Joe Girardi and the super early Manager of the Year race

Yankees steal victory from jaws of defeat, beat Orioles 6-4 in series opener
Manchester City, Yanks to team up on NY MLS franchise
(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Even before last night’s come-from-behind extra-innings win over the Orioles, it was obvious the Yankees are far exceeding expectations this year. The injuries piled up during the offseason and in Spring Training, leading to a bunch of scrap heap pickups forced into everyday roles come Opening Day. Lyle Overbay? Vernon Wells? Frankie Cervelli? This guys had no business starting the season assured of regular playing time for a team with World Series aspirations.

The Yankees were widely picked to collapse completely and perhaps finish last, the kind of collapse that has been predicted every year since about 2007. Instead, they’ve thrived and currently sit atop the AL East with a little less than three-quarters of the season remaining. Yes, there is very long way to go, but New York has fared far better than even the most optimistic of fans could have expected. When Opening Day rolled around, I remember the mantra was “tread water until the injured guys return.” Expectations were definitely lower.

Thanks to the team’s better-than-expected performance, Joe Girardi has started to get some super early Manager of the Year love. My CBS colleague Dayn Perry recently dubbed him the 25% AL Manager of the Year — basically the MoY to date — for example. The Manager of the Year Award has morphed into the “Manager Of The Team Who Most Exceeds Expectations” Award in recent years, and Girardi definitely fits that bill right now. Some late-season ridiculousness — just ask 2012 Bob Melvin and 2011 Joe Maddon — would help his cause too, but I’m hoping for a less stressful finish to the season.

Looking around the rest of the league, the only other early-season AL MoY candidates are Terry Francona and John Farrell. Both the Indians and Red Sox are exceeding expectations so far, but both teams did make splashy offseason moves. Were expectations lower in Cleveland and Boston than they were in New York coming into the season? I’m not sure, but those two deserve the same kind of early MoY attention as Girardi. The next 120 or so games will sort this out, and some new candidates will inevitably emerge.

It’s obvious these days that a Yankee needs to have an outrageous season to win any kind of major award, like a 2007 Alex Rodriguez season. Without that big gap in performance, the other guy always seems to get the benefit of the doubt. That might work against Girardi because the Yankees still have the largest payroll in baseball and hey, they should be able to plug their holes on short-notice. Not every team can absorb $13M of Wells’ salary at a moment’s notice. That mentality exists and it could come into play.

Only two Yankees managers have won the award since it was first handed out in 1983 — Joe Torre in 1996 and 1998, and Buck Showalter during the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. That’s all. Girardi has already been named MoY once before, taking home the award during his lone season with the Marlins in 2006, but that shouldn’t matter. I’ve never been an ardent Girardi supporter, but he’s done one hell of a job keeping this ship afloat through the injuries. If there was ever a time a Yankees manager deserved the Manager of the Year Award, this is it.

Yankees steal victory from jaws of defeat, beat Orioles 6-4 in series opener
Manchester City, Yanks to team up on NY MLS franchise
  • Eddard

    MVP – Robbie Cano
    Cy Young – T-1st Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera
    ROY – T-1st David Adams and Adam Warren
    Comeback POY – Vernon Wells
    Manager of the Year – Joe Girardi

    Girardi is the manager of the year for how he’s guided this injury riddled team to 1st place. Tito Francona is doing a great job as well but Joe has had to mix and match with a bunch of cast offs and has beens, not to mention all of the kids playing for them right now. Girardi and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit.

    • TCMiller30

      You forgot the gold glovers

      OF – Wells, Gardner and Ichiro
      3B – Adams
      SS – Nix
      2B – Cano
      1B – Overbay
      P – Kuroda and Pettitte
      C – Romine

      • Cesar “Stairs” Cabral

        Puto forgot Stairs.

        RIP Eddard. You have too much weird boylove for Eduardo Nunez anyway.

  • JW

    Just curious, Mike — when you say you’ve never been an ardent Girardi supporter, is that based just on in-game managing, or the overall picture? Seems like he’s very strong at juggling the ‘pen (especially compared to Torre), but average at best with lineups/game strategy. But do we really know how good he is at everything else (managing egos, etc.)? Incredibly hard to evaluate, no?

    • Mike Axisa

      In-game managing only. There’s no way we could evaluate the stuff that goes on in the clubhouse. I think he’s an average or slightly above-average manager on the field, a little too rigid with the left/right matchups and marrying relievers to specific innings.

      • Mike

        I have to think the clubhouse is a ++ for Girardi as well, as there seems to be a seamless absorption of veterans, cast-offs and rookies into this environment….and frankly the only drama in the last years has been Soriano re; setting up, Arod (who diffused his own situation) and Joba-nonsense.

        considering the egos, handling superstars on the back-end of their careers and NY media, there is a ton to keep a lid over.

