NEW YORK -- The news that the Yankees had dismissed their hitting coach, Jeff Pentland, after one season despite the club showing offensive improvement drew the sympathy of his predecessor, Kevin Long, who suffered the same fate at the end of the 2014 season.
"I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t like to see anybody lose their job. I’m good friends with Jeff and I feel for him," said Long, now the hitting coach for the Mets, who are in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs.
But when asked if a club could honestly blame a hitting coach for one month of poor production -- the Yankees offense fell off markedly in September as the team lost eight of its last 13 games, including the wild-card play-in game to the Houston Astros and their Cy Young candidate, Dallas Keuchel -- Long responded with a knowing smile.
"Obviously they can," he said. "That’s the answer here. There’s times where there’s got to be somebody to take the fall. Somebody takes the blame."
Long cited the Mets’ early-season struggles at the plate -- they batted .241 as a team through July before exploding for 88 home runs and 318 runs over the final two months of the season -- as evidence of the fickleness of offensive production.
"We were probably one of the worst offenses in baseball, but we just kind of hung in there and stayed at it," Long said. "It’s easy to point fingers at hitting coaches or pitching coaches or managers. Baseball is such a streaky game. You’re going to go through ups and downs. There’s always going to be a time where you can point to the offense or point to the pitching or point to the manager for maybe not pushing the right buttons. So, yeah, there’s some volatility involved in this game and you just kind of have to fight through it.''
In the postseason, the Mets already have beaten Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in winning the NLDS over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and defeated Jon Lester Saturday night in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cubs. They will face yet another Cy Young candidate, Jake Arrieta, in Sunday night's Game 2. But Long said he takes no special satisfaction in the Mets' success while the Yankees sit at home.
"I don’t have any hard feelings for the Yankees and what happened there," Long said. "I’m just pleased that we’re playing right now and there’s only four teams left. That’s the satisfaction I get."