Archive for Joe Girardi
No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades this year, A through F. We start today with the A’s.
Let’s not kid ourselves here — not a whole lot has gone right for the Yankees this season. Not only have they dealt with a ton injuries, but they’ve also dealt with a ton of re-injuries as well. Mark Teixeira (wrist), Kevin Youkilis (back), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), and Derek Jeter (ankle, quad) all got hurt against almost immediately after coming off the DL. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.
Despite all that, the Bombers sit seven games over .500 and just three games back of a playoff spot. They’re probably further back than they would like, but they are definitely still in the hunt despite all those injuries and re-injuries. The performance of the guys in this post is a big reason why. Here are the Grade A’s.
All of the injuries mean Cano has to be The Man, and that is exactly what he has been overall. Robbie is hitting .302/.386/.531 (143 wRC+) with 21 homers while starting every single game this year (91 of 95 at second base). He’s played 807.1 of 849.1 possible defensive innings (95.1%), which is nuts. Dude is an iron man. That offensive performance is right in line with what he’s done the last three years, and in fact his OBP is a career-high because he’s started taking walks when pitched around. Cano went through a stretch where he was flailing at pitcher’s pitches for a while. Thankfully that has ended. Robbie has been an absolute rock for the Yankees this season and deserves to be in the MVP conversation at this point.
Remember when there was concern about how Kuroda, an older pitcher coming from a big park in the NL to a small park in the AL, would transition to pinstripes? That seems silly now. Kuroda has pitched like a legitimate ace this year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 3.62 ERA FIP in 118.2 innings. Among qualified AL starters, he ranks second in ERA behind only Felix Hernandez (2.53). That’s pretty remarkable considering his home ballpark. Kuroda was a huge All-Star snub — seriously, they took Chris Tillman (!) before him — but I’m totally fine with him getting four days to recharge the batteries for the second half. The Yankees are going to need him. Kuroda has been brilliant since coming to New York and especially this year. What a stud.
Forty-three years old? Missed almost all of last season with a knee injury? No big deal. Rivera has been as good as ever in 2013, going 30-for-32 in save chances with a 1.83 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 34.1 innings. He’s actually giving up more hits than usual, but it seems like most have been weakly hit bloopers that just find some outfield grass. Hopefully his .333 BABIP returns to his .264 career average in the second half. The Yankees have relied on their pitching staff heavily this year, and Rivera has been there to shut the door and preserve every lead time after time. I can’t believe he’s retiring after this season; it looks like he could pitch forever.
Rivera can’t do it all himself, of course. Robertson continues to be elite as his setup man, pitching to a 2.11 ERA and 2.51 FIP in 38.1 innings. The control-challenged right-hander cut down on his walks in the second half last season and that has carried over to this year — his 2.82 BB/9 (8.0 BB%) is far better than his 4.10 BB/9 (10.8 BB%) career average. Robertson and Rivera are arguably the best setup-closer combination in baseball, and the Yankees are lucky to have such an elite end-game duo. They’ve leaned on these guys a ton this year and they continue to get the job done.
Yes, every manager makes questionable pitching changes and calls for weird double-steals from time to time. It comes with the territory. But think about the job Girardi has done controlling what could have been a very chaotic situation. Players are getting hurt seemingly non-stop and the Yankees have played just about .500 ball since the calendar flipped to May, but things around the team remain relatively calm and orderly. This season could have very easily spiraled out of control, but Girardi has prevented that from happening. He deserves a lot of credit and should get Manager of the Year consideration in a few months.
June 3rd: Cashman confirmed to Ian O’Connor that the team does indeed want to re-sign Girardi. “We’d like to have Joe Girardi back … We have a great interest in keeping him, and hopefully Joe will be here. I think there’s really no reason to believe Joe won’t be here,” said the GM to no one’s surprise.
May 18th: Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have not yet had contract extension talks with either Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman. Cashman is under contract through 2014, so that’s no big deal, but Girardi’s deal expires after this season.
