Girardi finishes fourth in 2017 AL Manager of the Year voting

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Although he is no longer manager of the Yankees, Joe Girardi‘s work this past season earned him a fourth place finish in the 2017 American League Manager of the Year voting. Paul Molitor of the Twins predictably won the award. Minnesota went from 103 losses in 2016 to a postseason spot in 2017. Of course Molitor won.

For all intents and purposes, the Manager of the Year award is the “manager of the team that most exceeded expectations” award, and the Yankees definitely exceeded expectations this year. They were considered a fringe contender heading into the Spring Training, and they wound up winning 91 games and getting to within one win of the World Series.

The full voting results are available at the BBWAA’s site. Girardi received two second place votes and six third place votes, and the fourth place finish was his highest since 2013. He received Manager of the Year votes every season from 2009-17, though he never did win the award with the Yankees. Girardi won it with the Marlins in 2006.

The Yankees parted ways with Girardi three weeks ago — Brian Cashman cited concerns about Girardi’s ability to “communicate and connect” with his players — and they’ve yet to hire his replacement. Interviews on ongoing. Not-so-bold prediction: Girardi will manage again one day and get more Manager of the Year votes in the future.

Cashman: Yankees parted ways with Girardi over concerns he didn’t “communicate and connect” with players

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today Brian Cashman spoke to reporters for the first time since the Yankees parted ways with manager Joe Girardi nearly two weeks ago. Cashman confirmed his own new contract is not done yet, though the fact he’s holding conference calls and discussing the search for a new manager pretty much confirms he’s sticking around.

Anyway, Cashman discussed both the decision to move on from Girardi — “We didn’t fire anybody, but we did choose not to re-hire,” is how Cashman described it — as well as the team’s ongoing search for a new skipper. Here are the conference call highlights, pieced together from all the wonderful beat writers on Twitter.

  • On decision to part ways with Girardi: “We do not make changes at that level lightly, so it was a very difficult and challenging decision … Easiest call would be plug and play and continue in safe harbor arena. I have never been safe harbor kind of person … Our issues and concerns were the ability to engage, fully communicate, and connect with the playing personnel.”
  • Would Girardi have stayed had the postseason gone differently? “It’s tough to put a hypothetical in there. We went where we went … The challenge issue (in Game Two of the ALDS) had nothing to do with the decision making here.”
  • On what he’s looking for in next manager: “There’s no perfect person that checks every box … (Communication is) one attribute of many. Some have more weight that others … (We want someone) who’s willing to push back and have open discourse … I’m looking for the right person regardless of age.”
  • On the managerial search: “We’d love to have a new manager ASAP, but we have a healthy process involved with every decision we make, and the most important aspect is steps we take rather than time frame … I think it helps if you have (a pre-existing relationship), but it’s not necessary … There will be a lot of input from a lot of personnel that will be exposed to the candidates.”

Cashman also discussed the offseason — “Is there a lot of heavy lifting necessary? No. But we’re always trying to be better,” he said — and said there are no surgeries coming up. That’s good. There always seem to be a few surprise injuries at the end of the season. The Girardi decision and managerial search dominated the conference call, so here are some thoughts on that.

1. “Communication” is the key word. In the two weeks since the Yankees parted ways with Girardi, several reports suggested the decision was the result of two things. One, the relationship between Cashman and Girardi had deteriorated. Cashman shot that down today. “It was extremely good,” was how he described their relationship.

The communication issue was, however, very real. Cashman referred to the “connectivity and communication level in clubhouse” several times today — “(I) pooled a lot of resources to get a healthy feel (of the clubhouse),” he added — and said he felt it was time for a “new voice and a fresh voice.” The Yankees have a very young and exciting team, and the last thing they want is those players to have a lousy relationship with the manager. If things weren’t great with Girardi now, chances are they’d only get worse.

