Yankees: Holy Cow! Jacoby Ellsbury’s Woes Are Now Solved

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Apparently, at least one member of the Yankees coaching staff believes in the tooth fairy. Or maybe it’s me and I just can’t believe what I just read. But there it is in black and white – Alan Cockrell believes he has solved a big problem for the team. Hey, I hope he has, but get a load of this.

Yankees hitting coach, Alan Cockrell, believes that the only thing wrong with Jacoby Ellsbury is that he’s standing too far back in the batter’s box. Hence, all the catcher’s interference calls. So his solution to the problem should be obvious – move up. Cockrell explains to Brian Hoch of MLB.com:

"“We looked at all the video from his really big year in Boston, and his contact point was probably three or four inches more,” Cockrell said. “So we tailored his cage routine and his maintenance work to where we’re moving contact — not a lot, not a foot and a half, but just three to four inches more in front of his body.”"

He then goes on to amplify:

"“You want to see the ball a little bit better, your timing gets messed up, you’re late and the ball is beating you deep,” Cockrell said. “If we can just simplify it, we need to move contact out front. He’s a big league hitter, and he’s going to get himself ready to hit. It should help.“… It’s not new. We talked about it at times last year. But it’s one of those midseason things that feels awkward, and it’s tough to go out and play every night and think about something like that. This is something that we’ll talk about in Spring Training.”"

The Yankees Can Only Hope The Problem Is Physical

It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Except for one thing. Cockrell assumes that Ellsbury’s problem is physical and it doesn’t touch on the real possibility that he’s a mental case (I don’t mean that literally), or even worse that he’s perfectly happy collecting his millions from the Yankees and he just doesn’t really give a hoot.

Look, this is one of those things which, as a Yankees fan, I hope he’s right. Because the top of the lineup is at best suspect. And if Ellsbury can turn it up a notch, or two, look out! A couple of weeks ago, I profiled Alan Cockrell in a piece that was generally praiseworthy of his determination and willingness to work hard for the Yankees.

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And if nothing less, this is an indication that he is doing his job by thinking of ways that different Yankees hitters can improve themselves. And he’s starting by taking on perhaps the Yankees biggest and most glaring puzzle piece on the whole team in Ellsbury. And it’s not just the money he’s being paid because that’s the Yankees fault, not his.

Instead, it’s more of a “feel” you get watching this guy when he’s hitting. And you wonder, is this guy really “in the game” when he’s swinging at pitches in the dirt, or waving at a high fastball when he’s fooled. Or, simply not swinging at all, and just walking back to the dugout with his head down. There are times when I’d like to see him smash his bat into the water cooler, but it doesn’t happen.

Cockrell Gets An “A” For Effort – The Rest Is Up To Ellsbury

Yogi Berra famously said, “Ninety percent of this game is mental, the other half is physical”. His math may be a little off, but he was dead on in describing the game of baseball. No one, including Alan Cockrell or anyone else who wishes to try, can get inside Ellsbury’s head.

And I can’t imagine that a player can forget how to hit a baseball with authority and consistency. But at the same time, it’s easy to imagine that a player can lose the confidence that he can stand in there facing a 98 mph fastball and hit it with authority.

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Again, kudos to Cockrell for trying. And if a couple of inches in the batter’s box can make a difference, so much the better for the Yankees. But the hard truth is that it’s up to Ellsbury to make the difference himself. The Yankees may or may not have a team that can override Ellsbury’s deficiencies if they continue. We’ll see. But they sure would be a whole lot better if he could be just a little better.