Jan 29, 2015
Gone in a New York Minute

By R.J. Anderson

It used to be that when the New York Yankees had a losing streak, Owner George Steinbrenner’s first instinct was to fire his manager, and then eventually fire that manager’s replacement. But in a sign that these aren’t your father’s Yankees, after this season’s 14-16 record in the month of April, and an unusually high number of hamstring injuries, Steinbrenner and General Manager Brian Cashman reached way down the Yankee corporate ladder, axing the team’s recently hired Director of Performance Enhancement. It was the second time in less than six months that the Yankees had fired their top strength coach.
The latest casualty, Marty Miller, MS, ATC, PES, CES, CSCS, had been on the job for about two months after replacing veteran strength coach Jeff Mangold, who was fired in the winter following the team’s poor 2006 postseason performance. Replacing Miller is his former assistant, 24-year-old Dana Cavalea.

Miller, a former minor league athletic trainer for the Montreal Expos from 1995 to 1997, brought with him a new approach to player conditioning, one that raised some eyebrows among the team’s veteran players. Newspaper reports said Miller de-emphasized running and the use of rubber bands for stretching and flexibility, and instead emphasized balance and the use of foam rollers.

Sal Marinello, CSCS, a full-time private Strength and Conditioning Coach, wrote in his blog that for strength and conditioning professionals, the local news stories did not contain enough information to help form an educated opinion about the Miller firing.

Marinello writes that:

According to the New York Post, Miller had de-emphasized running and didn’t include free weights, but without any other specifics, there is no way to evaluate what Miller was trying to accomplish. For instance, did Miller advise the Yanks to avoid jogging or distance running or were all kinds of running de-emphasized? If Miller had installed a sprinting program in place of the traditional distance running programs followed by many athletes, then what he was doing was a good thing. If he didn’t have the guys sprinting, then that’s a bad thing.

The team’s weightroom was also altered at the start of spring training, thanks to a new deal the team forged with 24 Hour Fitness. Familiar and popular leg extension and squat machines were removed as part of the redesign, rankling many of the players. After much complaining by the players, those machines were eventually re-introduced to the facility.

Some feel that the timing of Miller’s hire, just weeks before the start of spring training, immediately put him behind the 8-ball and at a great disadvantage. With no time to meet with players individually before they reported, many feel Miller was never really able to fully explain his approach to conditioning and why the substantial changes he was making to their routines would benefit them. And in the culture of Major League Baseball, where nearly every veteran player has his own personal trainer and is used to a certain way of working out, Miller’s methods were difficult to buy into.

This was illustrated in a story that appeared in the Lower Hudson Online. Beat writer Peter Abraham wrote that after playing seven innings in an exhibition game, Miller had a series of agility drills that he wanted center fielder Johnny Damon to perform before hitting the showers.

As he shuffled his feet back and forth, Damon rolled his eyes. “I have no idea what this is for,” he said. Miller, hands on his hips, never said a word, then glared at reporters who were watching the drill.

Abraham goes on to write that given a chance, Miller probably could have dragged the Yankees away from their old-school techniques and improved their conditioning, but once the players lost faith in him, he was finished.

Abraham added that Miller should have been added to the staff in October and been given the opportunity to meet with each player over the winter. That’s what the team did when they hired new hitting coach Kevin Long, who spent nearly a week working with Alex Rodriguez over the winter in Miami.

“It would have been better if we had gotten to know him,” Yankee designated hitter Jason Giambi told Abraham. “We all have our routines because this is a veteran team.”

Miller, who co-authored the cover story in the March issue of T&C, has reportedly been in contact with Mike McCarthy, the General Manager at BallenIsles Country Club, where Miller was the club’s Director of Fitness for nine years before joining the Yankees.

McCarthy said he believes that Miller will continue to collect his salary from the Yankees as part of his severance deal. The New York Post reported that Miller’s contract was a three-year deal worth between $330,000 and $450,000 per year.

McCarthy said he also believes that Miller got a raw deal.

“It’s wrong. It’s cruel,” McCarthy told the Palm Beach Post. “Here’s a guy that had a wonderful career and a wonderful reputation at BallenIsles and had such a good following within the industry, and three months there, they can tear you down. It’s unfortunate, but Marty will bounce back. The good thing is he’ll be collecting a paycheck from the Yankees for some time.”

R.J. Anderson is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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