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.