Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A New George in the Bronx? [J. Mark English]

Or is his age and health catching up with him? For sure, the old George Steinbrenner by now would have overreacted to the Yankees sluggish start. But the current George seems to be keeping his hands off the team.

Instead, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reveals, the Yankees have decided to fire their strength coach, Marty Miller:

A day after the Yankees’ baffling run of hamstring injuries claimed another victim in Phil Hughes, the team fired its new strength coach.

Marty Miller, who was hired last winter to the newly created position of director of performance enhancement, was let go on Wednesday.

"It got to the point where the perception is there's a problem here," General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Howard Rubenstein, the spokesman for principal owner George Steinbrenner, referred questions to Cashman.

Hughes, 20, was working on a no-hitter when he severely strained his left hamstring while throwing an 0-2 curveball to the Rangers’ Mark Teixeira with one out in the seventh inning of a 10-1 victory on Tuesday. Manager Joe Torre said he expected Hughes to miss four to six weeks.

Other Yankees who have landed on the disabled list with hamstring injuries this season include outfielder Hideki Matsui and starters Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina.

Last month, when a rash of muscle-related injuries felled five key players in four weeks, Cashman did not blame Miller or his assistant, Dana Cavalea.

"I’m constantly evaluating everything we do," Cashman said in a telephone interview at the time. "But do I blame Marty and Dana for this? No."

Cashman had said there were many reasons the injuries to key Yankees could have occurred, apart from Miller’s new strength and conditioning program, in which some players had declined to participate.

Clearly this is an appropriate step for the Yankees to make. How can you blame Joe Torre for mismanaging a team that is mostly made of minor league pitching? The old George may have done just that...(and maybe even have rehired him by June.)

But this hands off approach over the past few years has allowed the Cashman team to produce minor miracles for the Yankees. Last year, instead going out and trading for an overpriced outfielder (at least until they got Abreu), the team relied on Melky Cabrera to fill in for the injured Matsui and Sheffield.

In 2005 they relied on Aaron Small to make up for injuries to the starting staff.

Cashman has been given the flexibility to rely on his revamped farm system to plug in the holes that the Yankees have. If Small had been 8-2 instead of 10-0 two years ago, the Yankees would have missed the playoffs.

The decline of a hands on authority from the Boss may be a blessing for the Yankees.

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