2. No, this wasn’t a smear campaign. We’ve seen a lot of smear campaigns over the years. The Red Sox and Boston sports teams in general are the biggest offenders, but they happen in all sports and all around the league. Someone gets let go and suddenly stories are leaked about why the person was fired and things like that. It can be ugly. Remember when it was reported Terry Francona abused pain pills while with the Red Sox? Yeah, ugly.

Cashman’s conference call today was hardly a smear campaign. It was a standard chat after a manager gets let go. Every general manager is asked why the decision was made whenever a managerial change happens. That’s the way it is. Cashman answered truthfully and in a way that didn’t besmirch Girardi. The stuff about poor communication in the clubhouse is a pretty common post-managerial change talking point. I don’t think Cashman said anything inappropriate, and the same goes for Girardi. This has been a fairly painless parting of ways. There is no war of words in the media or anything like that.

3. The managerial search is wide open. When the Yankees moved on from Joe Torre a decade ago, it was an open secret they wanted Girardi to take over. The interviews with Don Mattingly and Tony Pena were held basically to satisfy MLB’s rules about managerial searches. This time around, things are very wide open. “I don’t have a list. I am open-minded to this candidate list,” said Cashman.

Three things stood out to me when Cashman discussed about the managerial search. One, he said he’s willing to hire someone with no experience. It’s good to have an open mind, though I suspect the Yankees would prefer someone with some level of experience. Two, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of urgency. Yes, the Yankees want to name a new manager as quickly as possible, but they’re going to be thorough.

And three, this won’t be a straight Cashman decision. Cashman said “a lot of personnel (will) be exposed to the candidates,” which I assume means front office and clubhouse personnel. Those folks will have input. Also, each managerial candidate will hold a conference call with reporters after their interviews so the Yankees can see how they handle the media, which is not at all uncommon during a manager search. Surely the PR staff will monitor the calls and have some input, because working the media is a big part of the job.

Cashman is the general manager. He manages lots of people, and lots of people will be involved in the managerial search in one way or another. Cashman then absorbs their input and all the information and makes the final decision. Well, no, ownership makes the decision. He makes the recommendation. Point in, the Yankees are going into the managerial search with an open mind and will prioritize thoroughness over time frame. (But the sooner they pick a new skipper, the better.)

Front Office & Coaching Staff News: Cashman, Hairston, Paul

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

It has now been four days since the Yankees parted ways with Joe Girardi, and we’re still waiting to hear who they’re considering for the job. I imagine we’ll hear something soon. It took the Red Sox eleven days to find a new manager. It took the Nationals nine days. It took the Yankees eleven days to replace Joe Torre with Girardi. The managerial search could be wrapped up by the end of next week. We’ll see. Here are some notes.

Cashman/Girardi friction started over the summer

According to Jack Curry and Joel Sherman, Brian Cashman‘s decision to recommend parting ways with Girardi has been brewing since the summer, when friction increased between the two. The decision was made after lots of smaller disagreements built up into one big problem. Cashman supposedly decided to recommend parting ways with Girardi even before the ALDS.

At some point after the World Series, Cashman figures to hold his annual end-of-season press conference, and I’m sure he’ll be asked about the friction with Girardi, and whether winning the ALCS or World Series would’ve saved his job. Either way, this was not a rash decision. It’s not because of the non-challenge in Game Two of the ALDS or anything like that. The relationship between the two had deteriorated over time, and when that happens, it’s time to make a change.

Hairston connected to managerial job

Jerry Hairston Jr., the former Yankee and big league utility man, is among those connected to the Yankees’ managerial opening, reports Ken Rosenthal. Hairston, now 41, played 45 games with the 2009 Yankees after coming over from the Reds at the trade deadline. He last played in 2013, and following that season, he joined the pregame and postgame crew on SportsNet LA, the Dodgers’ regional network.

