Well, that didn’t take long. Just a day after deciding to fire hitting coach Dillon Lawson, the New York Yankees have found their replacement in former Major League first baseman and current MLB Network personality Sean Casey. According to several reports, Casey’s contract will run through the rest of the 2023 season, at which point both sides will determine whether they want to come to a longer and more permanent agreement.
“Anyone who knows Sean knows he is a very well-respected former baseball player with a big personality full of positive energy,” GM Brian Cashman said in a statement. “We feel his abilities to connect with people with his experience will serve him well in his new role as our head hitting coach.”
Casey is an unexpected solution to an unexpected story, as Lawson’s firing is the first time since Cashman took the reins in New York that the team has let go of a coach in the middle of a season. So just who is the 49-year-old, and could he be the cure to what’s ailed the Yankees’ dismal offense?
A second-round pick of Cleveland back in 1995, Casey enjoyed a solid 12-year career in the Majors, during which he became known as “The Mayor” for his affable personality and penchant for chatting up any player he encountered at first base. He also made a name for himself at the plate, racking up over 1,500 hits — most of which came with the Cincinnati Reds, with whom he spent eight seasons (and shared a locker room with current Yankees manager Aaron Boone). A three-time All-Star, Casey retired in 2008, and he’s spent the last 15 years as an analyst with MLB Network.
“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,” Casey said in a statement. “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.”
Is he the right move for New York?
Casey’s remained involved with the game in his current capacity as a TV analyst, but this is still a bit of a weird hire. He doesn’t have any formal coaching experience, nor has he been involved with a Major League front office or clubhouse since hanging up his cleats in 2008. A lot has changed about the way MLB teams operate over the last 15 years, from daily routines to the information hitters are provided on a daily basis, and it remains to be seen how Casey will approach the many aspects of his new job. Assistant hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brad Wilkerson are remaining in their current roles, so the infrastructure will still be in place, but it’s unclear what expertise Casey is bringing beyond the ability to get along well with big leaguers.
And the Yankees certainly need a bit more help than that right now. New York has been frankly lost at the plate without Aaron Judge: Since the reigning AL MVP went down with a torn ligament in his toe on June 2, the team is hitting a woeful .218/.288/.383 and averaging just 3.70 runs per game. Big names like Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu are in the midst of the worst offensive seasons of their careers
Obviously, losing a player of Judge’s caliber hurts, but that’s not an excuse for just how far the Yankees have fallen at the plate. The truth is that this is the culmination of years of mismanagement, as Cashman and Co. have declined to make major additions to the offense while relying on the same injury-prone core and the organization’s ability to unearth diamonds in the rough. It’s the reason why Josh Donaldson remains a starting third baseman despite struggling mightily at age 37, and the reason why the team’s outfield of late has consisted of names like Billy McKinney, Jake Bauers, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Franchy Cordero.
New York’s recent performance at the plate isn’t an underachivement; this is, on paper, one of the weakest lineups in baseball right now. That’s a much bigger problem than a hitting coach, and one that Casey — however friendly he may be — is unlikely to solve, and the fact that Cashman appears to be trying to paper over it with a morale boost suggests that he fails to grasp the scope of the problem.