The final straw
Inside story to why Yankees fitness coach had to go
Posted: Thursday May 3, 2007 11:34AM; Updated: Thursday May 3, 2007 2:51PM
Well, it's early May, and we've already had our first casualty. No surprise, it's a Yankee. No surprise again, it's the strength and conditioning man who has overseen a disastrous run of injuries to front-line Yankees pitcher, many of those injuries involving the hamstring.
According to people close to the situation, George Steinbrenner, while still fairly quiet publicly, has been screaming in one of general manager Brian Cashman's ears about the Yankees' ridiculous run of injuries. And many Yankees players have been screaming in the other ear.
So, after a sleepless night, Cashman finally listened to both bluster and reason and pulled the plug on the team's recently-hired and unfortunately-titled performance enhancement coach, Marty Miller. Cashman had been described as the "last man standing" in Miller's corner. But even he couldn't be certain the rash of injuries were all coincidence. "At the end of the day, you can't ignore the number of hamstring injuries we've had," he said.
Cashman tried to give the new program a chance, but when young phenom Phil Hughes popped his hamstring while in a no-hit bid Tuesday night, that was an attention getter. That made it injuries to six of the team's seven top starters, the exception being Kei Igawa, who actually had been demoted from the rotation. Then again, it's hard to count Carl Pavano, who's usually hurt and has stuck to his own "program" anyway.
The clubhouse complaints about the Yankees' new program were being heard in clubhouses all around baseball. Some Yankees said Miller's late start (he was hired a few weeks before spring training) made it difficult for them to establish a rapport and trust with him. The fact that all the injuries -- hamstring and back pains -- were related to stretching, didn't help either.
Interviews with players over the past couple weeks yielded many complaints, starting with a contention that not enough running was done during spring training. And when running was done, there was a question of the timing. Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring pull occurred while running start-and-stop sprints after a long day of practice.
Andy Pettitte hasn't missed a start since suffering a worse-then-advertised back injury late in spring, which occurred after he was instructed by one of Miller's underlings not to wear his customary belt while lifting, a decision even Roger Clemens ripped from afar during a spring interview. But the story gets worse. Clubhouse sources indicate Pettitte informed Miller's underling that he felt something while working out, and rather than shut Pettitte down for the day, the pitcher was requested to do two more exercises.
Miller's assistant Dana Cavalea, who's described as having a better rapport with players, will take over as the "interim" guy while Cashman tries to make a hire. Cavalea doesn't seem likely to be long for the job.
Cashman has accepted the hit for hiring Miller, and it's a big one from Steinbrenner, who has always taken a special interest in conditioning and working out. Miller got a three-year contract, according to sources, that barely lasted more than three months.
In another interesting twist, Miller's name was originally given to Cashman by the folks who are operating the Yankees' new money-making venture "24 Hour Fitness," a health chain that's set to open Yankee-themed clubs in 2008. The chain has a 10-year deal with the club and trumpets its Yankees affiliation. The folks at 24-Hour Fitness also helped set up the new Yankees weight room, which Yankees players are also panning. The Yankees say many of the free weights were removed and replaced by too many of the same machines, as well as TV sets and empty space.
Yankees COO Lonn Trost did not return calls regarding the business venture.
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