Hairston comes from a baseball family — his father, grandfather, uncle, and brother all played in the big leagues — so I guess he has that going for him. Still though, Hairston has no coaching or managerial experience, so he’d be a rookie skipper in New York. I know nothing about his communication skills or interest in analytics, and according to Sherman, good communication and an understanding of analytics are two top requirements for the next skipper.

Paul not a managerial candidate

Catching coordinator Josh Paul, who apparently has a lot of fans within the organization, is not a candidate for the manager’s job, reports George King. He could be considered for a coaching position, however. Paul has been with the Yankees since his playing career ended in 2008, and over the years he’s coached and managed in the lower levels of the farm system. He’s spent the last three years working with catching prospects. To wit:

Going from coaching and managing in the low minors to doing so at the big league level is quite a jump, though it wouldn’t be unprecedented. These days teams are hiring managers with no experience at all. I’m not sure the Yankees want to go that route, but if they find someone they consider the right man for the job, I don’t think they’ll worry too much about his background.

Yankees want to replace Denbo before Girardi

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees want to name a replacement for departed farm system head Gary Denbo before naming a replacement for Girardi. They have already interviewed four candidates for Denbo’s job and are likely to promote someone from within. Meanwhile, both Heyman and Sherman say the Yankees are likely to look outside the organization for a few manager. Here’s the list of candidates I put together for CBS.

Thoughts after the Yankees part ways with Joe Girardi

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees will have a new manager next season. Yesterday morning the team announced they have parted ways with Joe Girardi, and “parted ways” is the best way to describe it. Girardi’s contract expired after the season, so he wasn’t fired and he didn’t quit. The Yankees are just moving on now that his contract is up. That’s how the Joe Torre era ended. Changing managers is a pretty big deal and I have some thoughts on all this, so let’s get to ’em.

1. I’ve said this before and I’m going to say it again: I firmly believe managers and coaches have a shelf life. At some point their message and managerial style goes stale and it’s time for a change, and I think Girardi had reached that point with the Yankees. I thought he did last year, honestly. That doesn’t mean Girardi was a bad manager. His tenure in New York was a smashing success as far as I’m concerned. His worst season was 84 wins, and that was with rosters that had no busy winning 84 games in 2014 and 2016. It is entirely possible for the following two statements to be true:

  1. Joe Girardi is a very good Major League manager.
  2. Joe Girardi is not the right manager for the 2018 (and beyond) Yankees.

I think that’s what happened here. Brian Cashman came to the conclusion that while Girardi has been very successful overall in New York, it was time for a change because his style and approach had gone stale, and things weren’t going to get any better going forward. Girardi is pretty high-strung, you can see it in his face, and that wears on you after a while. It wears on everyone. And I don’t think you want to expose your young players to that sort of environment. That doesn’t mean Girardi is a bad manager. Not at all. It just means he’s not a good fit for the Yankees at this point in time, so Cashman recommended the change and ownership gave the green light.

2. Building on that last point, there wasn’t one thing that led to the decision to part ways with Girardi, I don’t think. I don’t think the non-challenge in the ALDS was the straw that broke the camel’s back or anything like that. That was a huge, huge screw up. But I don’t think that’s why the Yankees made the change. I think this is the result of several smaller things gradually building up over time. Joel Sherman wrote yesterday that Girardi and Cashman had become increasingly at odds over certain strategies and decisions, and Girardi’s intense persona only exacerbated things. Perhaps Girardi’s apparent lack of trust (or limited trust) in Gary Sanchez had something to do with it. Sanchez is far more important to the Yankees than any manager. That’s not a battle Girardi was going to win, assuming the relationship with Sanchez was enough of an issue for the front office to take notice. Anyway, like I said, I think Girardi being shown the door was the result of many small things adding up over time, and eventually reaching a point where it couldn’t continue. It happens. Often much sooner than ten seasons into a managerial stint too.

