Between games of a doubleheader on Sunday, sandwiched between a loss and a forthcoming loss, Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson was handed a microphone and forced to answer for his offense's crimes.
This was certainly a rarity; how often do you see a hitting instructor, a semi-anonymous position, ambushed in an alleyway in front of a brick wall? In order for this sequence of events to take place, a team's offense would have to be next-level putrid. The Yankees' current unit certainly qualifies. With Aaron Judge's numbers included, their OBP currently sits below .300. Anthony Volpe, seemingly mired in a daily worrisome regression, is nonetheless outhitting Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson significantly in June.
Donaldson may be past the point of fixing, and has no long-term value to this team; he has six home runs this season, but is otherwise a remarkably bad 2-47. Rizzo, at least, has an inciting incident to blame for his struggles; he has collected only a few singles since Fernando Tatis Jr. ran into his head.
As for the others -- especially Volpe, who is viewed as a center piece of this franchise moving forward, considering they passed on Corey Seager and Co. to foster his arrival? Lawson is probably less responsible for the offense's performance than we'd like to think, but it would be great to hear some tangible solutions from him when presented with a microphone and an opportunity.
Nope. He handled his interview straight across the bough, like a man reading through a book of 1960s motivational cliches about how to succeed in business.
Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson has nothing to say
This man was given credit for revitalizing the team's offense in the minors with the simplistic-sounding approach "Hit Strikes Hard". It sounded reductive upon arrival, but based on the Yankees' offensive success throughout the minors, it seemed plausible that he deserved a chance.
Unfortunately, Lawson's theorems seem to have backfired. The Yankees, for decades known as OBP mavens who could punish mistakes, no longer get on base, seemingly befuddled in their efforts to attack early. No one makes quality contact. They have a league-low batting average on balls in play. Lawson needs a midseason course correction for the ages to prevent his head from being on the chopping block, and right now, all he can conjure for a hungry public is a list of rocks the Yankees should keep turning over.
Perhaps LeMahieu has joined Donaldson on the wrong side of the aging curve quickly, his descent accelerated by his toe injury last season. Perhaps Stanton is mired in the worst version yet of his typical post-injury slump, spread across two years and 135 games and counting with a sub-.300 OBP (oh God no). Perhaps Rizzo is fighting through a very serious head injury to keep hope alive.
But it's Volpe who is the most worrisome. The Yankees have entrusted their most important project to someone who seems to sputter whenever asked for tangible benchmarks or to articulate changes. As RailRiders scribe Donnie Collins pointed out on Sunday night, this team has long developed hitting well in the minors, then failed to further develop those players after their initial struggles at the big-league level. Brett Gardner. Aaron Judge. That's the list. Even "success" stories like Gleyber Torres have taken consistent steps backwards after their early big-league highs. Lawson was supposed to be the solution here. He came from the minors. He was that successful program. But maybe the Yankees, once again, got the wrong guy, armed with cowardly answers seemingly force-fed to him from Brian Cashman's Long Book of Word Salad.
There's a difference between giving the game away and preaching ... something, anything. Lawson didn't have to pull any charts out on Sunday, but he needed to assure us that there wasn't something deeply rotten in the clubhouse. Neither his interview, nor Sunday night's 4-1 stinker did anything to change the fact that the rocks he's been flipping over have been careening downhill for weeks now, if not years.