PeteAbe profiles Girardi’s evolving approach

VP of RSN: Teixeira will 'get booed as much as A-Rod'
What If: Signing Damon in 2002

Last year wasn’t the smoothest debut for Joe Girardi. He helmed a team which got off to a slow start, suffered a number of significant injuries, and in the end didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 1994 (1993?). He also had a tumultuous relationship with the press, so that means we get to see a number of stories about how Girardi needs to adapt and learn to relate to people, players and media alike. Most of us know the media’s take of Girardi via PeteAbe, who was up front in his criticism of the manager. Today, he writes of how Girardi is changing.

One the problems, as Tony Pena points out and Giradi confirms, is the way he spent his time last season.

“Joe is Joe; you can’t change your personality. But I think he has learned that sometimes you have to spend your time in different ways,” said Tony Pena, Girardi’s new bench coach. “I see him doing things he didn’t do last year, making those gestures. It’s good.”

“Oh, sure, I have to do a better job of that. It can’t be all managing the game. I have to improve the relationships, and finding that balance has to happen every single day,” he said.

I think Girardi proved himself year a game manager. His bullpen management was a breath of fresh air. We had a few complaints about his ever-fluctuating lineups, but part of that was out of necessity. In any case, he seemed to change his approach later in the season, consistently trotting out the team’s “A” lineup. That’s not necessary all the time, of course — the team’s back was against the wall in August. It did show that the manager is willing to adapt, and that’s an important part of the managerial game.

As a manager of people, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how effective he was last year. The media didn’t appreciate him not being truthful about injuries, so their criticism of him has to be viewed with that bias in mind. Yet it seems a few of the players had cause for concern as well. Jorge Posada noted that “it doesn’t always add up the way you want. You have to account for personalities.” Johnny Damon thinks it’s all good, at least right now: “”Everything has been cool. He has made tremendous strides in talking to people, from the top players to the guys who don’t have a shot.”

I was excited when the Yankees hired Girardi after the 2007 season, and one rough season (by Yankees standards) isn’t deflating that at all. He can certainly be the man to lead this team to a championship. By all accounts, he’s working his hardest to do just that.

VP of RSN: Teixeira will 'get booed as much as A-Rod'
What If: Signing Damon in 2002
  • Ryan S.

    Though it sucks to go through it, I think one unsuccessful season (where still only 5 or 6 teams in the majors had better records) will do a world of good for the team. I think Joe has taken his lumps and he has a much better idea of what it takes to be the manager of the Yankees. I also think Jeter is going to be an intense presence in the clubhouse this year – more so than any other time up to this point, and I think he’s going to keep the team, along with fellow 4-ringer Jorge, fired up, maybe even angry, all year. I’m not saying it’ll translate into above-average numbers for DJ himself, but I do think with all of the bullshit criticism this team has gone through lately, we’ll be seeing a very “eff you” attitude from the entire team this year – hopefully most personified by another MVP-caliber season by Rodriguez.

  • Matt

    I’m incredibly contented with Joe Girardi. His relations with the media may’ve been “meh” at best but I’ll take that “hit” for his skillful on-field management.

    This year will be big for General Joe and the Yankees and I have full confidence in him to manage this team to a deep October run. If he has a few run ins with Petey Abe and the other writers along the way, so be it; so long as his bullpen management stays the same, I’m all good.

  • Double-J

    I’d like to see a little more small-ball (I realize the lineup isn’t set up for that, of course), but overall I’m pretty happy with Girardi. He was my first choice for the manager job, although I also was rooting for Pena.

    • Matt

      I feel that if the Yankees are playing small-ball, something’s gone horribly wrong. Just about everyone in that lineup can do something much more useful–get on base or hit for (at least some) power. The way the Yankees do things now is definitely fine by me, but I do think we’ll see an increase in steals this year, mostly from Brett the Jet. I’d rather the Yankees take the approach to stealing that the Phillies do–not an overwhelming amount of steals, but well timed ones that are successful–rather than just run willy-nilly because they can with Damon, Jeter, Rodriguez, and Gardner.

      • Double-J

        I’m just saying that in some situations, I’d like to see them utilize guys like Gardner who have speed in order to test the defenses and force them to make good defensive plays and put the pressure on them. Seems like this is what guys like Mike Scioscia do whenever they play us, and I really like his managerial style (minus the Angels’ inability to get past Boston in the postseason).