The Yankees do not negotiate new contracts until the current one expires thanks to their archaic team policy, and right now I have no reason to believe they won’t try to bring Girardi back after the season. The team is far exceeding post-injury expectations and the credit for that deservingly goes to the manager. If Girardi doesn’t return, my guess it will be his decision — wants a new challenge, another club makes a huge offer, burnout, etc. — and not the team’s.
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.
Spring Training is less than a week old, but we’ve already spent an awful lot of time talking about Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency. It’s going to be a major story from now right up until he signs his new contract, either with the Yankees or another team. We’ve also talked very briefly about Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson, two important Yankees who will also become free agents next winter. Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan have been free agency afterthoughts so far, but they are important pieces of the bullpen.
Those five players do not represent the team’s only notable impending free agents, however. Joe Girardi is a lame duck manager at the moment, entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed during the 2010-2011 offseason. It will be his sixth season with the team and his success is undeniable: one World Championship, two other ALCS appearances, three division titles, four postseason berths and four 95+ win seasons. As expected, Girardi has said all the right things and handled his lame duck status well so far.
“My faith is that God is going to put me where he wants me,” he said last week. “That’s what I believe. I don’t worry about where I’m going to be next year. We’re probably going to get into this later, so I’ll say it, we talk about payroll – I’m not worried about next year’s payroll. I’m worried about the next 162 games and getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series. That’s my concern. That’s what I worry about. I think in the game of baseball you get a lot of practice only worrying about that day or that year as a player, as a coach, as a manager, because you never know what it’s going to be. When I signed, I was called up in 1989 and thought I’d be a Cub the rest of my life. Lo and behold, I was with three other teams, back with the Cubs. I was all over the place. So you get used to not worrying about next year, and I’m not worried about it.”
As I wrote in our Season Review, I don’t think Girardi had a great year in 2012, at least compared to his first four years on the job. He has his annoying tendencies — specifically ill-timed intentional walks and sacrifice bunts in the early-to-mid-innings — like every other manager, but he typically does a very good job running his bullpen and keeping his older players rested. There haven’t been any whispers of clubhouse problems — though the team does go out of the way to acquire good makeup players — over the last five years, so Girardi’s clubhouse skills should be considered a plus as well.
Now, that said, big league manager is one of those jobs with a relatively short shelf life. Unless the guy has immediate and unprecedented success like Joe Torre, the odds of him sticking around for 10+ years are tiny. Only eight managers have been with their current team longer than Girardi, and there are more than a few teams who have cycled through multiple managers over the last five seasons. Managers typically lose effectiveness when they’ve been around too long, mostly because their style becomes routine and players get a little too comfortable (i.e. Red Sox and Terry Francona). I don’t see any reason to think that’s happened with Girardi’s team yet.
The Yankees have a very wide range of possible outcomes this year, and how they finish will inevitably impact the decision whether to retain Girardi. Everything could click and they would win 95+ games or everyone could break down and they could finish in fourth place. Girardi would clearly be retained — or at least offered the opportunity to stay — should the former happen, but I don’t think the latter would automatically result in his dismissal. It depends why they finished in fourth, really. Did all the old guys who are injury risks get hurt, or did important players underperform? Only one of those can really be charged to the skipper, and even that isn’t cut and dry.
The last time the Yankees needed a manager, they only interviewed three candidates: Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena. Brian Cashman said afterwards they interviewed only those three because they were familiar with the Yankees and the market they play in, which is why no outside candidates were brought in. Outside of Pena, pitching coach Larry Rothschild (first manager in Devil Rays history), and I guess Mattingly (contract is up after this season), I don’t know who else the team could bring in to meet that “familiar with New York” criteria. Then again, they could always change course.
Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner hand-picked Girardi for the job following the 2007 season, so I have a hard time thinking they’ll replace him next winter for something less that an outright clubhouse mutiny. He’s a fine manager — I don’t think he’s top five or even top ten, but clearly better than average in terms of on-field decisions — and has done a better job of handling the media over the years. Girardi could always choose to leave on his own for another job, but he didn’t even let the Cubs make him an offer three years ago. If he didn’t walk away for his hometown team, I can’t imagine what it would take to lure him away. Girardi is already one of the two or three highest paid managers in the game, so that’s not an issue.
