Friday, May 4, 2007

Story of the Week -- April 30-May 4

Heckuva Job, Marty

After a 9-14 April in which they used starter Andy Pettite as a relief pitcher twice, got swept out of Fenway Park and Tropicana Field and found themselves in last place in the American League East, the New York Yankees were in desperate need of a win. They sent their young prize rookie pitcher, Phil Hughes, to the mound at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, TX. Hughes proceeded to toss 6 2/3 no-hit innings, then he popped a hamstring, came out of the game and went straight to the disabled list, becoming the 4th Yankee this season to hit the DL with a hamstring injury.

The Yankees won big anyway, their 10th win of the season. They were the third-to-last team to get its 10th win, just ahead of the Kansas City Royals and the Washington Nationals (who still haven't gotten their 10th win).

When the Yankees are playing like this, Yankee fans panic. It's the end of the world if the Yanks have a bad April, and somebody has to get fired. (Their owner feels the same way)

Often the first guy to go in these situations is the hitting coach. But you can't fire a Yankee icon like Don Mattingly, and besides, the Yankees' hitting is fine. So they could fire the pitching coach, but Ron Guidry is also a Yankee Icon. They could fire Billy Martin again, but he's dead.

They could fire Joe Torre himself if they really want to shake things up, but that's hardly a way to treat a manager who's won 4 World Series, 6 AL Championships and won the American League East in each of the 11 seasons he's been at the helm. Also, who would replace him mid-season and do any better? After all, he didn't put the team together.

Oh, so they could fire Brian Cashman. He put the team together. He brought in Carl Pavano and Kyle Farnsworth and the rest of the abysmal, injury prone pitching staff. He decided not to spend the money on Barry Zito, after years of overpaying players and not winning World Series. But would firing the general manager really change anything in April?

Probably not. The Yankees needed a real shake-up, a firing that would really make people feel like no job is safe in The Bronx. So on Monday, after that bittersweet 10-1 win that sent Phil Hughes to the Disabled List, Brian Cashman brought the axe down on Marty Miller.

NO!! Not Marty Miller! Anyone but the Director of Performance Enhancement! (you know, that guy, he sits right next to the Assistant to the Traveling Secretary) Here's what we know about the guy who took the blame for the Yankees' awful April - he's 34, was hired this past spring, he's a lifelong Yankee fan, and this was his first major league job. His only other job in baseball was as a minor league trainer in the Montreal Expos system from 1995-1997. Since then, he had been working as fitness director of the Ballen Isles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and before that he was a trainer for Arabian Horses in Dubai.

Ok, I made that last part up. But seriously, how did that guy get this job in the first place? Was Brian Cashman channeling George W Bush? A guy with no Major League experience is brought in to work with guys like Mike Mussina, Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter (and all those other schmucks they have)? And what the hell does being a lifelong Yankee fan have to do with anything? I'm a lifelong Mets fan, but I'm not about to start telling Jose Reyes how to run. Fans don't belong in the clubhouse.

Joe Torre said it best: "The knowledge that Marty had was impressive. Now, does that mean he knew a lot about the body as it related to baseball? That's what we don't know." Torre makes it sound like Marty got the job through the Make-a-Wish foundation. Or, you know, Presidential appointment.

If you can somehow get past why Marty Miller was hired as Director of Performance Enhancement (which should have been Greg Anderson's title when he was working for Barry Bonds - had to get that one in somehow), then why exactly was he fired? Derek Jeter has his own trainer, so do a bunch of the Yankees, and those guys didn't conform to Marty's new workout program. According to the New York Times, some veterans just "tuned him out," even more so when the injuries started. In April, the Yankees led the league in hamstring injuries, with 4. 3 of those were to starting pitchers. But if they get Mussina, Wang and Hughes back, are they guaranteed to win?

Sometimes it just takes a little reactionary something to get a team back on track. So the Yanks brought back their little stretchy rubber band things and some weight machine they all liked, and they fired some guy half of them didn't even know and most of them ignored. I guess it didn't matter who, but somebody had to go.

So far it's working: The Yankees are 2-0 since they fired Marty, and they've climbed past Baltimore and into first place. It's working!

Then again, they were playing the Texas Rangers, whose former owner is George Bush, so that team must be crawling with people even less qualified than Marty Miller.

"Excuse me, Ms. Miers, my quad's a little tender..."

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