Phillies manager Joe Girardi and Kevin Long shouted at each other from opposing dugouts at Citizens Bank Park on June 21.
On Wednesday, the two were officially reunited in more ways than one when Philadelphia formally announced that Long is the team’s new hitting coach. Girardi and Long worked together in similar roles for the New York Yankees from 2008-14.
Long was the Washington Nationals hitting coach from 2018 through this past season.
“My relationship with Joe goes way back,” Long said Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters. “We had a lot of success together. I enjoy (working) with Joe, value his friendship and how he goes about it.”
Their relationship is what made the incident between Girardi and Long so notable last June. The two were able to laugh about it Wednesday. It happened after Girardi asked umpires to check then-Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer’s hair for foreign substances to help the pitcher grip the baseball.
“That was two guys who like to compete and get after it,” Long said. “I know Joe’s personality, and he knows mine. Let’s just say he was the big brother, and I was the little brother, and we had a little quarrel. At the end of the day, we’re family.”
Long became available after he and the Nationals couldn’t agree on a salary after his contract expired on Oct. 31. Long began to explore his options with other teams, and the Phillies acted quickly.
Girardi said what Long does well is help hitters quickly find the flaws that are causing them to slump.
“It’s the guy I always wanted ... because I knew how good he is,” the manager said of Long. “His personality is infectious. The guys love him. He gets them going. He challenges them. He tricks them into doing things that teach them more about themselves. He’s just a fantastic coach.”
The Phillies fired hitting coach Joe Dillon on the last day of the regular season. Philadelphia finished second in the National League East at 82-80 and ranked seventh in the NL in runs and ninth in batting average.
Dillon worked with Long in Washington and was considered a Long protégé.
What’s the difference between Long and Dillon? Girardi addressed the question with an eye-opening analogy.
“There are a lot of protégés of (Alabama football coach) Nick Saban that have never beat him,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot of protégés, but there’s one Nick Saban. There’s one Kevin Long.”
Long also has a relationship with Bryce Harper from the outfielder’s days in Washington. Long and Harper have already spoken by phone.
“I just told him he was going to have a familiar hitting coach and he said, ‘I just got goosebumps,’ ” Long said. “I said, ‘Good, me too.’ We’re excited to be reunited. I think it’s going to work out real well for all of us.”
One of the Long’s most important projects will be reviving third baseman Alec Bohm, who had a disappointing sophomore season in 2021 with a .305 on-base percentage and a .342 slugging percentage. If Bohm can produce at third base with his pre-arbitration salary of $575,000, the Phillies should be much better and able to spend more dollars to improve other positions.
“I think young players are really, really important to big-market teams,” Long said. “You’re going to go out and get high-dollar and high-priced superstars, but the young players if they can perform and perform at a decent level, you give yourself a chance to win championships.”
Long also believes in having a consistent hitting message throughout the organization.
“I think it’s my job to maximize their potential, to maximize our offense, as a whole,” he said. “And we’re going to start attacking that immediately. I’m already digging into film and numbers. There’s a lot of things to do in a short time.”