About Kevin Long, The Yankees “Hitting Whisperer”

January 29th, 2011 by Jane Heller

Today’s New York Times article about Kevin Long’s work with Jeter got me thinking: Long must be really good at his job. I know. Duh. That’s why he’s getting the big bucks. But I mean he must be seriously good, because look at some of the results of his one-on-one coaching sessions:

Granderson

Swisher

Cano

A-Rod

All have benefited from Long’s tutelage in a major way – and quickly too. Jeter finally started to work with Long at the end of last season and you could really see him coming around – too little too late, but still.

So here’s what I’m trying to figure out. If Long is that effective in helping guys perform better at the plate – from fixing flaws in their swings to altering their leg kicks or other timing mechanisms – then why don’t ALL the players work with him?

Like for instance.

(Photo: Rich Kane/US Presswire)

Jorge’s one of the best hitting catchers ever. We know that. But he’s expressed concern about his ability to be a full-time DH. Why not work with Long?

Like for instance.

(courtesy: sportstressofblogitude.com)

Gardy has come a long way, but he still pulls off the ball instead of slapping it around as often as he should. Now that he appears to be healed from his injury, why not work with Long?

Like for instance.

Photo: Sabo/NY Daily News

Obviously, Tex knows how to hit – and from both sides of the plate. But also obvious are his slow starts every season.  So….why not work with Long? I’m sure he already does, but it seems to me that this slow start business could be eliminated once and for all with more time in the cage with the hitting whisperer. I mean, why not?

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14 Responses to “About Kevin Long, The Yankees “Hitting Whisperer””

  1. Antonella says:

    Hey there Jane!
    I think it should be mandatory for everyone to work with Dr.Long.. As for Jorge, I think he’s still a bit hurt abt his new role with the Yankees.. He’s not ready to let the catching go & it’s painful to see happen.. I’m glad Jeter is getting an early start though.. But, the part that is worrying me the most is still………… WHERE ARE WE GOING TO GET A STARTING PITCHER!?

    Ps- your site is letting me post from my phone so with that alone it’s already better than MLBlogs :)

  2. Nadine says:

    I think you’re absolutely right! They all should work with K-Long. It’s obvious he’s one of the best hitting coaches; the players show amazing progress after working with him. “Hitting whisperer” is a good one, lol! It seems like he can help Jeter. At least it sounds promising. But as Long says in the article, it’s better when the players realize they need adjustment and ask him for advice than he prodding them to their problems. That’s how it worked with Granderson and Swisher. I guess the others haven’t done that. I think they probably go with what Swisher said on the interview with Mike Francesa: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But a short session with K-Long just to see if there’s something they could do better, doesn’t hurt, it can only help. You’re right Antonella, it should be mandatory.

  3. Barbara says:

    i was thinking the same thing. it seems k. long waits for people to come to him. this sounds very respectful but a bit strange. what if pride gets in their way of asking? by the time they ask, they’ve already wasted a lot of time–such as jeter last year. i also wonder if what he fixes is their swing or their mind–they start believing in themselves again. now what we really need is someone to fix aj. this seems more important to me than the hitting which wasn’t great in the clutch last year but really wasn’t the problem.

  4. Paul says:

    The success/failure of the hitting coach tends to be overrated. They’re noticed when things are going really, really good; or really, really bad. It’s much different than with a pitching coach and they’re more easily credited or dismissed. Hitting is mental much of the time.
    http://paullebowitz.com.previewyoursite.com/blog/?p=300

  5. Jane Heller says:

    I’m sure Jorge is still stung over being pushed aside as catcher-in-chief, Antonella. No doubt about it. But I also remember when he was DH-ing and pinch-hitting last year and he said it was hard for him to keep his concentration coming off the bench. I think that’s where Long could help. Oh, and WHERE ARE WE GETTING A PITCHER? lol. I have the same concern, trust me. Isn’t it cool how this site lets you comment on your phone? I have a WordPress app now so I can post entries on my phone. Really like it.

    Long did say he thinks it’s better when players come to him for advice, Nadine, and I’m sure that’s sort of a face saving response. Players have egos and some don’t want to admit they need hitting help, I’m sure. I think he should have a session with everybody on the team (pitchers excluded). He looks at video. He watches them everyday. Who better to offer a suggestion? Yes, it should be mandatory!

