’s to come out tomorrow, hopefully get to smiling, and see if somehow tomorrow we can’t get this going in the right direction.”
Long on this week’s skid after last week’s 6-1 surge: “That’s the game of baseball. You don’t know when these things are going to hit you, you don’t know when they’re going to kind of snowball. Right now they’re snowballing. We need to get back to where we’re feeling good. That was only five or six days ago. These guys are going through a tough time. We’re going through a tough time. I only know one way to get out of this, and that’s to keep fighting, keep working, keep grinding, and I know the guys in this room will do that.”
Long on the state of the offense: “You want to score four or five runs a game. That’s what you set out to do. Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that. Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should, and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber or (Alex Cobb) tonight, it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down. But you’re going to have some days where, not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff the other night. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it. Again, when you have a couple guys like tonight, and Kluber, and before that we faced the three Cy Young guys, there’s going to be tough days. But some of those other guys we should be able to get to.”
Long on whether the hitters are pressing: “At-bats, the last five days, they haven’t been as good as they probably should be. That tells me guys are probably trying a little too hard. There’s not a lot of laughter, there’s not a lot of at-ease at bats, and that makes this game even more difficult.”