Archive for Joe Girardi
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.
Brian Cashman held his annual end-of-season press conference on Tuesday afternoon and, unsurprisingly, there were no announcements made. Not even a minor one. He fielded questions for about an hour and in typical YankeeSpeak, the GM said a lot of words that had little substance. The team’s higher-ups have a knack for dodging questions and giving vague answers while talking a whole bunch. Anyway, let’s recap the presser:
On Joe Girardi
- Cashman confirmed he met with Girardi “for a while” yesterday and will meet with agent Steve Mandell tomorrow to continue talks. “After tomorrow, I think I’ll get a real good feel for where we’re at,” he said. “I think he likes it here. We’re going to give [Girardi] a real good reason to stay.”
- “His effort and his efforts in pre-game preparation for each series and how he runs Major League Spring Training … he’s been consistently tremendously at it,” said the GM while also crediting Girardi for working with such a poor roster this season. “[His] job as a manager is to make sure these guys compete on a daily basis … I thought he did a great job, him and his staff.”
- Cashman would not comment when asked if the Cubs (or any other team, for that matter) had contacted the team to ask for permission to speak to Girardi. His contract expires November 1st.
- Cashman closed the press conference with a preemptive “no comment” about how things go (went?) with Mandell tomorrow. He told the media not to bother to reach out for an update because he won’t give one. It was kinda funny.
Via Andrew Marchand: Joe Girardi acknowledged having conversations with Robinson Cano about his lack of hustle, particularly running to first base. “I’ve talked to him about it,” said the skipper. “He has played every day. He has been kind of nicked up. I’ve talked to him about it.”
Cano, 30, hit .314/.383/.516 (142 wRC+) with 27 homers in 160 games this year. He doesn’t always run hard down the line though … okay fine, he pretty much never runs hard down the line and many fans hate that. It looks terrible and isn’t exactly something you want to see out of your best player, especially when he’s asking for $300M. It’s annoying but I don’t think it’s a huge deal. Glad Girardi got in Robbie’s ear though.
Via Buster Olney: The Yankees will have to give Joe Girardi a “significant raise” if they want to retain their manager this offseason. He was making $3M annually on his last contract, which expires November 1st. “It comes down to family,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings. “It doesn’t even necessarily have to be in baseball, in a sense,” Girardi said. “It’s just, as I said, it’s not so much the (managerial) circumstances, but what’s best for my crew.”
Girardi, 48, also downplayed his ties to Chicago while talking to the media yesterday, though I suspect that was done (at least in part) to create more leverage against the Cubs. The Cubbies fired manager Dale Sveum this morning. It’s obvious the Yankees are going to have to give their manager a raise if they want to keep him (especially after all the crap they put him through this season), but I guess the question is how “significant” of a raise. I think Girardi is an average-ish in-game manager but based on what we saw this season, he excels in clubhouse and keeping things from becoming chaotic. That’s an essential trait in New York.
Via Andrew Marchand: Joe Girardi remained noncommittal when asked about his plans for next year. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t worry about those details until it is time to worry about it,” said Girardi. “To me, it doesn’t make sense to worry about it, but I love being here. To me, it is wasted energy to worry about it … I haven’t thought of myself [going back to broadcasting]. But, like any other person, when things arise, you sit down and you talk to your family, I talk to my wife, our kids are in school in New York.”
Girardi, 48, will be a free agent when his contract expires after the season. Brian Cashman already confirmed the team hopes to re-sign their manager and last month we heard it was a “foregone conclusion” the two sides would work out a new contract. Just eyeballing it, high-profile teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Angels, and maybe even the Dodgers could have managerial openings this winter. Marchand speculates that FOX could approach Girardi about replacing the soon-to-be-retired Tim McCarver, but that seems unlikely. It would surprise me if Girardi did not return to the Yankees next season, but until he signs a new contract, there is always a chance he will take a different job elsewhere.
This has been a long and occasionally painful season, but it’s still hard to believe there are only ten games and eleven days left on the regular season schedule. The Yankees are three games back of the second wild-card spot in the loss column and their chances of making the playoffs are remote — 3.4% according to Baseball Prospectus — but they do still have a chance. A very small one, but a chance nonetheless.
Soon after the end of the regular season, the BBWAA crew will vote on the various major awards. The playoffs aren’t considered even though the official announcements aren’t made until sometime in November. The last Yankee to win a major award was Alex Rodriguez back in 2007, when he took no prisoners en route to his third MVP. It usually takes that kind of otherworldly season for a Yankee to win a major award because there is some voter bias. At least lately there has been thanks to the dynasty years and all those division titles.
This season doesn’t figure to be any different. The Yankees don’t have a 2007 A-Rod or a 2001 Roger Clemens on the roster, but they do have a handful of players who will garner at least some consideration for the major awards. At this point of the season, it’s hard to think anything that happens between now and Game 162 will change the voters’ minds. Let’s look at which Yankees have a shot at the various awards.