3. I was not surprised to see the Yankees and Girardi part ways. There had been enough rumblings these last few weeks about Girardi feeling burnt out and possibly stepping away to spend more time with his family that this always seemed possible. It’s not like the two sides splitting up came out of nowhere. I was surprised to hear both sides confirm this was a decision made by the Yankees. That I didn’t expect. If this marriage ended, I expected it to end because Girardi decided to walk away. I didn’t expect the Yankees to decide this wasn’t working out anymore. That caught me off guard. What happens if the Yankees win Game Seven of the ALCS and go to the World Series? Would that have changed anything? I don’t think it would have. This seems like something Cashman has been kicking around for a while, and this decision would have been made regardless of outcome. Maybe winning the World Series would’ve changed things? That’s probably the only way things don’t change. That didn’t happen though, so even though the Yankees got to within one game of the World Series in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Cashman decided to change managers. Tough. Not wrong, necessarily, but a tough business, this is.

4. Personally, I do not have a preference about the next manager. At least not right now. Maybe I’ll pick a favorite once some candidates emerge. I don’t know enough about any of the candidates — or who the realistic candidates even are at this point — to have a strong opinion either way. What I do think is the Yankees would want a young-ish manager not only open to analytics, but already familiar with them. And also someone who can keep the team a little more loose and even-keeled than the intense Girardi. I doubt they want a stopgap manager. They want a manager who will be around for a while and grow with the young players, you know? Here’s the big question for me: how much do the Yankees want to change the culture? Are they willing to really shake things up with an outside hire, which could mean more changes to the coaching staff? Or do they like their current mix and want to ruffle as few feathers as possible? Either way, because the manager and the front office work so closely these days, I expect the Yankees to bring in a manager who already has a relationship with Cashman. I doubt they’ll bring in someone who no knowledge of how the team operates and no experience in New York.

No one ever takes pictures of the third base coach. (Al Bello/Getty)
No one ever takes pictures of the third base coach. (Al Bello/Getty)

5. As for potential managerial candidates, I compiled a list over at CBS, so I’m going to refer you to that. My guess is bench coach Rob Thomson and third base coach Joe Espada are the two leading internal candidates. Thomson is a Yankees lifer who’s done a little of everything over the years, including work in the front office alongside Cashman. Recently both Girardi and Alex Rodriguez (during a postseason broadcast) brought up Thomson unprompted and praised him for his work with the team’s younger players. I mentioned Espada on Twitter yesterday and people freaked out, which I guess was predictable, but it’s kinda silly. Espada’s performance as a third base coach tells you nothing about his managerial qualifications. He checks all the modern manager boxes because he’s young (42), he’s upbeat, he’s very interested in analytics, and he has a good relationship with the front office (Espada was a special assistant to Cashman before joining the coaching staff). And he’s bilingual, which only helps. I’m telling you, Espada’s going to get serious consideration for the managerial job, and he should. He’s already very close with the young players on the roster, plus he’s a smart baseball guy with a well-rounded background. I’m sorry you may not like him because he got some runners thrown out at the plate, but Espada’s worth considering for the manager’s job. I think he and Thomson are the top internal candidates, with Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique a distant third.

6. Two things to keep in mind as the Yankees look for a new skipper. One, they’re not the only team looking for a manager. The Red Sox (Alex Cora), Mets (Mickey Callaway), and Tigers (Ron Gardenhire) have all hired new managers recently, but the Phillies and Nationals are still looking, so the Yankees will have some competition. And two, the Yankees’ job figures to be very desirable. Yes, you’re walking into a situation were you’re going to be expected to win the World Series right away, and that can be challenging. You’re also getting a) a great core of young big leaguers, b) a strong farm system with several top prospects on the cusp of the big leagues, c) a front office and ownership group willing to spend, and d) state of the art facilities in New York and Tampa. And you’re going to get paid well. What more could anyone want in a managerial job? The Phillies and especially the Nationals will give any prospective manager some negotiating leverage. At the end of the day, I think the Yankees have by far the most to offer among the teams still out there looking for a new manager. I don’t see them missing out on the guy they want because the decides another team is a better fit.

