Hot Stove Morsels: Meacham Apparently Out

Today has already been filled with lots of errand running for shopping, mailings, and a morning run, so finally having the time to sit and briefly relax in front of the computer is quite welcome.  It’s all the better with a plate of my wife’s outstanding leftover lasagna, which she made yesterday afternoon.  Having the chance to sit, type, and look out the window reminds me that, even if the temperatures aren’t quite there yet, Fall has started to arrive.  Leaves are starting to slowly fall like large, technicolor snowflakes and, with cooler temperatures on the way in a couple days, I’m bringing in some wood for the fire place.  I love Fall and, on the way to the bank this morning, was embarrassed to notice all the changing foliage–along the very same route that I ran earlier this morning.  I usually listen to my MP3 with headphones to keep the pace, but an unfortunate by-product of that, and having several things on my mind in fairness to myself, was completely overlooking the uniquely changing beauty that surrounded me along the road.  I won’t make that same mistake tomorrow or on following mornings.

Another unfortunate by-product of which I’ve been reminded is that, with the Yankees out of the playoffs after their terrific thirteen-year playoff run ended, hot stove season is even slower to arrive without the Yankees to watch.  I have seen a little baseball, and the Rays are giving Boston fits as the Phillies are on the verge of their first World Series berth since 1993.  But with lots to do lately, and my proclivity for rooting for the Yankees and usually not everyone else, I’ve been at best a distant, distracted, dispassionate observer.

With my chef’s hat on and an empty griddle waiting for some hash-and-eggs off-season discussion, I was pleased to see Ed Price of The Star-Ledger report that the Yankees apparently had enough of Meacham’s routine bad judgments at third base and will be in the market for a new third-base coach, the team announced today.  It’s about time.  I can almost–almost–understand it if the Yankees didn’t want to upset the already unsteady apple cart that was the Yankees and their new staff mid-stream last season.  However, Meacham was perhaps the worst third-base coach I can remember the Yankees hiring, making bad judgments to send and hold that resulted in outs, lucky runs, and missed opportunities to score.  He was atrocious and, as a former sub-par shortstop with the Yankees, did the organization no favors as Cano (who obviously bears much of the blame for it) was a lazy, slouching, sulking mess at the plate and in general, especially early in 2008. He really deserved to be canned before the All-Star break. Good riddance, Meacham.  You won’t be missed.  Price also stated that the team released special pitching instructor Rich Monteleone, and have made no announcements about the fate of the rest of the coaching staff.

With these early moves, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team axe Kevin Long, although I’m not of the opinion that he should be the fall guy for the team’s abysmal 179-run decline from 2007 to 2008.  The absence of Posada and injuries to other key players, but more importantly to me the lack of productivity in the clutch and lack of offensive diversity, contributed to a stale, stagnant offense built to generate offense via the long ball but–with the notable exceptions of A-Rod, Giambi, and Abreu (and to a lesser extent JD’s about-right 17)–failing to deliver even that.  They just might not have adhered to their tried-and-true patient approach and, given Girardi’s stated, seeming diversion from that against pitchers such as Halliday, perhaps the team’s coaching staff was working and advising hitters at cross-purposes.  I don’t know but wouldn’t be surprised, given what a mess so many hitters were at the plate.  Still, Long would be easier to replace than, say, expensive players under contracts.  We’ll see, though I’m not in favor of that.

[Edit: I just saw in an e-mail that Mike was good enough to forward news of this to me.  Thanks, Mike.  I can imagine you’re not heart-broken, either.]

Hopefully there will be more hot stove shipments to the loading dock to allow me to pass along some baseball grub.  In the meantime, other sports and politics will be served.  The Sabres are now 2-0 after trouncing the Islanders 7-1.

[Edit: Tyler Kepner from The New York Times’ “Bats blog provides interesting additional perspectives on Meacham’s firing.

