Right after the Yankees season ended in the ALCS, the Yankees started making a couple of changes to their roster and staff.
The first casualty was the official firing of pitching coach Dave Eiland.
Eiland took a leave of absence during the middle of the season and eventually came back, but the rumors had it that the relationship between Eiland and the Yankees—and even Girardi—were strained.
Now, one rumor has the bullpen coach Mike Harkey as a possible in-house replacement to take over the pitching coach job. Harkey is one of Girardi's guys even from back when Girardi managed the Marlins.
While that sounds like a quick fix and solution to the coaching vacancy, I'm not really sold on Harkey.
My choice for the Yankees pitching coach: Leo Mazzone.
The former Braves pitching coach who was on staff from 1979 until 2005. He guided the soon-to-be Hall of Fame arms of John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine for many seasons and also helped guys like Russ Ortiz, Denny Neagle, Kevin Millwood and Jaret Wright find their capabilities under his watch.
After the 2005 season, Mazzone then left the Braves for the Orioles pitching coach job, but only lasted two seasons there and never had that same success because the Orioles at the time didn't have the same type—or anywhere near the quality—of arms that Atlanta did.
That would not be the case for Mazzone in New York.
His first project would be trying to figure out A.J. Burnett, who has three years left of an original five-year deal.
Burnett has great stuff and great ability, but he needs someone like Mazzone to figure out how to be a pitcher and not just a flame-thrower, especially since he'll be turning 34 in 2011.
If the Yankees don't trade him in the offseason, Mazzone could also figure out another mental case on the team in Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain went from being an unhittable reliever in 2007-2008 to mediocre starter in 2008-2009 and then back to mediocre reliever in 2010.
Joba showed signs of being his old self with the fastball and slider, but then he showed the other signs of melting down and giving up too many big hits, which allowed the Yankees to trade for Kerry Wood and give Wood the setup role, which was previously Joba's.
If you look back at the former Yankee pitching coaches, the last one they had that really worked out was Mel Stottlemyre, who was the pitching coach from 1996 until 2005.
After him, Ron Guidry gave it a try, but he was really a beginner at the job and was let go after Joe Torre was not brought back, which then lead to Eiland getting the job.
I really feel like the Yankees and especially Girardi need to get away from bringing up the in-house candidates for certain jobs, and in this case, this is where they need an experienced guy.
I honestly feel Mazzone is the right guy for the Yankees. He has said he wants to be with the Yankees (or Mets). Considering the Yankees already have their manager situation figured out, I bet if the Yankees were to sit down with him and try to work a deal out, they could get Mazzone the job.
If they give it to Harkey, I honestly think it's a mistake. And by then, Mazzone may be gone. Maybe even to the Mets.
The Yankees once let Mazzone slip away to the Orioles back in 2005 when they had interest. I don't think the Yankees should let him slip away this time. This is the guy they need as pitching coach for 2011.