  • jcyanks

    Ha! Mike- Is your use of the term “scrap heap” a shot on Boone for using that samr term last night on espn?

    • jjyank

      It’s a pretty common phrase.

  • JLC 776

    I always feel like gets the shaft for the MOY award because of the budget. The team had some ridiculous injuries last year and fell into an intense, two-month long pennant race that lesser teams would have collapsed from. I sincerely credit Girardi with keeping the ship afloat through a lot of that. In the end, I think he only got a couple of 3rd place votes for MOY but was never seriously in the conversation.

  • trr

    Manager of the Year ?
    Could be – if he can guide this patchwork team to the post season, yeah, he’s got my vote.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    He has to be the early leader, right? I mean sure the Yankees have $200 million on the payroll, but the players who are truly expected to lead and guide this team to 1st place (making Girardi’s life easier) sit on the DL (that totals, with the exception of Granderson who recently came off the DL, close to $100 million!). Instead Girardi has had to mix and match a line up every night and the Yankees have DFA’d players, shuffled players between AAA and MLB, etc. Meanwhile, keeping players like Pronk healthy, effective, and not overworked so they can do what they did last night. Cashman has done one hell of a job as well. I’m loving watching this team right now and will ride the wave of joy as long as it lasts. I just hope the regulars contribute the way these guys have when they return. This team refuses to lose right now. Great stuff!

  • jjyank

    I never know exactly how much credit to give a manager in situations like this, but I do think that Girardi deserves some of the credit. This team has exceeded everyone’s expectations despite all the adversity, and at some point, the guy managing the team should get some props.

    Will he get Manager of the Year? I have no idea. But he certainly belongs in the conversation at the moment.

    • Havok9120

      No matter how low expectations were (and they were) there’d be a ton of calls for JG’s head if they’d finished below .500 and/or last place in the division. Fair’s fair, so the team going to the other extreme needs to be congratulated a bit.

  • Ivan

    Wow I thought Torre won MOY in 1996.

    • Scully

      He did. he tied with the late Johnny Oates and won it again for the 114 win ’98 team.

  • Eddard

    And I don’t buy the payroll argument. They were projected to be battling the Red Sox for last place and instead they’re battling the Red Sox for first place. Farrell should be up there too for that reason. You can’t project them to finish last and then say well with their payroll they should be first. They’re changing the goal posts.

  • Grant

    I have to agree with Mike on this post. It’s fun to speculate and even give Girardi his props for now, but it’s just so early in the season. I’d have to say this season has been fun to watch so far, let’s keep it up.

  • hogsmog

    I don’t think the money argument should come into play here- it’s not Girardi’s fault if the management “failed to plug the holes”; he can only make a lineup of players he’s given.

    Though, the ‘I hate the Yankees’ argument will probably still be relevant :p

  • The Real Me

    While the Yankees may have over $200M in payroll this year, they’re in first place with an on-field payroll of about $110M or so. Yes, he is clearly the early season MoY in my opinion. Hope he keeps it up and works the mega-stars seamlessly back into the lineup as they return from their injuries. winning percentage of ~.640 at the end of the season would look awfully nice.

  • Larry Fl

    New York Yankee baseball in recent years receives few considerations for major awards when it comes to the MVP, Cy Young, ROY etc. There is always a built in excuse to eliminate the value because of the talent makeup of the team or money spent. It does border on the anti NY mentality.

    Should Girardi get consideration for MOY. Yes based on the teams present play and standings but as the DLers come back and if they play to the standard set by the so called scrap heap guys then I’m sure the push will wane against Girardi.

    As far as his ability to manage a club. I believe he tries to stay out of the way and let them play especially the seasoned veterans. The younger guys are counseled as I have seen from time to time. The rope has restrictions about playing time based on tenure as well it should until one way or another it changes. I can’t tell but it appears this team has chemistry with the players and coaches all on the same page. The veterans and rookies are doing just what they can do. I hope when Teix. comes back his approach is similar no 5 run homers. Play solid D get the bat on the ball.

  • http://riveravenueblues mississippi Doc

    If you guys think that there is not anti NY bias in everything, you are crazy. The rest of the country thinks that there are four countries in North America: Canada, Mexico, the USA, and NYC. It is the price NYC pays for being the best.

    • Havok9120

      I’ve had the intro to the Twilight Zone pop into my head far too many times while reading comments this last week.

    • LarryM Fl

      As I have spent time in different parts of this country especially in the SE. Its been a revelation the anti NY bias. The smaller the metro area,the worse it was!