Friday, May 23, 2014

New York Yankees: A (Kevin) Long night

The New York Yankees are having some issues at the plate and its all Kevin Long’s fault! That was the word in social media hell Thursday night as the Yankees were man-handled by Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale. The Yankees batting coach is going out of his way to prevent his players from getting hits.

Being a batting coach is a thankless job. Often times, like right now for Long, the batting coach takes a beating for offensive funks. Seldom do they receive credit for their work by the fans. The players typically know better.

How often, even after parting ways do you hear players bashing a former batting coach? Also, it’s fairly infrequent that a batting coach is completely reconstructing a player’s swing. Yes it happens, but usually there are little tweaks that the coach and the player agree to try. It is Long’s responsibility to work with the players to find flaws, point them out and help eradicate them. What’s to say he’s not doing that daily with players in a rut?

Keep in mind; the Yankees are a mostly veteran team, so how much are any of those guys changing their swings at this point in their careers? Long’s job is to key in on mechanical flaws in hitters’ swings and/or provide assistance to the player via video playback of their at-bats. They’ll also go over pitcher tendencies as well in an effort to gain any slight advantage while they’re at the plate.

Was anyone giving Long credit when Jacoby Ellsbury couldn’t miss a ball? So, why now that Ellsbury is having trouble hitting his way out of a paper bag, is Long the culprit?

Alfonso Soriano has always been a free-swinger? Is Long going to change that? Would Soriano even let him try?

What about Yangervis Solarte? Anyone wonder why all of the sudden this guy is hitting so well? He’s a career minor leaguer without eye-popping success in the lower levels. How do you know Solarte has not had extensive work with Long and figured something out? It’s possible, isn’t it?

How about Mark Teixeira? This guy was considered dead weight by many at the beginning of the season. Has his power come back because of Long? Nope, the power is all Teixeira’s. Did Long help Teixeira along the way to make his swing more compact and work on keeping his hands on the bat longer through the swing? Probably yes.

Further, the Yankees currently own the fifth-best batting average among all MLB teams and rank 10th in team OPS. Is this Long’s doing?

Whichever way you look at it, Long does not hit for the players. He can only do so much when a guy like Sale is on the mound. The best hitters in baseball have issues with Sale. Is there a hitter on the Yankees you’d consider to be among the BEST in the league? You’re fooling yourself if you believe the answer is yes.

Likewise, Long should not get all the credit for the actual hot streaks players get on. While he might have had a hand in correcting a swing issue, ultimately it is on the player to translate the swing path from batting practice and their work in the cage to game situations.

In the end a player’s hitting performance, good or bad, is not simply because of Long. So if the Yankees continue to look weak at the plate and you bash Long that's your prerogative. But, at least give him some credit when they begin to smack the cover off the ball too. It should work both ways.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.