Forgive the horrific pun in the title, sometimes a guy can’t help himself. There are a lot of whispers swirling around as to why exactly Dave Eiland ended up losing his job as Yankee pitching coach. Some argue that the performance of the Yankee pitching staff this season, particularly Javy Vazquez and AJ Burnett, is reason enough for Eiland to not be rehired. Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York describes a breakdown in the relationship between Girardi and Eiland that occurred after Eiland’s leave of absence in June. From Marchand’s post:
…a person with knowledge of the relationship between Eiland and Girardi said it went south after Eiland returned from his near-month long personal leave of absence in June.The person said that, upon his return, Eiland felt his opinions were deemphasized. It is unclear if by the end of the season if Eiland and Girardi were working better together.
While the reason for Eiland’s personal leave is still unknown, and will likely remain that way, it appears that Eiland’s absence didn’t sit well with Girardi or the rest of Yankee management. If there were personal issues between Girardi and Eiland, then perhaps the performance of Vazquez and Burnett was the straw the broke the camel’s back, or else just a pretense for not bringing Eiland back. I do think Marchand and the media are probably overstating the significance of the Girardi-Eiland fallout, but it is worth discussing anyway.
Did Eiland deserve to lose his job? My reaction is fairly ambiguous. It’s hard for me to pin the struggles of Burnett and Vazquez on him when both pitchers have not exactly been models of consistency throughout their careers. Burnett has been erratic throughout his entire career, and Vazquez lost 3 mph off his fastball and also struggled in his last go-round with the Yankees. Phil Hughes made significant progress as a starter in the first half of the season, but struggled somewhat in the 2nd half of the season (his strikeout rate dropped significantly and his walk rate increased). Can we blame Eiland for Hughes 2nd-half regression, or simply chalk it up to a normal explanation of wearing down and the league catching up to a young pitcher?
I can’t necessarily blame Eiland for these or any other problems, but on the other hand, did he do anything great to be worthy remaining as Yankee pitching coach? He got the job largely on the strength of his work with “Generation Trey” in the minors, but maybe he got too much credit for the dominating performances of some very talented pitching prospects. It’s hard for me to evaluate the quality of the work he did behind the scenes with Yankee pitchers, so it seems that we may never know the true reason for Eiland’s non-hiring.
What can the Eiland situation tell us about the Yankees’ future pitching coach? Most importantly, it will have to be someone with whom Joe Girardi can work and agree. This would make me wonder if the Yankees would consider Rick Kranitz, the Marlins’ pitching coach when Girardi managed the team. Kranitz is currently Baltimore’s pitching coach, and I’m not sure if he is still under contract. I also suspect that the Yankees may want an established major league pitching coach after their dissatisfaction with Eiland. This may rule out current AAA pitching coach Scott Aldred, who is well-respected in the organization and from the outside seems like a qualified candidate. Who do you think will be/should be considered?
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