Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Girardi In -- But Should He Be Out?

Since I published this entry on September 17, Joe Girardi has signed a contract extension as Yankee manager.  Was this the right move? Only if he burned his binder.

At the time, I thought Girardi should go. I'm still not convinced he should stay.

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If the Yankees were an English soccer team — like baseball teams but unlike teams in the other North American sports, “football clubs” have managers, not head coaches, and they are essentially both field managers and general managers — a lot of Yankee Fans would be saying, “Girardi out!”
I’d be one of them.
A few minutes ago, I saw a Red Sox fan I know praise Girardi.  I won’t mention his name, but here’s what he said:
What Girardi has accomplished with all of the additional hits to the lineup has been nothing short of remarkable. No collapse here. They just came up short and will be in contention again next year.
“What Girardi has accomplished”? Here’s what he’s accomplished as Yankee manager:
2008: Missed the Playoffs.
2009: World Champions.
2010: AL East Champions, reached Game 6 of the ALCS.
2011: AL East Champions, reached Game 5 of the ALDS.
2012: AL East Champions, reached the ALCS but got swept.
2013: On a pace for 85 wins, which will probably not beenough to make the Playoffs.
How many teams reached the Playoffs all 4 years from 2009 to 2012? Only 1, the Yankees.  The Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers made it in 3 of the 4; the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays, 2.
Ah, but in that stretch, the Giants won 2 World Series, the Tigers beat the Yankees twice, and the Cardinals won the other Series that the Yankees didn’t win.
The Yankees probably won’t make the Playoffs this year.  Do I have to go into the Jim Mora Sr. rant again? “Playoffs? Don’t talk about Playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!”
(Incidentally, if you Google just that one word, “playoffs,” the first thing that comes up is Mora’s rant.  Not a link to any sport’s postseason.)
With the talent that Girardi has had starting in 2008, he should have won more — that’s not Yankee Fan bias talking; that’s being a close observer of this team during the period.
Trusting Phil Hughes to be a starter worked until this year; players drop off, that happens, and I don’t fault Girardi for that.
But continuing to trust Joba Chamberlain after he’d proven himself to no longer be the pitcher he was in 2007, or even the pitcher he was in 2009?
Continuing to trust Boone Logan when he’s proven he can’t do the one thing he’s in the major leagues to do, stop lefty power hitters from power hitting?
Continuing to trust Eduardo Nunez, a.k.a. NunE5 and NunE6, El Doctor Guanto Extraño (a translation of Dick Stuart’s old nickname, Dr. Strange Glove)?
Girardi needs to stop using his binder to make decisions, and start using what real managers use: Their eyes. If a pitcher is cruising, screw the pitch count and leave him in. If a pitcher is righthanded, and he got the last hitter out, and the next hitter is a lefthander, screw the handedness matchup and leave him in. If a pitcher has a history of getting clobbered by a particular hitter, you don’t need a binder to remind you of it: Boone Logan does not face David Ortiz or Josh Hamilton, period. (Or any other hitter, for that matter.)
That Girardi has this team on a pace to win 85 games is not an achievement; that he has the team still with a chance to make the Playoffs is a reflection of the teams currently ahead of the Yankees not seeming to want to take it, either.
I don’t know if anybody’s noticed, but the Rangers have lost 7 straight, 10 of their last 12, ceded the AL West title to the Oakland Athletics like they did last season, and have now ceded the top AL Wild Card spot to the Rays. With the Rays, an improved Kansas City Royals, and a usually-tough Whatever They’re Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim (along with the pathetic Houston Astros) still left to play, the Rangers are probably toast.
It’s the Rays, the Royals, the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians the Yankees will have to fight for the 2 Wild Card berths — most likely, the Royals, O’s and Tribe for the 2nd berth.
Frankly, I don’t think Girardi should come back next season. If Joe Torre could be let go after getting the Wild Card in 2007, if Buck Showalter could be let go after getting the Wild Card in 1995, if Billy Martin could be let go after winning 97 games and just missing the Playoffs in 1985, then Girardi should be let go for anything short of getting the Yankees another Pennant.
(Yes, I know, there were other factors with Billy.  But getting the 1985 Yankees, with that pitching staff, to 97 wins may have been his greatest achievement in baseball.  Look at his record: For all his work to improve teams in multiple cities, only one other time, in the 1977 World Champions that won 100, did Billy win more than 91 games in a season.)
Girardi has had the resources.  He has had trigger-happy GM Brian Cashman to spend the Steinbrenner brothers’ money.  He has had the brothers to overrule Cashman on occasion (and have it work, as with Alfonso Soriano).  He has had players who want to win, players with a proven record of winning.
He has won less than he should.  Not just this season, but before.  I’m not saying the Yankees should have won the World Series in all 6 seasons that he’s managed.  I am saying that they should have come closer to winning it in the 4 (soon to be 5) seasons that they didn’t.  In 2008, they should have at least gotten the 1 Wild Card berth that was then available.  In 2010, they should have beaten the Rangers in the ALCS, because, as the Giants proved in that World Series, as the Cardinals proved in the next one, as the A’s proved in last year’s stretch run and Wild Card Playoff, and as the Rangers are proving all by themselves this year, the Rangers are a joke.  In 2011, the Yankees should have beaten the Tigers in the ALDS.  In 2012, even with all their injuries, even with the Tigers having their best team since their 1984 title, the Yankees should at least have put up a fight in the ALCS.  This year, the Yankees should at least have 1 of the 2 Wild Card berths all but in the bag.
I don’t know who should be the Yankee manager next year.  I do know that it should not be Joe Girardi.
Joe, I know you’re trying.  I know you got us a title.  I know you’re a good guy.  I thank you for all of that.
But it’s time to go.
Girardi out.
And Cashman out, too.

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