But if you watched the team closely, firing Meacham was an obvious move for General Manager Brian Cashman. Perhaps nobody would have looked good in comparison to the previous third base coach, Larry Bowa, who had two stand-out seasons in that position. Bowa – who, like Meacham, was also the infield coach — got the most out of Robinson Cano. If Meacham had any effect on Cano this season, nobody ever mentioned it.

What’s troubling for Girardi is that Meacham was his strong ally in the clubhouse – so strong, in fact, that there was private grumbling that Girardi shut out some other coaches by conferring too much in Meacham [Sic.] and Harkey.

This might help explain what Mike referred to as bench coach Thomson rendered, or acting as, shadow in such an environment.  If true, this presents a somewhat dysfunctional view of how the coaching staff operated, with certain ones–and, tellingly, NOT his own bench coach–trusted more than others and not operating as a unit.  Quite the opposite of Torre, who also relied on his coaches to do a lot of the statistical preparation and legwork he didn’t.  I also doubt that there were no staff politics among the coaches.  Still, it’s a bad sign for Girardi if true, especially because from the best of my recollections, Torre didn’t undermine his bench coach of all people.  They were very loyal to him.  Note also that Kepner, whose blog is very good if infrequently updated even at times during the season, states the obvious–the dearth of evidence to show what, if any, meaningful influence Meacham had on Cano.  That’s one of the most important areas of improvement–getting more out of Cano and his $30 million deal. Firing Meacham was a good start, but just a start.]

[PS Edit: George King III reported yesterday in the NY Post that Meacham and bullpen coach Mike Harkey lived this past season with Girardi in his Westchester home.  Now, I don’t think such arrangements are all that uncommon.  However, it may help explain the sense, if it’s true, that Girardi relied (too) heavily on them as confidants.  Maybe it’s all petty nonsense.  But Meacham’s erratic judgments at third don’t inspire faith in me that he would have had sounder all-around baseball judgments, unless he’s naturally pensive, in which case, he had no business coaching third anyway.]

Published in: on October 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. that lasagna sounds awfully good- it’s one of my favorite things to make, but the kitchen usually looks like a bomb has gone off when i’m done–i’m not a “clean as you go” kind of guy like my mom always preached.

    despite girardi living in his own world -” i don’t foresee any changes in the coaching staff” i’m happy to see cashman firmly putting his foot down of on girardi’s chief henchman. what will be of real interest will be if there is a change at bench coach from the cypher that is rob thompson. AKA The Phantom.

    i think they will retain long–i keep stressing what i heard from michael kay regarding the yanks approach at the plate this year ( bad) -this CLEARLY being a difference in philosophy from past yankee success. and without question coming from the new manager- be aggressive or you will find yourself in an 0-2 count–AL pitching better–all that BS that led to them giving away outs like republicans giving tax breaks to the rich.

    i know i sound like a card carrying girardi hater, and i guess that’s what i am…

    he does keep his hair nicely trimmed tho…

  2. I think Thomson should be moved to 3b coach. As I mention in my report on this, I agree with the person who suggested Don Baylor as bench coach. A former manager and take no BS kind of guy who would kick Cano in the pants. I wish I could remember who first suggested Baylor, but it was a good suggestion.

  3. I’ll officially appoint you for the Girardi 2009 watch, Mike F. We’re in agreement about the change in batting approach, which was really detrimental.

    I can’t claim to know whether or not Thomson has good third base credentials, Mike S., but if moving Thomson to third ushers in a trustworthy, solid bench coach then I’m for it. I say that because I really haven’t known of any good third base coaches off-hand, with the sole exception of Bowa, my personal litmus test hereafter for the position. I don’t think Pena would be a bad choice, although it would leave Thomson as bench coach (unless they replaced him outright), and I think we’re all figuring (or at least wondering if) two moves and not just one are necessary on the staff. Baylor seems to fit the bill of a no-nonsense guy to put players such as Cano in their places, and we seem to be in agreement that the team needs that. If nothing else, Baylor could get on base by pinch-hitting and getting an HBP. He probably still has bruises from the 267 times he was hit.

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