7. Might as well close with the obvious: Cashman is definitely coming back. As far as we know he doesn’t have a new contract in place, but ownership following Cashman’s recommendation and parting ways with Girardi confirms it. Hal Steinbrenner is no dope. He wouldn’t listen and act on the recommendation of a lame duck general manager if there was any chance Cashman wouldn’t be back. Cashman will continue to run the show and I think that is 100% the right move. What he’s done over the last two years or so has been pretty amazing. The Yankees went from old and expensive to young and a burgeoning powerhouse in a very short period of time. At this point, I trust Cashman almost implicitly, and if he feels Girardi had worn out his welcome and the Yankees need a new manager, then I believe him. If nothing else, I know a ton of thought and consideration was put into this decision. It wasn’t made on a whim.

Yankees part ways with Joe Girardi after ten seasons

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

The Yankees have parted ways with manager Joe Girardi. The team and Girardi confirmed the split this morning, with Buster Olney reporting Brian Cashman recommended a managerial change to ownership. Girardi’s contact expired following the season, so he technically wasn’t fired. The Yankees just aren’t bringing him back.

“I want to thank Joe for his ten years of hard work and service to this organization,” said Cashman in a statement. “Everything this organization does is done with careful and thorough consideration, and we’ve decided to pursue alternatives for the managerial position.

“As Hal Steinbrenner and I mentioned to Joe directly this week, he has been a tremendous Yankee on the field and away from it, as a player, coach and manager,” Cashman added. “He has a tireless work ethic, and put his heart into every game he managed over the last decade. He should take great pride in our accomplishments during his tenure, and I wish Joe and his family nothing but success and happiness in the future.”

Here is Girardi’s statement:

“With a heavy heart, I come to you because the Yankees have decided not to bring me back. I’d like to thank the Steinbrenner family for believing in me and giving me this wonderful opportunity. I would like to thank Brian Cashman and his staff for hiring me and always trying to improve the team. I would like to thank my coaches and support staff for their dedication to always trying to make the players better and get the most out of them. I would like to thank the training staff and the strength coaches for their tireless efforts of trying to keep the players on the field and healthy. I would like to thank the clubhouse personnel for making the clubhouse our home away form home. I would like to thank the players for the relationships that we have fostered over the last ten years but most important, how hard they played every day. I would like to thank Damon Oppenheimer and his staff for their hard work in trying to find us the best players available in the draft. I would like to thank the minor league staff for developing these young players. I would like to thanks Ben Tuliebitz for making our travel easy and always taking care of our families. I want to thank the media for always being fair with me and helping grow this wonderful game. Finally, I’d like to thanks the fans for their great support as a player, coach and manager and the lasting memories of their passion and excitement during the playoff games, especially the final six games which will remain in my heart forever.”

There have been rumors circulating the last few weeks that Girardi was feeling burnt out and was ready to step away to spend time with his family, though this wasn’t his decision. The Yankees decided to move on based on Cashman’s recommendation. The Yankees have only had two managers over the last 22 seasons, unbelievably.

Over the last few days and weeks there have been some rumblings that Girardi’s relationship with the players wasn’t great, and it stands to reason Cashman was concerned that relationship could deteriorate further. With an excellent young core ready to win now, the Yankees don’t want any trouble in the clubhouse. That goes without saying.

Girardi, 53, just completed his tenth season as Yankees manager. The team went 910-710 (.562) under his watch and never won fewer than 84 games in a season, which is pretty remarkable considering how messy some of those rosters were from 2013-16. Girardi managed the Yankees to the 2009 World Series title and three AL East championships.

Girardi leaves the Yankees in fifth place on the franchise’s all-time wins list behind Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1.173), Casey Stengel (1,149), and Miller Huggins (1,067). He is also fifth in winning percentage among those with at least 500 games managed for the franchise.

