Series Coaches Following “The Yankee Way”


The Yankees, as an organization, usually get characterized as big-budget bullies who throw money at problems. Their ability to develop talent is mocked by the talking seamheads and general sports media, often pointing at free agent signings (hello Ed Whitson and Dave Collins) or trades (farewell Willie McGee, Fred McGriff and Jay Buhner) as examples of mismanagement. However true this might have been, there seems to be a “Yankee Way” that is manifesting itself throughout baseball, especially in this World Series. 

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A peek into the dugout at both Series’ coaching staffs shows how the Yankees have influenced organizations beyond the Bronx, with the same degree of success.

Third-year Kansas City Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland played for the moribund Yanks of 1988-91, starting 27 games and winning five before he was released in 1992. He came back for a swan song in 1995, appearing in four games, starting one.  However, it was as pitching coach from 2008-2010 where Eiland made his largest Yankee impact. His World Series-winning staff in 2009 recorded 1,260 strikeouts and held opponents to a .251 batting average.

But in June 2010, he took a 25 day leave of absence for a “private matter” and was subsequently fired at the end of the season. According to a Murray Chass blog post at the time, Yankee GM Brian Cashman explained that, “The matter was serious enough that the Yankees told him he could return to his job as long as he didn’t resume any of the activities that led to his leave of absence. He didn’t adhere to the agreement and was fired. No one has spelled out those activities, and I will refrain from speculating.”

Eiland’s Royals are built on the same philosophical base as those Yankees – starters need to bridge to a set of lock-down relievers – then go celebrate.   You can see the 2014 Herrera-Davis-Holland trio based on the Coke-Hughes-Rivera 2009 group.

While the Royals pitchers are being built on the Yankee model, the Giants, champions in 2010 and 2012 and pennant winners of 2014, seem to have the inside line on becoming the team of the decade.   Led by General Manager Brian Sabean (former Yankee director of scouting and vice president of player development), the Giants employee four former Yanks on their coaching staff.

Batting coach Hensley Meulens was one of the over-hyped, underachieving young Yankees of the 1980’s, playing in the Bronx for parts of seasons from 1989-1993.   He has become a well-respected batting coach who has been with San Francisco for the past five years. A native of Curacao, “Bam Bam” managed the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

Joe Lefebvre, the Giants assistant batting coach, had only one year in pinstripes but got off to the best start, as he homered for his first major league hit in May 1980. Lefebvre was dealt to the Padres and spent the five seasons before having his career cut short due to injury. He has been with the Giants organization in various capacities for 20 seasons, including first base coach, minor league manager and senior adviser on pro scouting.

Dave Righetti, one of baseball’s premier pitching coaches, has been with the Giants for 15 seasons. A celebrated Yankee, Righetti was AL Rookie of the Year in 1981, threw a no-hitter in 1983 and led the league in saves in 1986.

Roberto Kelly, the Giants first base coach, was an accomplished Yankee centerfielder, making the All-Star team in 1992. However, he might be best known as the other side of the Paul O’Neill trade, which arguably marked the turning point in creating the 1990s Yankee dynasty. Kelly’s career highlight came in 1991, becoming just the fifth player in the Yankee history to record at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.

In an article on, Meulens talked about the groups’ start with the Yanks as the basis for their coaching success: “No disrespect to any organization, but we like to think we got the best foundation coming from the Yankees system, and we talk about it all the time,” Meulens said. “It was a no-nonsense style, and it started with being groomed the right way as youngsters – and once you got to the Majors, you had to deal with George (Steinbrenner); if you messed up he let you know, but if you were playing well he’d also let you know.”

Sabean also has former Yankee first baseman Steve Balboni, who is one of the most accomplished advance major league scouts in baseball.

The Giants have applied this Yankee Way, and like their model, are creating the latest dynasty of the 2010s.