Archive for Joe Girardi
When a team expects to win and fails, the players are typically at fault. They are, after all, the ones who take the field every day and therefore control the team’s fate. But as the old saying goes, you can’t fire all the players.* As an alternative, teams often opt to fire the manager. Leaders make for good scapegoats, even if they do not directly participate. It’s also easier to get rid of one man and one contract (coaches typically go year-to-year) than to publicly identify the players at fault and get rid of them.
* Unless you’re the Red Sox, who fired three highly paid players and the manager. It’s almost as if winning the World Series was a reward for that decision.
It would have been easy to blame the Yankees’ 2013 season on the manager. The team was expected to win and it did not. The Yankees could have walked away from Girardi cleanly, too, since his contract expired after the season. Instead they signed him to a new four-year deal that exceeds his previous three-year contract. It shows just what upper management thinks of the on-field boss. If anything, 2013 further solidified Girardi as one of the game’s top skippers.
Many fans disagree with that sentiment, but certain fans will always hate the manager for one reason or another. It’s just the nature of baseball. A few close friends of mine dislike Girardi.* They have their criticisms, and while I disagree they do deserve fair trial.
* One of them dislikes Girardi, but likes Big Bang Theory, so I think it’s fair to call his judgment into question.
They don’t like his bullpen management
Pardon me if I don’t pay this critique much credence. While there are managers who handle their bullpens poorly, it seems that vocal, if not large, groups of fans from every team bemoan the manager’s pitching changes. All managers could be wrong, and fans could be right, about bullpen management tactics — in theory. In theory Communism works. In theory.
Three main factors are at play here. First is the now-tired, but still relevant, trope that managers possess far more information than fans. Girardi, we learned early in his tenure, keeps track of not only when his relievers get into games, but also when they warm up in the pen. You might not have seen David Robertson for a few days, but if he pitched two days in a row and then warmed up in each of the next two, he might not be available. This information gap also extends to Girardi’s knowledge of the individual player. Perhaps he doesn’t feel a particular player, on a particular day, is well-suited for a particular situation. We can criticize that, but it doesn’t hold much water if we don’t know the players and the circumstances.
Second is negativity bias. We tend to remember the bad decisions, because they result in agita and, in many instances, losses. Losing sucks, so that feeling sticks in our craws far longer than, say, the time when Girardi brought in David Robertson in the third inning after Andy Pettitte, who left with an injury, put two on with one out and had three balls on the batter. We might not remember that Robertson got out of the bases loaded, one out situation unscathed, which kept the game close at hand for when the Yanks exploded for seven runs and won.
The third is general discontent with managers. Moe Szyslak aptly sums up the sentiment: “The only thing I know about strategy is that whatever the manager does, it’s wrong. Unless it works, in which case he’s a button pusher.”
They don’t like how he deals with the media
I find this gripe odd. Why do fans care if the manager gets testy when the media asks its typically dumb questions? In many instances it comes off as endearing. There are good reporters who ask thoughtful questions, and they certainly deserve a respectful answer. So far as I have seen, Girardi has done just that. There are other reporters who ask the same pointless questions, or cliched and meaningless questions, all the time.* There comes a point where it’s reasonable to lose patience with them. We saw Girardi get a little angry in those situations in 2013.
* At a game I was covering in 2010, Girardi was giving his pre-game press talk. Javy Vazquez had pitched the previous night, and Phil Hughes was on the mound that night. The reporter asked a random question about A.J. Burnett — something asinine, too, along the lines of, “how would you characterize your confidence in A.J. Burnett?”
Honestly, I appreciate it when players and personnel take an attitude with the media. Yes, the reporters are just doing their jobs, but the good ones recognize that asking dumb, repetitive questions don’t help their causes. I miss the days when Mike Mussina scoffed at reporters. In 2013 I missed Derek Jeter poking fun at Kim Jones’s generic questions. It sure beats hearing players give the same boring responses to the same boring questions.
They mock the binder
Heaven forbid the manager has material at hand to inform his decision. For some reason, the media started mocking Girardi for consulting this binder in 2008, and fans followed in kind. This I will never understand. You mock a guy who makes poor “gut” decisions, but also mock a guy who employs data when making those same decisions? It’s senseless, and it goes right back to what Moe said.
Friend of RAB R.J. Anderson wrote about this issue at the time of Girardi’s previous extension:
Pretend for a moment that Girardi’s binder contains information about platoon splits and the basic rundown of data that a manager should be equipped with for in-game decisions. Whether this is the case or not is unbeknown to outsiders, but just pretend. Is there any downside to a manager having the information on hand with which to consult? Perhaps if the information itself is trivial or useless (i.e. how batters fared versus lefties over the last week or on Sundays), then Girardi is hurting the club, otherwise it’s hard to think of a downside.
