Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Meet a Coach: Mike Harkey

If you thought the Yankees pitching staff was good in 2017, wait until you see the 2018 version. With another year of experience under the belt of the likes of Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and others the team should be just as good, if not better here in 2018 for a plethora of reasons. A full season of Sonny Gray, a more productive season by Masahiro Tanaka, and another great bullpen behind their starters should only help New York grow and achieve their goals here in 2018. The man in charge of that bullpen is a holdover from the Joe Girardi era and the current bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Let’s meet him. This is Meet a Coach: The Mike Harkey Edition.

Michael Anthony Harkey was born on October 25, 1966 and is a former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. Before Harkey made it to the Show he was a Titan, a California State University Fullerton Titan. Harkey played college baseball at CSU Fullerton where he caught the eye of the Chicago Cubs who made him their first-round pick in the 1987 MLB First Year Players Draft. Harkey was not long for the Minor Leagues as he made his Major League debut with Chicago during the 1988 season.

When all was said and done Harkey appeared in 131 Major League games with the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies, the Oakland Athletics, the California Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harkey played in the Major Leagues during the 1988 season, the 1990 through the 1995 seasons, and finally the 1997 season before his eventual retirement. During his early years with the Cubs the current Yankees bullpen coach was plagued by shoulder and arm injuries as well as a knee injury in 1992 that occurred during a cartwheel attempt at Wrigley Field.

Harkey played through the 1997 season at the Major League level before taking a couple years away from the game after his retirement. Harkey returned to the game in 2000 when he accepted a position as a pitching coach in the Minor Leagues with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Harkey served in the same position with the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2001 and 2003, the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2002 and 2004, the Mobile BayBears in 2005, and the Iowa Cubs in 2007. Harkey did get a shot at the Major League level with the Florida Marlins in 2006, although the team struggled under new manager Joe Girardi.

Harkey would follow manager Joe Girardi to the New York Yankees for the 2008 season, once again as a pitching coach, after the Bronx Bombers hired Girardi to replace long-tenured manager Joe Torre. While the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades under Girardi’s and Harkey’s watch in 2008, the team bounced back in 2009 to win the World Series and get both men their first World Series ring as coaches and managers. Harkey stayed with the Yankees as the bullpen coach for six seasons through the 2013 season until the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling with an offer for Harkey to be the team’s pitching coach.

Harkey has minimal success with the Diamondbacks from 2013-2015 and was eventually fired by the club after the 2015 season. Harkey would return to the New York Yankees for the 2016 season and remains their today, still as the team’s bullpen coach. There was much speculation as to whether Harkey would return to the Yankees this season given his close friendship and presumable loyalty to the recently fired Joe Girardi, but Harkey will remain with the organization at least through the 2018 season under new manager Aaron Boone. Whether Harkey follows Girardi in 2019, assuming the former Yankees manager finds a new managerial job after the season, remains to be seen, but for now Harkey wears the Pinstripes and that is good enough for me.

Good luck on another season Harkey, do us proud. You have a lot of weapons to work with down there, it should be a fun season for you here in 2018. 

Meet a Coach: Larry Rothschild

While some things change, other things just stay the same. While there have been tons of movement this offseason with the Yankees and their coaching staff some things have just kept chugging along like it always has. With a new manager and bench coach, among other positions, hired by the Yankees this offseason the team needed a familiar and proven face to lead the pitching staff, and that face (as grumpy as it always looks) belongs to pitching coach Larry Rothschild. I don’t believe we ever did this kind of post with Rothschild, or really any of the Yankees coaching staff aside from the actual manager, so let’s meet him. This is Meet a Coach: The Larry Rothschild Edition.

Lawrence Lee Rothschild was born on March 12, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. Rothschild attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School before heading off to college with the Florida State Seminoles. While with the Seminoles Rothschild was a pitcher before signing with the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1975. Rothschild spent 11 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs as a relief pitcher from 1975 to 1985, only reaching the Major Leagues with the Tigers. In the Minor Leagues Rothschild compiled a 66-46 record before retiring and entering the world of coaching an MLB team.

From 1986 to 1993 Rothschild worked as a coach with the Cincinnati Reds, winning a World Series ring in 1990 as the team’s bullpen coach. After taking a season off Rothschild returned back to work in 1995 as a pitching instructor with the Atlanta Braves before joining the Florida Marlins later in the 1995 season. Rothschild stayed with the Florida Marlins through the 1997 season winning another World Series ring as a coach before being offered the managerial job with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the 1998 season. Rothschild remained the manager of the Devil Rays until early into the 2001 season when he was fired as the result of three consecutive losing seasons and a 4-10 start to the 2001 season. Rothschild latched on with the Florida Marlins as a consultant for the remainder of the 2001 season before having a bit of a homecoming in 2002 when his hometown Chicago Cubs hired Larry to be the team’s pitching coach.

Rothschild was the Cubs pitching coach from the 2002 season through the 2010 season and even committed to a 10th season in the Windy City before a certain team from the Bronx came calling hoping to land the great pitching and baseball mind.

