The Yankees sloppily dropped a winnable game in the final game before the 2023 All-Star break, sinking only 1 game above last place in the AL East and 1 game out of the final wildcard spot. By time the Metro-North train departed from Yankee Stadium and made its first stop in Stamford, Connecticut, the Yankees coaching change was underway and hitting coach Dillon Lawson was fired.
Yankees Coaching Change
This Yankees coaching change does not come without foreshadowing. Entering the All-Star break, amongst 30 MLB teams, the Yankees rank 29th in hits, 28th in doubles, 28th in batting average, 26th in OBP, 23rd in BB, 21st in OPS and 18th in RBI. The Yankees do not hit, and they especially don’t take advantage of runners on base. All of this is despite being surprisingly 5th in home runs. Let’s be honest, how helpful is a home run when there is no one on base to drive in?
Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, and DJ LeMahieu, all former all stars, a 2 time batting champion, and former MVP have all uncharacteristically collapsed to jaw dropping offensive lows. What is the common denominator of all of these factors? Well, according to the Yankees, it was hitting coach Dillon Lawson.
In less than 24 hours, it had been made publicly known that Sean Casey will take on the role of the hitting coach. Sean Casey, AKA “The Mayor”, is a retired All-Star, member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, and 15 year analyst for MLB Network. He has no professional coaching experience.
Yankees Coaching Change: What To Make of Casey
Only time will tell if this move winds up being correct, but on the surface, Casey is certainly a likable choice. Being a 3 time All-Star, surely he has a successful career at Major League level hitting. In contrast, Lawson had not played professionally, but had been a coach in numerous college and Minor League teams before being granted his role with the Yankees in 2022.
Casey is also known for his enthusiasm and energy when speaking, which is something Yankee fans commonly cite as something the team seems to lack. This makes him an effective communicator with the modern generation of players. Finally, Casey might be just old-school enough to signify the Yankees recognition of a need for change in strategy.
Yankees Coaching Change: What’s At Risk of Boone?
Casey and Yankees manager Aaron Boone have reportedly been close since their days in Cincinnati. It is reasonable to assume that Boone might have played a role in bringing Casey to New York. This can be a career decision for Aaron Boone. If Casey improves the offense, it proves that Boone deserves to continue his role as manager. If Casey does not work, Boone may be next to get fired. From afar, this looks like an “all in” decision for Boone, if it is in fact true that he played a role in getting Casey hired.
4 Bold Messages After Yankees Coaching Change
This sudden staff change sends many messages to both Yankee fans and the rest of the team.
Firstly: do not believe anything said in an interview or press conference. 2 weeks before Lawson’s firing, owner Hal Steinbrenner went on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio and replied “no one is on the hot seat” when asked if Lawson’s job was in jeopardy. Clearly, this was not true. This indicates that the Yankees are in fact emotional, frustrated, and responsive behind closed doors despite the overly optimistic and calm image that they try to put out into the public.
Secondly, the Yankees coaching change sends a message that the Yankees are open to make changes to the system they have in place up until this point. Sean Casey represents a slightly older, but not outdated approach to hitting. He played and found success in an MLB world prior to the modern analytical takeover. This hiring may be a silent admission that the front office strategy is flawed.
The third, and possibly most important message sent by the Yankees: heads will roll if the slack is not picked up. Steinbrenner even admitted he will be “asking some tough questions” if the Yankees do not make the playoffs. Currently, the Yankees are out of a playoff spot, and it seems like Hal may not even wait much longer before he continues to ask those tough questions.
The final message that the Yankees coaching change sends is that the Yankees will be buyers at the deadline. If Hal had no interest in competing this year, he would have waited out the decision. His urgency to make such a striking change indicates that he is looking for sudden improvement, and will continue to search for ways to make such improvements. Honestly, who can blame him? Hal pays the second largest payroll in the sport, so why would he waste his families money and not try his hardest to do what he can with it? Remember, the Yankees are only 1 game out of the final wildcard spot, a spot where 2022 proved can produce a World Series contender.
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