Reading Joe Girardi’s tea leavesBy
Over the weekend, a crack appeared in the Yanks’ Front Office façade. It wasn’t an outburst from Hank or a strongly-worded press release from Howard Rubenstein. No one was fired, and no one was put on notice.
The crack was the rather public spat over the Alex Rodriguez situation. It involved some anonymous “he said/he said” articles, and a whole bunch of backtracking by Yankee officials. While everyone seems to be on the same page right now, I believe Joe Girardi‘s job security may have suffered because of it.
The story took off when Girardi originally penciled A-Rod into the lineup on Friday but announced shortly before the game started that Alex would be getting two days off instead. Some papers reported it as a benching due to his poor play while most news outlets recognized that a player coming off a serious labrum procedure shouldn’t be playing 38 games in a row. It was a rest, but from where did the demand for rest come from?
Over the last few days, the story has continued to swirl. Linda Robertson reported rather skeptically that the decision to rest A-Rod was mutual, but she also noted that some have alleged a behind-closed-doors fight between A-Rod and Girardi. The Big Lead’s Miami sources echo Robertson’s piece. “Why didn’t you sit me against the Nationals?” A-Rod is rumored to have asked.
In the New York papers, Brian Cashman has denied ordering a benching, and Girardi says he didn’t want to do it. Rather, A-Rod sat to rest his fatigued lower body. There is no doubt that the team is better off with a well-rested A-Rod, but that’s almost beside the point.
Meanwhile, the CC Sabathia saga adds a new dimension to this sordid story of injury management. In expressing his belief that he would start this weekend against the Mets, Sabathia fielded a question concerning the cause of his injury. What led to this soreness, reporters wanted to know. “It could be the 120 pitches this year,” Sabathia said.
By blaming the pitch count totals, Sabathia is indirectly implicating Joe Girardi. The big lefty has thrown 119 pitches or more three times this season, most recently on June 11 when he went 123 pitches. Last year, he threw four starts of 120 pitches or more. All of them came after July 2. Is Sabathia saying that Girardi has not managed his arm well enough? Reading between the lines, I certainly think so.
Meanwhile, in The Record today, Bob Klapisch calls the next stretch of games a “critical phase of [Girardi's] managerial career.” While Klapisch cites using Mariano Rivera in the 8th against the Mets — a move I will always support — he also questions whether Girardi is under a microscope for the way he drives his players.
Maybe this second-guessing in the media is a big nothing, but maybe the Yankees’ Front Office is putting some of these stories out there. Are they questioning Girardi? Is he on the hot seat — or at least in the on-deck circle for the hot seat? He doesn’t deserve this treatment, but someone in the Front Office doesn’t seem too happy with Girardi. If this year doesn’t end in Yankee-defined success, I wonder what his managerial future will be.