Joe Girardi reportedly has a new hitting coach, and it’s a friend turned enemy turned apparent friend again.
The hire will reunite Long with Girardi and Phillies bench coach Rob Thomsen, who all worked together in the same roles for a half-decade with the New York Yankees. That group won a World Series together in 2009 and were ultimately broken up when Long was fired in 2014, with Girardi and Thomsen’s exit coming three years later in 2017.
Long has since worked as a head coach for the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, winning another World Series with the latter in 2019.
That reunion combined with the intrigue of hiring away a well-regarded coach from a division rival was interesting enough, but the really fun part comes from a confrontation just a few months ago.
Joe Girardi and Kevin Long had confrontation in June
Rewind back to June 22, which you might remember as the day after MLB started enforcing its ban on sticky substances. That first day of sticky substance checks was relatively uneventful, but things changed on the second day thanks to one Max Scherzer.
The then-Nationals ace bristled during his two mandatory substance checks in a game against the Phillies, then blew up when Girardi requested he be checked for a third time in the middle of the fourth inning. Scherzer yanked off his hat, glove and belt then challenged the umpires to check his hair, which Girardi speculated might have a substance.
No substance was found, and Scherzer would stare down Girardi one inning later after a 1-2-3 fifth inning. That attention incensed Girardi, leading to the manager taking the field and walking toward the Nationals dugout before getting ejected.
The initial read was Girardi was challenging Scherzer, but a review from the Jomboy Twitter account made a strong case that Long was his actual target. You can see Long’s involvement in the below video, starting around the 3:24 mark:
Taken with a grain of salt, the lip-reading seems to bear out to the following exchange between coaches:
Long: F***ing bulls***! F***ing bulls***! F*** you!
Girardi: Well c’mon K-Long, c’mon. Let’s go! You want to go K-Long? C’mon!
Four months later, the pair seem to have made up.
The loss of Long is something of a blow for the Nationals, though the team has bigger things to worry about it as it goes through a rebuild. Long is the only MLB hitting coach that Nationals star Juan Soto has ever known, and the Nationals’ timely hitting under his watch was a major reason the team won its first and only championship.
Long joins a Phillies team coming off a disappointing season, finishing with an 82-80 record and second in the weak NL East. The organization fired hitting coach Joe Dillon and infield coach Juan Castro earlier this month, and it can only hope that a revamped staff can finally make the team a real contender.