|Yankee Stadium's facade. Photo by Jason Schott.|
It didn't take the Yankees long to find their new hitting coach, as they named former All-Star Sean Casey to the role less than a day after dismissing Dillon Lawson.
Casey was a 12-year Major League veteran and a longtime member of the Cincinnati Reds. He was a teammate of Yankees Manager Aaron Boone from 1998-2003, when Boone was traded to the Yankees and his date with history when he hit the game-winning home run in the 2003 American League Championship Series.
This hiring is a massive statement of the Yankees faith in their skipper, as he very likely had a say in bringing in Casey, and convincing him to take his first Major League coaching job. Casey has worked on MLB Network for the past 15 years, with an emphasis on segments analyzing hitters, and recently, he has hosted the award-winning You Tube show, The Mayor's Office, which is an ode to his nickname earned from being one of the friendliest people in the game.
Casey said in a statement released by the Yankees, "I'm just really excited about having this opportunity in the second half to impact the guys in the lineup. The Yankees have a lot of professional hitters, and I'm looking forward to connecting with them and getting on the same page. I've already spoken with both (Assistant Hitting coaches) Brad Wilkerson and Casey Dykes, and I can't wait to utilize their skills and everything they have to offer. As far as our hitters go, I think every guy is different. There's no way to cookie cut hitters, and if you start doing that, you get into trouble and underutilize strengths they may have. I'm going to get to know each player and their approach at the plate. One thing I will stress is controlling the zone and hunting in the zone. I want them to control their process and stick to their approach with the goal of winning every pitch. At the end of the day, we're going to focus on making sure each hitter has a process that brings out the best version of himself.
"I've been in professional baseball for almost 30 years, and my passion is hitting and the mental side of the game. Working at MLB Network for the last 15 years, I've been able to keep my finger on the pulse of the game, speaking with current big leaguers, watching a tremendous amount of video, breaking down film as part of my job and trying to figure out what hitters are doing physically and mentally. So I feel good about being ready for this opportunity to teach and impart my experience and ideas. Also, having Aaron Boone in the dugout was a huge factor in me taking this position - with how well I know him and how much respect I have for him as a manager. I also have so much respect for (Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager) Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenner family and what it means to put on the pinstripes in terms of the history of the game.
"I think every Major Leaguer wants to put on the pinstripes. When I think back on the 2006 postseason and playing at Yankee Stadium, I remember thinking, 'This is different. These are different fans. What a cool place this would be to play or coach here one day.' To get the opportunity to come to the Bronx, wear the Yankees uniform and make a difference in the team's success, it was so intriguing, and I can't wait to get going."
Casey was referring to when he was a member of the Detroit Tigers, who won the 2006 American League pennant and beat the Yankees in the Division Series. In the postseason, he hit .432 (16-for-37) with two home runs and nine RBI in 10 games. That was his only career playoff appearance, aside from two playoff games with the Boston Red Sox in 2008.
During his 12-year Major League career, Casey was a .302 hitter who had 1,531 hits, 130 home runs, 735 RBI, 690 runs scored, 322 doubles, 12 triples, and 477 walks. He debuted with Cleveland in 1997 before joining Cincinnati in 1998, and he played for the Reds until 2005. He played in Pittsburgh to start the 2006 season before he was traded at the deadline to Detroit, where he also played in 2007. His final season, in 2008, was with Boston, and he hit .322 with no home runs and 17 RBI in 69 games.
Casey was a three-time All-Star, in 1999, 2001, and 2004. He finished in the top-10 in National League batting average three times, and was a .300 hitter in six seasons. He had at least 20 home runs in a season three times, as he hit 25 in 1999, 20 in 2000 and 24 in 2004, with five seasons of double-digit home runs. His best season was in 1999, when he hit .332 with 25 home runs and 99 RBI, in a year the Reds made it to a Wild Card tiebreaker against the Mets, and they were stymied by Al Leiter, who threw a complete game. He is a member of the Reds Hall of Fame, which he was elected into in 2012.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said in the release, "I've had the great pleasure of knowing Sean for close to 30 years, and his passion for hitting is infectious. For anyone that's ever come in contact with him, his ability to inspire is one of his greatest gifts, and I can't wait for him to tap into our players and help them reach their potential. There's no doubt in my mind that he will have a tremendous impact on our team."
Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman said, "Anyone who knows Sean knows he is a very well-respected former baseball player with a big personality full of positive energy. We feel his abilities to connect with people with his experience will serve him well in his new role as our head hitting coach."
The Yankees have a record of 49-42 at the All-Star break, in fourth place in the American League East and one game back of the final Wild Card spot. The Yankees are eight games back of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays (58-35), who are followed by the Baltimore Orioles (54-35), Toronto (50-41), Yankees (49-42), and the Boston Red Sox (48-43).
On Friday night, the Yankees come out of the break with a three-game series in Colorado, with Casey looking to jumpstart an offense that has a team batting average of .231, 28th in Major League Baseball; a .300 on-base percentage and a .410 slugging percentage.