Before the 2011 season the New York Yankees offered Rothschild a three-year deal to become part of joe Girardi’s staff after firing then pitching coach Dave Eiland. Obviously, Rothschild accepted and has been the Yankees pitching coach ever since. Under Rothschild’s tenure the Yankees pitching staff has pitched to a 4.05 ERA or under every single season. Rothschild has been signing one-year contracts to remain with the Yankees every year since the 2016 season and will hopefully remain with the team for years to come as we have seen pitcher after pitcher flourish under his tutelage. Rothschild has been a major part of and contributor to the recent success with the likes of Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino and could potentially be a huge part of the next wave of Yankees pitching reinforcements as well, namely Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams.

Rothschild was a huge “get” from the Chicago Cubs before the 2011 season and has been a huge part of the organization ever since over the past seven seasons. Here’s to another seven seasons, Larry. Thank you for everything that you are and thank you for everything that you do.

Meet a Manager: Josh Bard

The only constant this offseason for the New York Yankees and their coach staff has been change. Out after ten seasons in the Bronx was Joe Girardi, in was a former Yankees postseason hero in Aaron Boone. Out with the Yankees bench coach after not landing the Yankees managerial position was Rob Thomson, in his spot as bench coach is now Boone’s right-hand man Josh Bard. Let’s meet the former MLB player and current bench coach of the New York Yankees. This is Meet a Manager: The Josh Bard Edition.

The only constant this offseason for the New York Yankees and their coach staff has been change. Out after ten seasons in the Bronx was Joe Girardi, in was a former Yankees postseason hero in Aaron Boone. Out with the Yankees bench coach after not landing the Yankees managerial position was Rob Thomson, in his spot as bench coach is now Boone’s right-hand man Josh Bard. Let’s meet the former MLB player and current bench coach of the New York Yankees. This is Meet a Manager: The Josh Bard Edition.

Joshua David Bard was born on March 30, 1978 (Happy Early BDAY!!) in Ithaca, New York. When bard was just an infant his family moved to Elizabeth, Colorado where he attended Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Bard was drafted out of High School by the Minnesota Twins in the 35th round of the 1996 Major League Baseball First Year Players Draft but did not sign. Instead Bard attended Texas Tech University where he was a three-time All-American while playing baseball for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. While there Bard caught the eye of the Colorado Rockies who drafted him in the 3rd round of the 1999 MLB Draft, eventually signing him on August 12, 1999. Bard’s professional career was ready to begin.

Before Bard could make his Major League debut he was traded by the Colorado Rockies alongside Jody Gerut to the Cleveland Indians for Jacob Cruz on June 2, 2001. By August 23, 2002 Bard was in Cleveland and making his MLB debut with the Indians. Bard hit a walk-off home run against the Seattle Mariners in the game becoming just the second player in MLB history to ever do so in their debut, joining Billy Parker. Bard became a semi-regular with the Indians in 2004 appearing in 91 games but missed a bulk of the first half of the season due to an abdominal injury. Bard was back in 2005 though and served as the backup catcher to Victor Martinez before the Indians shipped him to the Boston Red Sox before the 2006 season.  The Indians sent Bard, outfielder Coco Crisp and relief pitcher David Riske to the Boston Red Sox for relief pitcher Guillermo Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, and catcher Kelly Shoppach. Bard immediately became the Red Sox backup catcher for the 2006 season after the team lost John Flaherty the following season to retirement. Bard also quickly became the personal catcher for knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield while with the Red Sox.

After serving as the backup catcher in Boston the Red Sox traded Bard to the San Diego Padres along with Cla Meredith for Doug Mirabelli. The Red Sox had traded Mirabelli to the Padres just a few weeks before, had more experience and better results catching Tim Wakefield leading Boston to make the move, apparently Bard and his passed balls were not cutting it in Bean Town. Bard backed up Mike Piazza while in San Diego and hit .338 in 231 at-bats after the trade despite being a career .240 hitter before his time in San Diego. While with the Padres Bard was catching pitcher Clay Hensley on August 4, 2007 as he gave up a pretty big home run to some guy named Barry Lamar Bonds. Apparently, that was like his 755th home run of his career or something, but I don’t know because I have never heard of the guy. Anyway, Bard was finally named as a starting catcher in 2008 with the Padres, but his hot hitting from the previous season did not carry over to the new year. Bard played out the 2008 season with San Diego before leaving the Padres for free agency following the year.

Bard returned to the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal worth $1.6 million for the 2009 season, but by March 18 he was released by the club. Three days after being released bard signed on with the Washington Nationals on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Bard made the team and eventually got into 90 games with the Nationals, hitting just .230. After the 2009 season Bard was once again a free agent, this time signing a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. Bard continued to bounce around with various teams including the Mariners and the Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring officially after the 2012 season.

