clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Should Yankees infield coach Joe Espada's job be safe?

New, 12 comments
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don't know who Joe Espada is. Remember at the end of 2014 when everyone was calling for Kevin Long's and Rob Thomson's jobs, and then in the offseason it turned out that Thomson was spared and just moved to bench coach, while Mick Kelleher was fired instead? The guy who replaced Thomson at third base and Kelleher as infield instructor is Joe Espada. After supporting Kevin Long through last year's shade campaign, I can't, in good conscience, seriously advocate for Espada's dismissal, but at some point serious consideration has to be put into whether he's the right man for the job with regards to the atrocious fielding that has gone on all season long.

When Kelleher was fired, Brian Cashman made it a point to mention that their first base coach had done nothing wrong, it's just that "as you change the dynamic of the staff, it has to come at the expense of some personnel." They specifically got rid of one of their coaches to bring in someone they thought would give them a better overall coaching staff. Espada, the baseball player, spent nine seasons in the minors as a middle infielder, but never reached the majors. Espada, the coach, started off as a hitting coach in the Marlins system before being named as their minor league infield coordinator for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. From 2010-2013, he served as the major league team's third base coach before taking a job as a special assistant with Yankees in 2014 before taking an on-field job this year. Clearly, he has the resume, though Kelleher, who had similar experience, also served as a scout and was key in the defensive development of Robinson Cano in the minors. It's hard to say one guy was better than the other, unless they wanted to bring in someone younger, since Kelleher is nearly 30 years Espada's senior. Maybe they felt the age difference would make Espada more receptive to newer ideas or more relatable with the players.

Either way, things haven't worked out to the degree that anyone desired. Chase Headley has now allowed a career-high 16 errors in a season that isn't even half over, Stephen Drew hasn't been the smooth hands he's usually been, and Didi Gregorius needed extra help to get through his early defensive struggles, which all add up to a coach who might be doing his job, but still isn't getting the results he's supposed to be getting. After all, as evidenced in the firing of Kevin Long, it's not about the effort, it's about what you get out of it, and so far in 2015, he hasn't gotten much.

Of course, it's not his fault Headley has suddenly forgotten how to throw the ball to first base, or that Drew is having his first negative-defensive season in years, or that Gregorius has been incredibly sloppy at shortstop, but it is his responsibility to fix what isn't working. Instead, the Yankees have had to live with their inconsistent infield defense, and Espada has needed the help of Alex Rodriguez just to get through to their starting shortstop. That sounds pretty similar to the time in 2011 where Derek Jeter needed the help of Gary Denbo to start hitting again. Needing another voice didn't make Long look good then and it doesn't make Espada look good now, even if he was a part of the mentoring.

The issue, then, really isn't whether or not Espada is a competent coach, I'm sure he is, but whether or not the players actually trust him or respond to his teaching. Headley and Didi are probably going to be around for a few years and if we're already seeing an inability to correct mistakes, it's the coaching staff that gets changed around the players, not the other way around. Gary Denbo has now gone on to become the organization's vice president in player development, so clearly the Yankees were paying attention. Does this mean A-Rod is all set to join the coaching staff (I hope some day).

I'm not seriously calling for the firing of Joe Espada, like so many did for Kevin Long, or still do for Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi, I'm just bringing up the point because I haven't seen anyone mention it yet, despite everyone complaining about the defensive problems all year. The Yankees were clearly disappointed with how their huge contracts performed in 2014, so they made a personnel change to deflect the idea that they made a mistake. Could the organization do the same thing again in the offseason in order to push the blame off them for the less-than-ideal starts to the Chase Headley contract and Didi Gregorius trade? Honestly, neither are as high-profile disappointments as Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran were last year, but these are the Yankees and they sometimes run their organization like a corporation where everyone is liable. Should Espada be fired? I have no idea, but the question needs to at least be brought up first before we can answer it.