        Of course, if we can crank it over the fence every time too, then that’s fine.

        • Matt

          Scioscia does it because he has an entirely different make up on his team. If he had more than one big on base/power guy (Vlad), I think he’d change his approach. Gardner’s speed is definitely going to be a plus on the base-paths and in center this year, but when it comes to the former, I’d rather have him pick his spots and try to get as close to 80% on his steals as he can get. That’s a lofty number, I know, but he’s projected to be 33/42 (78.5%) so it’s definitely reachable. And unless his on base skills totally tank, which I doubt, I don’t want Gardner trying to bunt his way on. I’d rather have him up there working the count rather than laying down a bunt-single attempt on the first pitch.

          As for your previous point about Pena–I like him a lot, too. I’d be sad to see him go but I feel he deserves a managerial job somewhere. Maybe he’ll take over after Girardi wins 5 WS titles in a row and calls it quits on a high note. ;)

        • Jamal G.

          Any time you advocate managing a game like Mike Scioscia would, just backtrack as quickly as humanly capable.

  • Mike Pop

    Ya gotta have faith in him. He does his thing, the Yankees have a much better team this year than last year. A manager can only do so much and he can’t do anything without the talent.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I’m happy with Girardi. The way key players (Posada/Wang) were going down last year and scrubs were coming up (Rasner/Ponson) and old dependables went cold (Andy), did anyone think we even had a shot? And we did make a good run of it and other guys stepped up and did well (Dan Giese). It wasn’t decided til the very end and we chipped away at the TB/Sox lead right up until we were eliminated. It would have been a miracle to get into the playoffs but with the roster we would have gone in with, we would have been blown out first thing.

    I think it was not anything to do with managing that we didn’t make the playoffs and everyone knows that. I like Girardi and always have. He was a great field manager as a catcher and I think he can be a great manager. Pete Abe wasn’t here during the Girardi years when he was behind the plate so he does not have the respect for the guy that he deserves. Screw Pete Abe.

  • Rich

    Girardi made mistakes, including with the media, but some members of the media held him to a different standard than the one to which they held Torre.

    Ham is one of those people.

  • Pete Abraham

    I love the guy who writes “Screw Pete Abe” because I had the nerve not to be covering the team when Girardi was a player. Trust me, had I been able to leave my previously lower-paying job to cover the Yankees in 1996, I would have gladly done so

    As for the different standard applied to Girardi, in fact I believe the writers held him to a lower standard because we know that nobody they hired would be in a tough spot in that regard. In fact, some were relieved that Girardi was hired instead of Mattingly, who appeared terrified of the media when he filled in as manager.

    The only “standard” we really have is not to lie to us. The manager is under no obligation to be colorful or funny or even interesting. They just can’t put us in a position of putting the wrong information in the newspaper then having to correct it the next day.

    Brian Cashman appears to share that belief, as he told Girardi to stop doing that. It’s not a question of whether we like him or not, it’s simply a question of being able to believe what he says.

    • Rich

      I don’t recall a lot of criticism of Torre from you or your colleagues for often playing Cairo (career OPS+ = 75) at 1B, or sticking with Zeile when he was clearly done, or playing Enrique Wilson in RF against the Mets (on 6/29/02) in a transparent attempt to get the team to trade for an OFer (which yielded the infamous Raul Mondesi), let along his serial bullpen mismanagement (which was the major cause of the team blowing the 2004 ALCS).

      Although I think he’s a terrible broadcaster, Michael Kay is one of the few media people who has regularly criticized Torre for sometimes being less than truthful with the media (apart from the way he has deliberately mischaracterized how he described Cashman in his book).

    • LiveFromNewYork

      Oh please. You were on Girardi’s case for the smallest things. It got to be ridiculous. I used to be a big fan Pete but your coverage of Girardi really turned me off last year. Before 2008 I never missed a column of yours but I could not stand the Girardi bashing.

      He was not forthcoming about injuries but it was more than that. It seemed to be a continual assault on him for not being Torre. Before the Girardi coverage I read you all the time. Now I never do. And from some of the comments I’ve read about your coverage of the Arod stuff, I’m glad I don’t read it anymore.

  • Schteeve

    I thought Girardi was horribly mistaken when he kept giving Sexson PAs.