Bard retired after the 2012 season and chose to remain with the Dodgers as a Special Assistant. Bard toiled around as the Special Assistant to the GM until the 2016 season when Los Angeles promoted the former MLB catcher to the Major League bullpen coach for the 2016 season. Bard was in the same role during the 2017 season with Los Angeles before the New York Yankees, and specifically new manager Aaron Boone, came calling before the 2018 season. Boone wanted Bard to be his right-hand man and bench coach this season, and so it is so after signing with the Yankees.

Welcome to the club Josh, and welcome to the bench in the Bronx. No experience needed, allegedly. Most importantly though, welcome to the family. Do us proud!

Meet a Manager: Aaron Boone

The hiring of Aaron Boone as the new manager of the New York Yankees was not a smooth one nor was it a popular one among fans as all sides had very strong opinions on the matter. Me personally, I couldn’t care less. That may come off as a little shocking given my very opinionated demeanor and tendency to rant and rave, but it shouldn’t. None of the managerial options stood out above the rest and I personally got the sense of “six of one, half dozen of the other” while looking over the candidates while following the interview process. Aaron Boone has no managerial or coaching experience, but neither did Carlos Beltran. Hensley Meulens would have been nice, but honestly how much impact does a manager really have? Especially on a team loaded with talent. How many times have we seen the talent bail out Joe Girardi over the past 10 years? More than once, so Yankees fans need to not panic so much and trust the process. Boone will be fine; the Yankees will be fine and we as a fan base and as an organization will survive this. Let’s meet the man that may already be more hated than Clueless Joe 1.0 and Clueless Joe 2.0, Mr. Aaron Boone. This is Meet a Manager: The Aaron Boone Edition.

Aaron John Boone was born on March 9, 1973 into the world of Major League Baseball. Aaron was the son of former Major League player Bob Boone, the grandson of Ray Boone and the brother of eventual Seattle Mariners star Bret Boone. Aaron spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Indians, the Florida Marlins, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros from 1997 through 2009 before eventually retiring and heading into the Broadcast booth with ESPN as a part of their Sunday Night Baseball crew as well as a contributor to Baseball Tonight, also on ESPN.

Boone’s amateur career started at Villa Park High School in Villa Park, California where he played for the school’s baseball team. During Boone’s senior season the right-hander was named the Century League’s co-player of the year, catching the eye of the then California Angels who selected Boone on the third day of the 1991 MLB First Year Players Draft. Boone did not sign and instead went to the University of South California where he played baseball for the USC Trojans. In 1993 Boone also played collegiate summer baseball for the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League leading his team to the league’s championship. Once again Boone’s name was called during the MLB Draft in 1994 but this time it was the Cincinnati Reds doing the selecting, and this time it was Boone who was signing the contract thus starting his professional career.

Boone toiled around in the Reds minor league system until making his debut in June of 1997 for the Reds. On the final day of the 1998 season Boone was a part of history with the Reds as on the last day of the season Cincinnati became the only team to every start two sets of brothers in their infield starting Stephen and Barry Larkin beside Bret and Aaron Boone. Boone started to become a household name in 2002 hitting 26 home runs and playing in all 162 games but the third baseman really began to catch the eye of the league when he was named to the 2003 All-Star Game for the National League. One team in particular took notice of Boone’s accomplishments that season and that team was the New York Yankees who traded three prospects to Cincinnati that summer for Boone’s services and Boone was worth every penny and every prospect. Why? The new shot heard round the world.

During Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series Boone hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield to give the Yankees a dramatic 6-5 victory while also punching the team’s ticket to the World Series. Boone will forever be known for this home run as the Yankees prolonged the Curse of the Bambino for at least one more season. Boone was on top of the world after the 2003 season and the only thing that could bring him back down was a pick-up basketball game of all things. Boone was playing basketball, something that was specifically written into his contract that he was not supposed to be doing and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee prompting the Yankees to release Boone on February 27, 2004. The Yankees later acquired Alex Rodriguez in a trade with the Texas Rangers while Boone went on to sign a two-year deal with the Cleveland Indians in June of 2004.

Boone missed the entire 2004 season with the knee injury before spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Indians. Boone signed a one-year deal with the Marlins before the 2007, another one-year deal with the Washington Nationals before the 2008 season and a final one-year deal with the Houston Astros for the 2009 season before officially retiring in 2009. Boone underwent open-heart surgery to replace a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart missing most of the 2009 season. Boone made his return to baseball on August 10 playing for the Astros Double-A minor league team before being activated by the big-league club on September 1 when rosters expanded. Boone played the final month of the season with Houston before retiring at the end of the 2009 season.

Boone went on to become a guest analyst for MLB Network in 2009 covering the ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before joining the ESPN crew for Baseball Tonight and Monday Night Baseball in 2010. Boone also called the 2014 and 2015 and 2017 World Series for ESPN Radio with Dan Schulman.

Even if things don’t work out for Aaron as the manager of the New York Yankees don’t feel bad, Boone married Laura Cover and has her shoulder to cry on when he goes home every night. If that name sounds familiar Cover was a Playboy Playmate and was Miss October 1998. Boone is doing just fine. Welcome back Boonie!