Most Valuable Player
The team’s only serious MVP candidate is (who else?) Robinson Cano. He’s hitting .311/.383/.514 (141 wRC+) and is top ten in the league in both versions of WAR. Obviously his chances would greatly increase if the Yankees sneak into the postseason, but even if they don’t, Cano should get a fair amount of love because he was New York’s only real offensive threat for most of the season. Fairly or unfairly, the voters do take that stuff into consideration. It’s the whole “he had no protection!” idea.
Alfonso Soriano could get some votes because of his huge production following the trade — Jack Curry wrote about this last week — but I have a really hard time seeing that unless he swats like, six more homers from here on out and the Yankees win a wildcard spot. I’m sure it’s happened plenty of times before, but the only time I can remember a midseason trade pickup getting serious MVP consideration was Shannon Stewart in 2003. He hit .322/.384/.470 (127 wRC+) in 65 games for the Twins following the deal while Minnesota went from 7.5 games back to winning the division by four games. The narrative was pretty strong.
I suppose Mariano Rivera could draw some honorary down-ballot votes in his final season, which would be kinda neat. He’s received MVP votes in nine different seasons and has finished as high as ninth in the voting (2004 and 2005). This hasn’t been Mo’s best year — he’s still been pretty great by normal closer standards — and he doesn’t really deserve MVP votes, but who knows what’ll happen. Could A-Rod get a tenth place troll vote or two if they made the playoffs? That would be a riot. Ain’t happenin’ though.
Unless Rivera gets some going away votes — unlikely since this ballot only goes five players deep — the Yankees’ only Cy Young candidate this year is Hiroki Kuroda. He led the league with a 2.33 ERA as recently as August 16th, but he crashed into the fatigue wall this week and is no longer in the mix. Kuroda, who now has a 3.13 ERA and 3.49 FIP in 189.2 innings, could steal a fourth or fifth place vote from a New York writer. It would surprise me though. There are a ton of worthy Cy Young candidates in the so-called Junior Circuit this year.
Rookie of the Year
Do you know who leads Yankees rookies in the FanGraphs version of WAR this season? Melky Mesa at 0.3. He came to the plate 14 times before being released. The Baseball-Reference version is a little kinder and has Adam Warren in the lead at 0.9. Either way, I think you get the point. They don’t have a horse in this race.
Comeback Player of the Year
Finally, an award a Yankee might actually win. Rivera is coming back from his knee injury and has the whole retirement thing going for him, which is probably enough to get him the popular vote regardless of his performance. Mariano is an icon and we’ve already seen how beloved he is around the game, by opposing players and writers alike. I hesitate to call him a shoo-in, but I think you have to consider Rivera the overwhelming favorite here.
There’s a chance Brett Gardner could get some Comeback Player of the Year love, but I would expect all the Yankees-related votes to go to Mo. Eric Hosmer, Scott Kazmir, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana figure to be Rivera’s primary competition. So yeah, his to lose I think.
Manager of the Year
I wrote about Joe Girardi‘s Manager of the Year chances way back in May, and obviously a lot has changed since then. The Yankees were exceeding every possible expectation at the time and we were still expecting guys like Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter to come back and be productive. That didn’t happen and the team faded in a big way during the summer months. They’ve been trying to climb out of the hole for a few weeks now.
Even if the Yankees don’t make the postseason, I think Girardi’s going to get a fair amount of Manager of the Year support because the roster has been decimated by injuries. This wasn’t one or two injuries, this was half the lineup. In some cases their replacements got hurt. It’s not an accident the Yankees have used a franchise-high 56 different players this year. That wasn’t out of the kindness of their heart, they needed all of the warm bodies. Girardi has managed to keep the team in the hunt right down to the final two weeks of the season and that’s pretty remarkable.
Furthermore, I think Girardi has done a masterful job of handling the A-Rod situation. That could have easily been a big distraction — and it was for a while as the two traded barbs through the media — but he’s kept it contained and a non-issue for a good month now. It would have been very, very easy for that whole situation to blow up and become a major daily issue, but Girardi made sure it didn’t. I don’t think he will win the award — John Farrell has the worst-to-first thing going for him — but he’ll definitely get votes and could finish as high as second on the ballot. There isn’t a ton of competition for the award this year.
1. As Mike noted in the recap, Andy Pettitte has been the most reliable starter for the Yankees for several weeks now, and it hasn’t even really been close. On the off chance the Yankees somehow find their way into the play-in game, you’d have to give Andy the nod at this point. Right? It’s pretty nuts how the oldest pitcher in the game is basically the stalwart of the rotation once again, but baseball is weird like that. Plus, as we all know, Andy is a True Yankee™ and knows how to get it done. (Now if only the rest of the damn team were capable.) Unfortunately, even if the Yankees manage to squeak into the playoffs, they aren’t exactly geared for a run. Even in a crapshoot environment, having one capable starting pitcher and Robinson Cano is generally not enough to win a series.