I have had more than my fair share of complaints about Girardi over the years, mostly based on his rigid bullpen use and managerial style, though he is a good man and was a good manager. The Yankees have an exciting roster with lots of good young talent and more on the way. Now it’s time to find the right man to lead them.

Tuesday Links: Sabathia, Girardi, Mets, Judge, Tate, Abreu

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

Thanks to wins in Games Three and Four of the ALDS the last two days, the Yankees will play for a spot in the ALCS tomorrow night. What a fun season this has been. I hope it never ends. Anyway, here are some stray links to check out now that we all have a chance to catch our breath a bit during the off-day.

Sabathia still wants to pitch in 2018

Over the weekend CC Sabathia reiterated to Jon Morosi that he plans to pitch in 2018. He said this back over the winter too, but at 37 years old and with a balky knee, he could’ve changed his mind at some point during the season. And heck, maybe the Yankees will win the World Series and Sabathia will decide to ride off into the sunset as a champion. That’d be cool, as much as I’d miss CC.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I am totally cool with bringing Sabathia back on one-year contracts for pretty much the rest of his career, Andy Pettitte style. He showed this year that last season’s success was no fluke. The new Sabathia is here to stay. Between the perpetual need for pitching depth and Sabathia’s leadership role in the clubhouse, bringing him back is a no-brainer. And why would Sabathia want to leave? The Yankees are good and fun, and he lives here year-round. The going rate for veteran innings dudes (Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, etc.) is one year and $10M to $12M these days. Maybe Sabathia gets $15M because he’s basically a legacy Yankee?

Mets have discussed Girardi

I had a feeling this was coming. According to Mike Puma, the Mets have internally discussed pursuing Joe Girardi should Girardi and the Yankees part ways when his contract expires after the season. Terry Collins was essentially pushed out as Mets manager after the season, and the team is looking for a new skipper. Also, as George King writes, Girardi has given some indications he could step away after the season to spend more time with his family and avoid burnout.

While we should never rule out Girardi going elsewhere or simply stepping away to be with his family, these two reports struck me as plants from Girardi’s camp as a way to build leverage for contract talks. The best thing for Girardi would be the Nationals and Dusty Baker having trouble finding common ground for an extension, because then he could use them as leverage too. I think Girardi wants to come back — who’d want to leave given how well set up the Yankees are for the future? — and I think both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman want him back. The chances of a reunion seem quite high to me. Maybe as high as 95/5.

Judge named BA’s Rookie of the Year

(Abbie Parr/Getty)
(Abbie Parr/Getty)

A few days ago Baseball America named Aaron Judge their 2017 Rookie of the Year, which should surprise no one. They give out one award for all of MLB, not one for each league. Baseball America has been giving out their Rookie of the Year award since 1989 and Judge is the second Yankee to win it, joining Derek Jeter in 1996. From their write-up:

“You watched him in the minor leagues and you saw the raw power and athletic ability,” one pro scout told BA during the season. “You saw a big swing and high strikeout numbers. Then you have to ask yourself does he have the ability to make adjustments and shorten the swing. The answer was yes.’

“If anybody says they expected this I would have to call them a liar. Nobody in their right mind expected this.”

The last few Baseball America Rookies of the Year include Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Jose Abreu, Jose Fernandez, and Mike Trout. Judge is for sure going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award — he’d be the first Yankee to win that since Jeter — and he should win unanimously. The real question here is the MVP race. I see way more people explaining why Judge shouldn’t win it (his slump) than why Jose Altuve should win. Kinda weird.

Tate removed, Abreu added to AzFL roster

Dillon Tate has been removed from the Scottsdale Scorpions roster with Albert Abreu taking his place, the Arizona Fall League announced. Also, Chris Gittens was removed from the roster as well. I’m not sure why Tate was dropped from the roster, but it could one of countless reasons. He could’ve gotten hurt. The Yankees could’ve decided to shut him down after Instructional League. The Yankees may think those innings would be better spent on Abreu. Who knows.