Obviously the Cano, Hughes, and Granderson free agencies are much more important than the manager’s, especially since their salaries will be impacted by the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year. The skipper’s salary is separate and, theoretically, not limited by any kind of payroll threshold. Maybe the Yankees won’t want to pay their manager top dollar anymore — “I don’t believe you need a top-five salaried manager to win,” sure sounds like something Hal Steinbrenner would mutter these days — but I’ll believe that when I see it. Barring something completely unexpected, Girardi seems like a safe bet to re-sign with the team this winter and lead them for another three years or so.
Evaluating a manager and his coaching staff is a very difficult thing for outsiders. The vast majority of their work takes place behind the scenes, so we’re left looking for clues in places they might not be. That pitcher learned a changeup? Great job by the pitching coach! That hitter is only hitting .250 when he usually hits .280? Fire the hitting coach! We have no idea what clues we dig up are actually attributable to the coaching staff, so we end up guessing.
Because of that, I don’t want to review Joe Girardi and his coaching staff in our typical “What Went Right/What Went Wrong” format. This review is almost entirely subjective and we can’t really pin anything (good or bad) on the coaching staff specifically. We know Curtis Granderson essentially revived his career after working with Kevin Long two summers ago, but having a specific example like that is very rare. Instead, we’ll have to take a broader approach.
I think 2012 was Girardi’s worst year as Yankees’ manager. Every manager makes questionable in-game moves during the season, but I felt Girardi made more this year than he had in any year since 2008, and it all started in the very first inning on Opening Day with the intentional walk to Sean Rodriguez. That still bugs me.
Girardi has long been considered a strong bullpen manager given his ability to spread the workload around and squeeze water out of scrap heap rocks, but this year he leaned very heavily on Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Rafael Soriano. Working Soriano hard wasn’t a huge deal because he was expected to leave after the season, but Logan made more appearances in 2012 (80) than any other reliever under Girardi, including his time with the Marlins. Robertson appeared in 65 games despite missing a month with an oblique injury. Part of it was a lack of alternatives (blame the front office for that) and the tight race, but this was something that started before the Yankees blew their ten-game lead.
Girardi also had two notable meltdowns (for lack of a better term), lashing out at a fan following a loss in Chicago and then getting into a shouting match with Joel Sherman after calling him into his office. Maybe my conduct standards are too high, but that kind of stuff is a major no-no in my book. It stems from pure frustration and there is zero good to come from it. Girardi didn’t have a bad year as manager, he did a fine job guiding the team despite an overwhelming about of injuries, but I feel that he’s had better years in the past.
Larry Rothschild & Kevin Long
When the Yankees hired Rothschild as pitching coach two years ago, he came to the club with a reputation of improving both strikeout and walk rates. That is exactly what has happened overall, and we can see it specifically with someone like CC Sabathia (strikeouts, walks). Obviously the personnel has changed over the last few years, but the Yankees managed to get productive seasons from scrap heap pickups like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia last year while getting better than expected production from Hiroki Kuroda and even Andy Pettitte this year. We don’t know how much of a role Rothschild played in all of this, but the team’s pitching staff has exceeded expectations the last two years.
Long, on the other hand, came under big-time scrutiny following the club’s offensively-inept postseason showing and Mark Teixeira‘s continued decline from elite all-around hitter to pull-happy, one-dimensional slugger. At same time, he remade Granderson and helped Robinson Cano go from good to great. Long does preach pulling the ball for power and apparently that contributed to the team’s poor postseason, but the roster overall is built around guys who pull the ball for power. Outside of Cano and Derek Jeter (and later on, Ichiro Suzuki), the Yankees lacked hitters who could hit to the opposite field. Like Rothschild, we don’t know how much a role Long has played in all of this, and I’m not even convinced preaching power these days is a bad thing given the decline in offense around the league.