Assuming that is not the case, the mocking of Girardi’s binder highlights the weird juxtaposition of the media’s treatment toward baseball managers who use information and prep work and their football counterparts who absorb film and schemes. Using numbers does not make Girardi a great manager, but it also does not make him a nincompoop. If he acknowledges that his gut and experience in the game does not hold all of the game’s answers, then he might be more self-aware and conscious than quite a few of his managing counterparts.
The binder contains information that can help balance data and gut feelings. It can influence better decisions. I’m sure that if he kept all the data in an iPad (which, as far as I can tell, isn’t allowed in an MLB dugout), fans and media wouldn’t say a word.
There are, to be sure, a number of other reasons why fans dislike Girardi, and I encourage detractors to elaborate in the comments. For our current purposes, I’ll list the one reason, above all others, I like Joe Girardi and think that he’s a great fit for the Yankees:
He protects his players
When the media asks questions of his players, he refocuses the conversation to himself. In other contexts that might sound egotistical, but in the case of a baseball manager it’s a virtue. Fans lauded Joe Torre his ability to manage the media, and Girardi is in many ways growing into that role (though he’s quite a bit surlier than his predecessor). Girardi never speaks even a drop of ill about his players, even when they deserve it.
If you stick up for your players, you can earn their respect. It does seem that Girardi has the team’s respect, which is all you can really ask of a manager. What effect did that have on the team? Well, they did outperform their Pythagorean record by six wins and their third-order wins by more than 10. Not all of that was due to Girardi’s influence, but if even one of those wins stemmed from something intangible he brings to the table it speaks well of his clubhouse presence.
In terms of the 2013 season, Girardi took an impossible situation, which started with shaky roster construction and continued with key injuries, and did a good a job as you can expect from anyone in that position. What could he done to further tip the scales in his team’s favor? From this perspective, little to nothing. The four-year deal he just signed signals the Yankees feel the same way.
Got a pair of non-baseball business notes involving two prominent Yankees to pass along, so let’s dive in:
Derek Jeter: Book Publisher
According to Julie Bosman, Derek Jeter announced this week that he will start Jeter Publishing, a publishing imprint that is partnered with Simon & Schuster and Wicked Cow Entertainment. He admitted to thinking about life after baseball while hurt for much of this past season. “I’ve had a lot of time to myself to think. The whole last year has been sort of a blur. Being away from it for so long gave me the opportunity to think about what the future may hold after baseball” said the Cap’n. “I think this sort of sets the blueprint for post-career. This is a great way to start.”
Jeter’s first books will be released sometime next year. They’re expected to include nonfiction books for adults, children’s picture books, elementary grade fiction, and books for children who are learning to read. The project could lead to film and television publications. “You never know where this may go. You look at all the opportunities that come with content in general — I mean, there might be a compelling story that someone has that turns into a film or a TV show,” he added. “If I put my name on something, I’m going to be involved. I’m not just going to put my name on it and not pay attention.”
You could have given me roughly a million guesses, and I would have never guessed Jeter would get into book publishing after his playing days are over. That’s pretty cool though, congrats to him for getting this off the ground and figuring out what he wants to do once he hangs up his cleats. Still, book publishing? Never would have guessed it.
Joe Girardi: Mobile App Engineer
Dan Barbarisi reports Joe Girardi has developed a new mobile app with Appetizer Mobile that is scheduled to launch early next year. This isn’t some branded app that got the okay to use Girardi’s name and likeness at the last minute, he’s been working on it for the last year. “I see my children on apps — and ordering apps, on many occasions — and I just thought it would be kind of fun to create an app that I felt was appropriate for them,” he said. “I think that’s what you worry about all the time, for me, as a parent with kids.”
Girardi declined to reveal the specifics of the app, but it’s a “sports-related multiplayer-capable game utilizing ‘augmented reality technology,’ which supplements real-world environments with computerized input,” according to Barbarisi. That’s a mouthful. Appetizer Mobile CEO Jordan Edelson said it will be “kid-friendly but targeted to baseball fans and adults as well.” The app will be free to download but there will be in-game purchases. Girardi’s cut is going to charity.
“It’s a different side of me, because I think people are always used to seeing me at the ballpark, and not having this type of creativity. It’s not something that I do a lot of, but when I do put my heart and soul into something, it’s important to me,” added the skipper. This isn’t an unexpected as Jeter getting into book publishing, but I can’t say Girardi struck me as the type of guy who was big on technology or anything. Good for him. Sounds like he was very involved in the process and put a lot of work in.
In something of an upset, Indians skipper Terry Francona was named the AL Manager of the Year tonight. I figured Red Sox manager John Farrell was a lock as soon as his club clinched the whole worst-to-first thing. Joe Girardi finished fourth in the voting, receiving two second place votes and five third place votes. When you manage the Yankees and don’t make the postseason, you aren’t winning any awards. It’s a minor miracle he got that many votes. The full voting results are right here. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle took home NL honors. Well-deserved.
