Once upon a time, MLB teams needed their coaches to have at least some kind of major league experience, and that was a requisite at the moment of hiring the staff. The New York Yankees were no exception to this unofficial “rule”. But times have changed.
Right now, the priority is finding a person with the tools, knowledge, and resources to make an impact, regardless of his MLB experience or lack thereof. As the Yankees recently announced their coaching staff, Aaron Boone, Mike Harkey and Eric Chavez are the only ones who played in the majors. But that’s not a problem for the skipper.
If the main deciding factor would have been MLB experience, Eric Chavez, who played 17 seasons at a high level in the big show, would have gotten the nod as the hitting coach. But that’s not the case, and analytics-driven Dillon Lawson will be occupying the position despite not playing a single inning in MLB.
That’s also the case with bench coach Carlos Mendoza, assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes, pitching coach Matt Blake, assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel, third base/outfield coach Luis Rojas, first base/infield coach Travis Chapman and quality control/catching coach Tanner Swanson.
The Yankees value player development over MLB time
In fact, three of the coaches the Yankees let go during the offseason played in the bigs: Marcus Thames, Phil Nevin and Reggie Willits.
“For a long time, we were probably a little pigeonholed with, ‘It has to be a guy with big league service time,’” Boone said, per SI.com, after revealing the staff. “That is absolutely of value and part of a checklist that checks a box for a lot of people. Experience matters. What they’ve done matters. But we were also probably closing ourselves off to a lot of really great coaches because, in a lot of ways, that was a prerequisite.
“We’re starting to follow more of an NBA, NFL model where you have coaches that are really good at impacting players. As an industry we’ve probably opened ourselves up to that. I feel like, in the case of a lot of the people we’re adding, they’re gonna impact players.”
For the Yankees, a scientific approach is more important than if a coach played in the bigs or not. Blake and Lawson have a myriad of resources and a vast knowledge on how to apply technology for player development purposes, and that matters more than anything else.