Tony Pena, Mike Harkey, Rob Thomson & Mick Kelleher
Not really much to add here. Thomson, the third base coach, does have a knack for being a little overly-aggressive with his sends in tight games while at other times he will hold guys who would have clearly been safe, but every third base coach does that. The Yankees have had an above-average stolen base success rate in recent years (77-79%), so I guess Kelleher is doing a fine job of reading moves and relaying that info over at first base. Other than that, we have very little basis for which to judge these guys on. Despite the whole “everyone should be fired because there are obviously better coaches available!” mentality than can fester following an embarrassing playoff loss, all indications are the entire staff will return fully intact next year.
The Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers almost a week ago, but it wasn’t until today that Joe Girardi conducted every manager’s annual end-of-season press conference. He said the team has yet to look back and evaluate the 2012 campaign just because everyone takes a few days off to be with their families and kinda get away from baseball immediately after the season ends. They’ll obviously evaluate the club top to bottom in the coming weeks. Here are the important notes from the press conference…
On Alex Rodriguez…
- “These were things that we evaluated a lot before we made our decisions,” said Girardi when asked about benching A-Rod in the postseason. “I don’t go back and second guess myself.”
- Girardi has not yet spoken to Alex (or any other player for that matter) about their relationship, but said “that will take place … it just hasn’t yet.” He isn’t worried about things being strained but acknowledged that actions have consequences and he will deal with them if need be.
- Girardi said he believes A-Rod was healthy in the postseason and was just struggling, particularly against righties.
- “Can Alex be a very good player again? Absolutely, I don’t have any question in my mind,” said the skipper. He praised A-Rod’s baseball smarts and said he expects him to be his everyday third baseman next season.
- Chad Jennings has Girardi’s full quotes about A-Rod if you aren’t sick of hearing about it yet.
On the playoffs…
- “Yes it was somewhat puzzling,” said Girardi on the offense’s struggles. He attributed Robinson Cano‘s disappearing act to being pitched well and just falling into a poorly-timed slump. He did acknowledge that Robbie was frustrated, which likely compounded the problem.
- Girardi said he doesn’t think the team’s unfavorable postseason schedule contributed to their lack of hitting, ditto all the tough games they had to play down the stretch in September. He basically said he doesn’t believe his team was worn out after a month of playoff-type games.
- “I hope not,” said Girardi when asked if he may have he lost the trust of some players by sitting them in the postseason. “I was making moves trying to win ballgames … I’ve been honest with our players and I will continue to do that, and I will do my best for this organization to win every game.”
- Girardi attributed the dull Yankee Stadium atmosphere in the postseason to a lack of scoring on the team’s part, nothing more. “I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees (because) we see it even on the road.”
- “(It has) not taken place,” said Girardi when asked if CC Sabathia has gone to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. He is encouraged by his ace left-hander’s performance in September and the ALDS and he expects to have him in Spring Training. “We’re always concerned that it’s maybe something more than you think it is … I don’t like people going to see doctors (but) sometimes people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is okay.”
- “We expect him to be back and playing for us next year on Opening Day,” said Girardi about Derek Jeter and his fractured ankle. He added that there are always concerns following a surgery, including Jeter pushing his rehab too hard and having some kind of setback.
- Mariano Rivera did throw sooner than expected this year but Girardi never did ask him if he will definitely return next season. “I don’t think you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in coming back,” he said.
- There were no undisclosed or “hidden” injuries this year, so to speak. Russell Martin‘s hands are banged up but that is typical catcher stuff and isn’t a long-term concern.
- Both hitting coach Kevin Long (elbow) and third base coach Rob Thomson (hip) will have surgery this offseason, if you care.
On free agents and the team moving forward, etc…
- “There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him,” said Girardi about Andy Pettitte, but he doesn’t know if the veteran southpaw will return next year. He expects him to discuss things with his family before making a decision.
- He mentioned briefly that like Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda is among the players who will make a decision about his future and playing beyond this year.
- Girardi said he was unsure about Ichiro Suzuki coming back next year but he knows the veteran outfielder enjoyed his time in New York. He also praised Ichiro for making adjustments like playing left field and batting towards the bottom of the order.