The Yankees have taken care of their first (and arguably the most important) piece of offseason business. The team announced on Wednesday that they’ve re-signed manager Joe Girardi to a four-year contract that will keep him in pinstripes through 2014. Jon Heyman and Howie Rumberg say the deal is worth $16M guaranteed plus another $4M in bonuses, making Girardi the second highest paid manager in baseball behind Mike Scioscia.
“We decided this is where we wanted to come back,” said Girardi to reporters during a conference call. “There were some things I wanted to make sure — in my home (with my family) — that people were okay with what I want doing. My kids love what I do. [My wife] Kim is still extremely supportive and continues to love what I do. I had to make sure everyone was still on board.”
Girardi, 48, just completed his sixth year as the team’s manager. His previous managerial contracts with the Yankees were both three-year deals, but Girardi confirmed his side pushed for a four-year contract this time around. The team made it clear they wanted to bring him back — “We’re going to give him a real good reason to stay,” said Brian Cashman during his end-of-season press conference — so they tacked on the extra year.
“I think stability is important,” added Girardi when asked about the four-year term. “That was something we brought up to them. It is more stability for all of us involved in my household. It was something we brought to them and they were okay with it … It’s good for both sides.”
The Yankees are 564-408 (.580) all-time under Girardi, including 85-77 (.525) this past season. I thought 2013 was his finest year as the team’s manager given all of the major injuries and, of course, the Alex Rodriguez circus. Girardi handled the A-Rod situation well and the club remained in the hunt for a wild-card spot far longer than I think anyone expected. Still, the team’s future is up in the air and is something Girardi considered before returning.
“It was something I definitely thought about,” said Girardi when asked about the state of the franchise going forward. “What will the New York Yankees look like in 2014? I don’t think you can necessarily expect to have everything you want every year … To me, I want to be a part of this. I want to get us back on track. That is important to me.”
Girardi’s contract didn’t expire until October 31st and the Yankees did not grant him permission to speak to other clubs in the meantime for obvious reasons. His hometown Cubs reportedly made it clear through back channels they were willing to top any offer, plus the Nationals had interest as well. It’s not hard to argue those two clubs are better set up for success over the next four years than New York, but Girardi returned anyway.
Assuming Girardi sticks around for the full four years, the Yankees will have had just two managers over the previous 22 years. That’s after having 12 different managers for a total of 21 different stints in the previous 22 years. Yeah, the days of the late George Steinbrenner hiring and firing people on a whim are long gone. The Yankees are going through a rather delicate transitional period at the moment and Girardi has done a pretty good job of getting them through the early stages. Now they can move forward and start focusing on other stuff.
“[There is] a lot more work to do this offseason than there has been in the past,” added Girardi. “It’s a special place to manage. Just to be able to put on the pinstripes as a coach, a player, a manager is special. I’ve always thought about it that way. I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think we could win a championship.”
Via Mark Gonzales: The Cubs have “made it clear through channels” they are willing to top whatever contract offer the Yankees make Joe Girardi. George King says New York offered their manager a three-year deal worth north of $12M guaranteed with bonuses that could push the total value to $15M. It would make Girardi one of the highest paid managers in baseball and they’re still waiting for his response.
We heard the Cubs were willing to make a “serious contract offer” just last week, but Girardi’s contract doesn’t expire until October 31st and the Yankees are not giving him permission to negotiate with other teams in the meantime. In addition to increasing the risk of losing him, they would also be gift-wrapping Girardi some serious leverage by allowing him to talk to the Cubs or whoever else before his contract runs out. I’m going to stick with my original not-so-bold prediction that if he doesn’t re-sign with the Yankees before his contract expires, Girardi’s a goner.
Friday: Joel Sherman says Girardi will have another offer from the Yankees no later than today. He suspects it will be in the three-year, $13-16M range. Sherman hears that if push comes to shove, the team is prepared to walk away if Girardi’s camp seeks $7M annually, or what Joe Torre was making at the end of his tenure in pinstripes.
Wednesday: Via Jon Heyman: During their scheduled meeting this afternoon, the Yankees made Joe Girardi a contract offer to return to the team. He responded with parameters for a deal and the two sides agreed to meet again on Thursday. No word on the size of the offer or what Girardi’s camp proposed, and chances are we’ll never know. That they’re meeting again tomorrow is a good sign. Hopefully they get this taken care of quickly.
Via David Kaplan: The Nationals have requested permission from the Yankees to interview Joe Girardi. They’re looking for a manager following Davey Johnson’s planned retirement. Girardi is under contract until October 31st, so no other teams are allowed to talk to him for another few weeks.
