Asleep at the wheel is the saying that comes to mind when I think about how the Yankees are managing their talent. Luis Severino, who has been having a terrible season, is now on the 15-day disabled list following a game in which he was pulled in the 3rd inning. He joins CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez, who also suffered injuries earlier this season. By the time they get back, they will have lost weeks of playing time. If you count last year, the Yankees lost significant time from there as well from Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and others. These are not bit players. They are the workhorses the team is built around for offense, defense, and pitching. It makes you wonder how we can be this unlucky for so many consecutive years.
I do not believe in luck. If something happens once, it might be a fluke. Twice, maybe it is a coincidence. Three times or more is a pattern. Where there is a pattern, there is a cause. The responsibility for the health and well-being of the players falls to one group of people - the coaches. Coaches have one and only one responsibility, one measure of success. It is to make sure that an athlete performs to the best of their ability when they are competing. That's it. Period. It involves tracking an athlete's health, conditioning, work regimen, and practice. It is the coaches job to make sure athletes do not over-exert themselves and do not do anything to hinder their ability to perform at their peak. They are not responsible for generating talent - nobody can do that - but whatever talent the athlete has, it is the coaches job to bring it out. I remember a few years back when the Yankees opened their season against the Tampa Bay Rays (they were the Devil Rays then) in Japan. Trainer Gene Monahan had regimented the team's diet, hydration, sleep patterns, even the times they took their contact lenses out - just to make they were ready for the game in top shape (read the story here: JAPAN TRAVEL PLAN: Trainer wants players in tune before arriving). This is what coaches do.
Maybe because it's almost the start of the Summer Olympics that I am thinking about this. Olympic coaches have no higher priority than to make sure their athletes are ready to perform at the time they have to perform. There are no disabled lists, and there are no excuses for being unfit or unprepared. If an athlete isn't ready or able, someone else gets the medal. It's that simple. I remember the story of British Olympic swimmer Dave Davies, winner of silver and bronze medals in the 2004 and 2008 games, whose coach withdrew him from international competition because he was fatigued. Davies was showing signs of fatigue to the point where he had to withdraw from the 2011 World Championships. He had changed coaches prior to his fatigue issues and then went back to his original mentor, David Haler. Haler had this to say at the time about Davies' health issues: “He had an inexperienced coach who tried to work him too hard. He is very fragile and he needs rest sometimes because on occasions he just can’t swim for a while because his body shuts down" (Source: Wales Online). A world-class athlete being fragile and injury prone, likely from inexperienced coaching. Hmmm. This sounds familiar, doesn't it?
I look at how often our players get hurt, and it makes me wonder if we have the same caliber of coaches and trainers as we did during Gene Monahan's tenure. I am not saying that fatigue is necessarily the cause, as it was in the example above. But there has to be a cause. It is the coach's jobs to find and correct it.
It is not just health issues. There are only three everyday hitters with averages over .250. None has an OPS over .800. Prior to Severino's injury, he had been pitching poorly. Quite poorly, in fact. GM Brian Cashman shared his thoughts. "He's not pitching anywhere close to his capabilities. It's not health-related" (Source: USA Today). That has to be the smartest thing I have heard him say all year. The latest injury doesn't explain his season 7.46 ERA and 1.686 WHIP. He's been pitching terribly. But also, he has tremendous capabilities. He is capable of pitching extremely well as we saw last year. Something is up. Why haven't they found the source of the problem? Is it a problem with his windup, his release point, how he hides the ball? There is no doubt that the future of the Yankees rotation could well revolve around Severino. There can be no higher priority for pitching coach Larry Rothschild than this.
A few years ago Andy Pettitte came under criticism for the way his foot planted in his delivery, forcing him to throw across his body. This was a known recipe for long-term injury, and there was some concern for him. I do not see the same level of concern around how pitchers pitch or hitters hit, at least not from coaches or from manager Joe Girardi. Is that kind of scrutiny no longer important? Does Girardi have his coaches on a different set of priorities? I don't know about you, but I am tired of our players getting hurt. I am tired of starting a season with A-class players and seeing a mostly B-team roster by August. I am tired of hearing how we expect players to work through it on their own. It's beginning to sound like excuses from someone asleep at the wheel.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
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