Abreu came over in the Brian McCann trade and he threw only 53.1 innings around elbow and lat injuries this year. He finished the season healthy though, and is obviously healthy enough to go to the AzFL, so he’ll be able to squeeze in some more innings there. That’s good. Abreu has an awful lot of upside, maybe the most of any pitcher in the system. As for Gittens, he was removed because Billy McKinney was added to the AzFL roster, and he’s going to start playing some first base there. Only so many first base roster spots to go around, so Gittens gets dropped.

Thoughts Before an Elimination Game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Hello, dear reader. A lot has happened since last we spoke and I’m hoping a lot more happens before we speak again. Let’s hope this isn’t the last Sunday of 2017 when we can look forward to Yankee baseball, huh? Anyway, let’s get on with my thoughts, ones that hopefully won’t be the last of the season, however long that shot might be.

Oh, Joe

By now, you’ve read every Joe Girardi hot take, but allow me to pile on, self-indulgently. At the time he did it, I really had no problem with Girardi taking out Sabathia. It’s the playoffs, and you’ve gotta go to the power arms quickly, even if it’s CC Sabathia out there, who’s been an absolute rock this year. It’s too bad Chad Green didn’t quite have it, though, and that is understandable. Even with some days off, he pitched the most stressful game of his life on Tuesday and may have been fatigued.

Sadly, the bad decisions cascaded from there. Not challenging on the Lonnie Baseball foul tip/HBP. What. And even if Joe owned up to it yesterday, that seems a bit late, doesn’t it? Declaring in the aftermath that he didn’t want to disturb Green’s rhythm is like my students telling me they finished their essay, honestly, but they just left it at home! Or their printer stopped working. Or their email got lost. Right. Just tell me you didn’t do it and let’s move on. I’ll still be disappointed, but at least you won’t be insulting my intelligence until you do own up to it. Then he pushed David Robertson too far. Then he went to Aroldis Chapman for two innings…instead of just pitching him in the eighth and ninth. And then he pushed Betances too far. It’s safe to say that Friday night was probably the worst managerial night Girardi has had as Yankee manager.

In the immediate aftermath, people were discussing replacing Girardi and that conversation spilled over into Saturday. I’m of two minds here. With the one, I think that there really isn’t anyone better to manage this team than Girardi and he’s proven that over the years. But with the other, ten years is a damn long time and it might be time for a new voice in the room, especially as the team starts to skew younger. Who could that voice come from? I have no idea, honestly. If I had to bet, I’d say Girardi is back next year and thereafter.

If and when he is back, the most important thing for Joe to do is gain some more confidence in Gary Sanchez. He’s shown that by keeping Sanchez behind the plate and not buying into any sort of narrative, but not challenging despite Sanchez’s insistence looks bad. Gary needs to improve on blocking balls, sure, but he’s a good framer and receiver and he’s an elite level thrower behind the plate. Atop all that, he’s the best hitting catcher in baseball not named “Buster Posey.” Winning the trust and confidence of Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and the other young players on the team and on the 40-man is the most important thing Girardi can do. If the front office–read Brian Cashman–thinks he can do that, then he is certainly the right man for the job.

There’s a chance the Yankees’ season will end before I write again–duh–and I hope it doesn’t. I have missed playoff baseball, even if it is stressful and a cause for sleeplessness. This is why we watch, isn’t it? Baseball, more than other sports, may be about the journey more than the destination, but when the destination is in sight, it sure is more exciting. We’ve harped a lot about how this team wasn’t expected to go this far, wasn’t expected to win in the high 80’s, let alone the 90’s. This playoff run is gravy and a half. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed if it ends. That disappointment comes from enjoying the hell out of this team, but also from the fact that it’s a good team that could go farther than the ALDS. Is there shame in losing to the best team in the game? No, but that doesn’t mean it won’t sting if it happens. If this is the end, thanks for going on this ride with me for 2017; I can’t wait for 2018 and beyond.