The little things that Mr. Long helped Mr. Rodriguez with have restored A-Rod's reputation as the game's greatest slugger. A firm believer in using technology to study hitters, Mr. Long pored over DVDs of Mr. Rodriguez after his prolonged slump last season (during one stretch he struck out 12 times in 17 at bats) and noticed that A-Rod's famous leg kick was too high. "Not only too high, but he was starting it a split-second too late. His knee was at his waist, and there was a 95 mph fastball coming at him. It was tough for Alex to get his leg down and turn his hips in time to hit an inside fastball -- and the result was that's what a lot of pitchers were attacking him with. It was basically a question of getting him into a better position faster. If you have to worry about getting your knee down before you hit the ball, you're giving yourself too much to do. In this instance, it was a case of subtracting in order to gain."
Did Mr. Long approach A-Rod and suggest a change? "It was more of a mutual understanding. We talked about things he could do, the mechanics of his swing. We spent four days in Miami before the season in a batting cage at his house, working on that leg lift and how to make his swing more compact, more powerful." He taught A-Rod his "net drill," which he describes thusly: "You take a stance parallel to a net only a bat-length away from you. You hold the knob of the bat to your stomach to measure the distance. Then, your coach flips balls to you and you hit them -- without the bat touching the net. That's how you know your swing is more compact. The drill forces you to pull your hands towards your body as you swing -- it gets you in the proper position to turn on those inside pitches."
The resume is there for Chamberlain to step in and succeed at the big league level. The only question is whether or not Joe Torre will let him. In July, the team called up Edwar Ramirez, who struck out all three Minnesota Twins he faced in his pro debut, pitched one more time three days later, and then all but rotted on the bench for two weeks. Torre's record of success cannot be denied, but he is a creature of habit, a manager who decides on a system and a role for a player and then sticks with it, even to the detriment of his own team at times. The Yankees have been waiting for a reliever all year to step up and take care of those three-to-five mid-game outs that lets them hand another lead to Mariano Rivera. Joba Chamberlain might be that guy, if they just give him a fair chance.
The release of Cairo, like the decision to pick up Betemit, demonstrates that Brian Cashman's best tool in fixing this team is take away the toys Joe Torre likes to play with, and replace them with better toys. This isn't about the manager's comfort zone, it's about winning the division, and the longer any vestige of that sort of haphazard, downright slack management style remains in play, the more the front office should be asking itself how long it can indulge this behavior.