    I think pride does get in the way of asking, Barbara. Very true. They could be getting help earlier and see a confidence boost too. So important. But yes, A.J. needs help and it’s a priority. Same thing with Joba to a lesser extent now that we have Soriano. I really hope Larry Rothschild knows what he’s doing.

    Normally, I’d agree with you, Paul, but we’ve seen concrete evidence that Long helps those who spend time with him. I can’t think of a single player who has worked with him and still not improved. I’m sure a lot of hitting is mental, but flaws can be corrected.

  6. Jane Heller says:

    I must be psychic! Just read today’s NY Post article about how Jorge will be working with K-Long in Miami next week.
    http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/yankees/jorge_certain_his_plate_a0iBAHsLhKons7rpuabbTM

  7. Renee says:

    Hi, Jane, love your new place!

    I read the Times article about Jeter & Long and took heart from it, as DJ’s been looking that his timing’s off. He has a “plate tic” that used to be telling (or a tell): In the box, before he’d place the bat, he would point with his right hand up to the upper decks (wrong direction, but still). He didn’t do it every plate appearance, but often when he did, he got a real nice hit. I always wonder if those kinds of movements (un)consciously signify to the batter and if you can (or want to) weed them out.

    One way to “save their egos” would be for everyone to have at least a session with Long during Spring Training; if everyone does it, no one is singled out. And Long can at least mention if he’s been seeing any mechanical difficulties, for future reference and late-night musings after an oh-fer game. RKC

  8. Jane Heller says:

    Hi, Renee. Welcome! I haven’t noticed Jeter’s hand pointing, just his toe tapping and, of course, his incessant signals to the ump to call time. I have a feeling that Long is all for simplification with the hitters and the fewer of these tics the better. You’re right about the way to protect their egos; they should all have a session with Long during ST. But I also like that he travels around to work with players during the off-season. He’s like a doctor that makes house calls, and since it’s probably the Yankees’ dime, why not take advantage?

  9. Blithescribe says:

    Maybe the extra stubborn players occasionally need more of a hitting shouter? The psychology of hitting seems very complicated and it’s interesting to me (and makes sense) that some of the best hitters seem to have fragile psyches in this regard. Periodic all team hitting meetings like you suggest seem like a good idea for most teams to me. Even the best hitters sometimes need a little help.

  10. Jane Heller says:

    Exactly, Kristen. Even the best hitters go into slumps, lose their rhythm, lose their concentration, etc. A refresher course is the way to go for all. I like the “hitting shouter.” Sometimes, the subtle touch doesn’t work. A tennis coach once spent an entire summer trying to coax me into changing my forehand grip. What I needed was to be hit over the head with a ball!

  11. Katherine says:

    Hey! I’ve read your blog a couple of times when it was at mlblogs and I really liked it, I will keep on reading it here. Im also a she fan .. since i was 8 at it was derek jeter’s rookie year and my father sat me infront of the TV and said: “hey that kid is the new SS, and I replied: the one with the sleepy eyes?” and that was it for me… I’ve been always into baseball since I was 5 and was taken to local ball games by my dad so i understand it pretty well but also being a Yankee fan for 15 years now I share a lot of your points of views and of course your concern and desperation for trying to talk some sense into Cashman’s head… well if miracles exist.. it could happen!
    Anyways, just dropped by to say hello and wish you good luck with your new site.. Best wishes from a Yankee Fan from Panama city Panama

  12. Jane Heller says:

    “The one with the sleepy eyes?” LOL, Katherine. Welcome. Sounds like you’re a true she-fan through and through. Thanks for sharing how you came to love the Yanks. And if you see Mo in Panama, say hello from me!

  13. Mondoas says:

    Nice site Jane! This is Ramondo from Facebook. I wish you the best with your new “home”!
    Anyway, regarding Jorge, He needs to find some acceptance and truly understand who he is today in 2011. He is not looking for a job and he is wanted by the Yankees so he should embrace where he is at today and once he does do that, he will realize that he is in a good place and I bet he will do great this year.

  14. Jane Heller says:

    Hey, Ramondo. Thanks for stopping by. I think Jorge will come around to his new role with the Yanks. He’s a very proud man and he’s been our catcher for a long time. It’s understandable that becoming the DH is an adjustment for him. But I agree with you that he’ll do whatever he can to help the team – and do it well.