From the Times today:
Yankees, Hurting, See Culprit: The Fitness Coach
By TYLER KEPNER
ARLINGTON, Tex., May 2 ? With one misstep on Tuesday, Phil Hughes, a Yankees rookie pitcher, lost his chance for a no-hitter. On Wednesday, Marty Miller lost his job.
Miller was not the manager. He was not even on the playing roster. He was the first-year strength coach, and he became the Yankees? latest casualty in a dreary 10-14 start to the season that includes four hamstring injuries to pivotal players.
?It?s time to find something else that works,? General Manager Brian Cashman said in explaining the dismissal. ?We?re experiencing too much of this stuff. I can?t tell you it?s directly related to him, but we?ve never dealt with this much of it at the same time, either. So I can?t deny it or ignore that.?
Cashman hired Miller last winter to the newly created, if awkwardly titled, role of director of performance enhancement.
Miller?s charge was to prevent injuries, but instead they multiplied, hobbling a team that has the largest payroll in baseball but, in recent days, has found itself in last place in the American League East.
Over the last two weekends, the Yankees lost five of six games to the Boston Red Sox, the team?s bitter rival, prompting the team?s principal owner, George Steinbrenner, to consider firing Manager Joe Torre.
Torre received a reprieve Monday when Steinbrenner issued a statement saying he supported him. But after Hughes strained his hamstring while throwing a curveball in the seventh inning of a game in which he had not given up a hit, Steinbrenner agreed with Cashman?s decision to fire Miller, an employee who few, if any, fans would recognize if they bumped into him.
?I hired Marty, and I thought he would bring a lot to the table and be a huge benefit,? Cashman said.
?At the end of the day,? he said, ?you deal with results.?
When Hughes is placed on the disabled list Thursday, he will be the fourth Yankee to have landed there with a hamstring injury since mid-March, joining pitchers Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina and outfielder Hideki Matsui.
Only one other major league team, the Cleveland Indians, has had even two players on the disabled list with hamstring problems since March 1. The injuries are a major reason for the Yankees? poor start.
?It?s weird,? said center fielder Johnny Damon, who sustained a calf injury on opening day and then opted out of Miller?s program, although he did not go on the disabled list. ?Sometimes there are years when it could be a calf injury or another injury that?s cropping up around the league ? but not all the players on your team.?
Damon said that Miller, who grew up a Yankee fan, worked hard to help the players. But Miller, 34, had never worked in the major leagues before Cashman hired him, and he did not connect with many of the players on a team filled with veteran All-Stars, including some with personal trainers.
Derek Jeter, for instance, has his own trainer, with whom he works in New York and during spring training. Jeter, who has not been injured this season, said he did not change his routines when Miller was hired.
?You?re alarmed, obviously, because guys are going down,? Jeter said. ?It?s unfortunate; that?s the only thing you can say. You don?t ever like to see guys get injured, let alone a few guys at the same time. It?s definitely bad timing. But you don?t like to see anybody lose their job.?
Miller, whose program de-emphasized running, declined to comment Wednesday. ?I only want to talk to the players,? he said.
One veteran player said Miller would have been a better fit on a younger team, where fewer players have their own routines and trainers. One problem, the player suggested, was not that Miller had too much influence, but that he had too little. Some veterans simply tuned him out because of the mounting injuries and his lack of experience in baseball.
?The knowledge that Marty had certainly was impressive,? Torre said. ?Now, does that mean he knew a lot about the body as it related to baseball? That?s what we don?t know.?
Miller?s prior baseball job was as a minor league trainer for the Montreal Expos from 1995 to 1997. The Yankees hired him from the Ballen Isles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where he was the fitness director.
Cashman brought in Miller to replace Jeff Mangold, who had worked for the Yankees in two stints dating to the 1980s. Cashman, who named Miller?s assistant, Dana Cavalea, as his interim replacement, said he was not considering rehiring Mangold, who declined to comment when reached Wednesday on his cellphone.
?I don?t really know what they were trying to get across,? Mangold said, referring to Miller and Cavalea, ?so there?s no sense in my commenting.?
The hiring of Miller coincided with the installation of a new weight room at Yankee Stadium as part of a $10 million deal with 24-Hour Fitness. Damon said some machines that were popular with players were removed, including a squat machine and a machine for leg extension. Damon said the players appealed to Miller to have them brought back, and the machines soon returned.
Players also asked to bring back the giant rubber bands Mangold had given them for pregame stretching, and they were back about a week ago. When players stretched here before Wednesday?s rained-out game against the Texas Rangers, about 15 of them were using the rubber bands, wrapping them around their feet and pulling them back to stretch their legs.
Cashman said he agonized over the decision to fire Miller and hardly slept after Tuesday?s game despite the Yankees? 10-1 victory against the Rangers. Ultimately, Cashman said he decided the perception, fair or unfair, that Miller had somehow contributed to the injuries was too much to ignore. Miller essentially had lost the confidence of the players in the clubhouse.
?That?s the sense I had, yeah,? Cashman said.
After deciding to fire Miller, Cashman said he called the team president, Randy Levine, who contacted Steinbrenner. Although Steinbrenner had spared Torre, he endorsed the firing of Miller, who has two years left on his contract.
?He?s been concerned about it, there?s no doubt,? said Steinbrenner?s spokesman, Howard Rubenstein, referring to the injuries. ?But it was in Brian?s hands, and it was Brian?s decision.?
As for Hughes, Torre guessed it would be four to six weeks before he would pitch again, in a minor league rehabilitation game. Hughes will have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on his hamstring when the Yankees return to New York on Friday.
The Yankees will find a replacement for him, as they have found replacements for their other injured pitchers. They are less sure they can truly identify the cause for the hamstring injuries.
?We?re having those discussions internally,? Cashman said. ?Things that hit in clusters like this, there?s got to be a reason.?
So, does anyone know anything about the new routines? I haven’t been able to find anything other than “they’re different.” The one thing I heard was Pettite was encouraged to ditch the squat belt (good), then proceeded to injure his back (bad), possibly because his abs/LB could not support his routine squat weight without the belt. Most of the criticism flying around seems to be speculation.