Unsurprisingly, it has been reported the Yankees are unlikely to give any club permission to talk to Girardi before his contract expires. Not only are they trying to re-sign him — the two sides recently exchanged contract parameters and are expected to talk again today — but letting him talk to another team right now only boosts his leverage. The Cubs are reportedly planning a big offer and I supposed the Reds could get involved as well now that Dusty Baker has been fired.
Via Buster Olney: Cubs ownership is pushing internally for Joe Girardi and intends to make him a “serious contract offer” as soon as they’re allowed. Girardi’s contract expires on October 31st and the Yankees are hesitant to give him permission to negotiate with other clubs in the meantime for obvious reasons.
The Cubs have just started their managerial search after firing Dale Sveum according to Olney, but their ownership group sees Girardi as someone who could give the organization a shot in the arm after attendance declined for the fifth straight year. During yesterday’s end-of-season press conference, Brian Cashman confirmed he is meeting with Girardi’s agent today. The other day we heard the club will have to offer a “significant” raise to keep their skipper. Not-so-bold prediction: If Girardi does not sign a new deal before his current one expires, he’s a goner.
Whether they want to actually acknowledge it, the Yankees are in the middle of a rather significant transition. A historic era in team history has come to an end with the recent retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, and soon enough Derek Jeter‘s retirement will make that transition complete. The ties to the dynasty years are fading away and a new era of Yankees baseball is being ushered in.
That transition could occur in any number of ways. It could be smooth, it could be painful, it could be a little rocky … chances are it will be all of the above at one time or another. Up until this season, it had gone rather well for the Yankees. The team remained competitive after through the entire 2000s and into the early 2010s before things fell apart this year. As Brian Cashman said during yesterday’s press conference, they’ve “been really fortunate for a long time to avoid what happened this year.”
For the last six years, Joe Girardi has been tasked with managing the team through this transition. He was at the helm when Hideki Matsui had to become a permanent DH and when Johnny Damon had to be told he was no longer a center fielder. Most notably, he had to phase out Jorge Posada, first by taking him out from behind the plate and then by taking him out of the lineup on an everyday basis. As fans we sit back and think that’s easy — just take Posada out of the lineup because he stinks. It’s not that easy though. Managing isn’t just about making the lineup or changing pitchers, it’s about managing people.
“You learn how difficult it’s going to be,” said Joe Girardi to David Waldstein, referring to the end of a star-caliber player’s career. “It’s sensitive because they are competitive. It’s what makes them who they are. It’s a will to find a way to overcome anything that’s in your way, whether it’s a bad shoulder or a bad back or cranky elbow; whatever it is, they are used to finding a way, and that’s what made them great.”
Joe Torre had to deal with the end of Bernie Williams‘ career and, for the most part, Girardi had it easy with Rivera and Pettitte. He had to cut back on Andy’s workload a bit, making him an 85-90 pitch starter instead of a 110-115 pitch starter, but that’s it. Mo was elite and Andy was rock solid right down to the very end. Matsui and Damon both became free agents before the real ugliness started. Posada was tough for a number of reasons, like his ineffectiveness and who he was and what he meant to the organization.
“In a sense, you almost feel like you’re protecting them against themselves,” added Girardi while talking to Waldstein, “which is difficult because you know they want to be out there all the time. But if you are going to keep them productive through the course of a long season, you could have to protect them, and that’s not always what they want to hear.”
It appears the Yankees have another Posada-esque situation on the horizon, only about a million times worse. Jeter, who is already well past the usual expiration date for shortstops, turns 40 next June and missed just about the entire 2013 season with leg injuries. It was the thing Cashman said they were fortunate to avoid for so long. The Cap’n is broken down. Taking him off shortstop and out of the lineup against right-handers is an obvious move to make on paper, but Derek Jeter the person has to be managed as well.
“I expect him to play and I expect him to do everything in his power to get back to the form that he had in 2012,” said Girardi to Waldstein. “He has a lot of strength that he wants to gain back in his legs and have a normal off-season, and it should be good for him … It could be difficult. Only time will tell how tricky that situation becomes. We all know he wants to be out there every day. And that’s what I love about him, I do. But it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Up until now, Girardi has handled the team’s transition from the dynasty years to … whatever the hell is coming next … about as well as could possibly be expected. The Jeter situation is going to require extra-special care not only because it’s Derek Jeter and he can be a bit of a pain in the ass, but also because he’s the last tie to the dynasty years and a generation of baseball. That’s an iconic page to turn. It’s not a situation any ol’ manager can handle either, at least not handle properly. Girardi has shown he can manage that transition these last few years and he’s by-frickin’-far the best man for the job. His contract negotiations are about much more than pitching changes and second inning sac bunts. He’s essential for getting this team through the next few years.