2. I typically don’t put too much stock into a manager’s influence on a team other than the in-game decisions that he makes. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that some of the managers are able to deflect the media off the players or deploy a shift appropriately, but ultimately, I’ve always kind of put the burden on the players at the end of the day. I have to give Joe Girardi some major credit this season though. He’s had to cope with far more challenges than most of his peers I think. The team had a disappointing offseason heading into the year, and has been saddled with injuries ever since. Despite a (-17 run differential, 74-77 Pythag. record), the Yankees have miraculously managed to retain hope of playoff contention (though that’s rapidly fading) late into the season. Many of us (including me) didn’t see that happening when they were having that awful stretch in August. It’d be pretty cool if he won the Manager of the Year Award this go around. Well done, Joe.
3. Last night on Twitter, I somewhat sarcastically stated that the team had more non-hitters in its lineup at this point then hitters. The more I thought about it though, the more my sentiments kind of rang true. Here was last night’s lineup along with their respective wRC+.
- CF Curtis Granderson (109 wRC+)
- DH Alex Rodriguez (131 wRC+)
- 2B Robinson Cano (140 wRC+)
- LF Alfonso Soriano (108 wRC+, 122 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- 1B Lyle Overbay (90 wRC+)
- 3B Mark Reynolds (98 wRC+, 121 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- RF Ichiro Suzuki (72 wRC+)
- SS Brendan Ryan (45 wRC+, 75 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- C Chris Stewart (56 wRC+)
Having Overbay batting fifth hurts a lot, though probably not as much as the offensive void that is Suzuki, Ryan, and Stewart. It’s tough to score runs when five of your players are below-average hitters overall. I suppose, if there is silver lining to be seen here, it’s that some of these castoffs have been offensively revived a bit since joining the Yankees. So, kudos to you New York for maximizing talent from sub-par or aging players. Also, please stop putting the team in the position of having to depend on so many sub-par or aging players at once.
4. This has definitely been the season of “what ifs,” at least for me anyway. What if the Yankees had a capable catcher all year? What if CC Sabathia didn’t fall off a cliff? What if Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira were around all season? Could the Yankees have that elusive Wild Card spot locked up already if they caught a break, anywhere really? Possibly. Probably. I don’t know. Unfortunately “what ifs” are just that. Useless hypotheticals. That said, it’s incredibly frustrating that in spite of the circumstances, the Yankees have had more than a fair opportunity to make the playoffs.
The Rays and Rangers have gone out of their way to play miserable baseball for weeks now. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Indians seem to be more than willing to concede their playoff berth as well as they’ve both had plenty of timely losses. I don’t know where I’m going with this last point other than if the team winds up missing the playoffs – and they probably will – they have no one to blame but themselves. Unfortunately, as Mike noted in his rant the other day, if they do make the playoffs, it’ll probably further mask some of the more serious underlying concerns surrounding the team heading forward.
Via David Waldstein: Joe Girardi held a “stern postgame meeting” following Sunday’s loss to the Red Sox to let the team know he was disappointed with their effort in the three-game sweep. “We stunk here,” said the skipper. “We didn’t play well here. But we’ve got options. We can either continue to stink or play better. If we play better, we have a shot.”
The Yankees have held team meetings under Girardi before — including last month, during the sweep by the White Sox in Chicago — but the message has always had some kind of positive spin. “We’re better than this, let’s not make losing a habit,” that type of stuff. This is the first time I can remember hearing about Girardi ripping into the team, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before. This is the time to be stern anyway. The time for delivering a gentle message has come and gone.
Via Ian O’Connor: Joe Girardi said he will talk to Mariano Rivera after the season just to make sure he definitely wants to retire. “He’s made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to [return], but I always say, you know, January rolls around and sometimes you have a different feel about what you want to do,” said the skipper. “I’m sure I’ll talk to him at some point in the offseason, and I’ll tell him when the season’s over, ‘Take a month. Take a month and a half, two months, and make sure this is really what you want to do. Because once you do go, it’s hard to come back.’”
Rivera, 43, has been as good as ever this season, going 40-for-45 in save chances with a 2.12 ERA (3.09 FIP). I don’t think it’s a question of whether Mo could come back next year and be effective, it’s a question of whether he actually wants to go through the grind and be away from his family for another year. Rivera was pretty adamant this would be his last season when he announced his retirement plans — he even acknowledged last year would have been his final season if not for the knee injury — and I have no reason to think he’ll change his mind. Not after the season-long farewell tour and all the going-away ceremonies the Yankees have planned for later this month.
Via Jon Heyman: It’s a “foregone conclusion” the Yankees and Joe Girardi will work out a new deal when the manager’s contract expires after the season. “[Hal Steinbrenner] loves Joe,” said a source to Heyman. Brian Cashman confirmed they hope to re-sign him earlier this season.
In my opinion, the 48-year-old Girardi has done by far his best work as the team’s skipper this season. The Yankees still have a shot — albeit a small one, obviously — at the postseason despite all of the injuries and under-performance, plus his handling of the Alex Rodriguez circus has been masterful. The front office hand-picked Girardi for the job close to six years ago now, and as I’ve said before, I think the only way he doesn’t return after the season is if he decides he head elsewhere. I have a hard time thinking that will happen.