- “I think this kid has something to offer us,” said the manager about Eduardo Nunez while also acknowledging that his role for next year is undetermined because other parts of the club are unsettled. “There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, he has a lot to offer.”
- “There’s a lot of players we have to decide what we’re going to do with, but I believe when Spring Training starts next year, we’ll be a championship club,” said Girardi, acknowledging that the team has a lot of players with open contract situations.
- He also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter (i.e. Nick Swisher) if that happens this winter.
- Girardi acknowledged that the team has a busy offseason coming but doesn’t expect the chaos to be a problem. “Sometimes quiet is a bad thing,” he joked.
On the status of him and his coaches…
- “No. The pressure you see I put on myself,” said Girardi when asked about the pressure of entering a contract year. He doesn’t expect the team to talk about a new deal until his current one expires and he doesn’t anticipate asking for an extension before then either.
- Girardi expects the entire coaching staff to return next year but again pointed out that the team has not yet discussed everything.
- Girardi praised his role players for stepping up into more prominent roles than expected this year, mentioning Raul Ibanez, David Phelps, and Cody Eppley by name.
- When asked about Cano’s general lack of hustle down the line to first base, Girardi said he “will address with every player to play hard.”
4:19pm: Girardi’s father actually passed away on Saturday, though the news did not become public until today. Still sad though, I wish the Girardis the best.
3:39pm: Joe Girardi‘s father Jerry passed away today at age 81 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He still lived in the family’s hometown of Peoria, Illinois, and Joe would often visit him on the team’s scheduled off-days. Girardi is a tough guy and he’s always credited his father for that, and he will remain with the team and manage tonight’s game. Condolences to Joe and his family.
The Yankees are mired in a brutal second half slide that has seen them lose 27 of their last 52 games and blow a ten-game division lead. They still remain tied atop the AL East because the Orioles can’t seem to find a way to break through to take over sole possession of first, but any time a team crashes as hard as the Bombers have, the manager’s job security will come into question. Fair or not, it happens.
Two weeks ago I said that I would be surprised if Joe Girardi keeps his job through the winter if the Yankees miss the postseason only because situations like that call for a scapegoat, and the manager is as good a scapegoat as any. Ken Rosenthal wrote yesterday that Girardi is “a good manager who doesn’t deserve to be fired” while also acknowledging that he’s likely to be on the hot seat if the Yankees fail to make the postseason. Although Girardi was hand-picked for the job by Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner and remains under contract through next season, I can’t imagine a second playoff-less season in five years would sit well.
It’s probably worth noting that Girardi has had some blow-ups in recent weeks — he lashed out at a fan in Chicago and got into a shouting match with Joel Sherman after calling him into his office — which were very uncharacteristic. Could the stress of the collapse be getting to him? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know, but the narrative can be spun any way you choose. Point being, the two incidents could give the brain trust more of a reason to part ways with their skipper of five years after the season if there is no October baseball in the Bronx.
From Andrew Marchand…
The issue of (CC Sabathia)’s health led to Girardi ending up nose-to-nose — like he might with an umpire — with [Joel Sherman of The New York Post]. During his postgame news conference, Girardi was asked about Sabathia’s health and he said he was fine. The columnist was in the back of the scrum and could not clearly hear the previous answers.
“I think you might have just been asked my question,” he said. “Are you convinced that CC is healthy?”
Girardi said, “Yes, that’s the third time. He’s healthy.”
What followed was a rigid exchange between reporter and manager. After the news conference, Girardi invited the writer into his office and the two ended up nose-to-nose, yelling before security stepped in between them.
The Yankees suck right now. They’ve won just six of their 18 last games and the division lead is down to zero. They’re playing terribly and everyone is frustrated — you, me, the players, the coaches, the front office, everyone. That said, Girardi is the team’s daily spokesman and public figure of authority, so he above all else must remain composed regardless of how chaotic things get on the field or in the standings. That’s his job as much as filling out the lineup and changing pitchers. I’d argue moreso.
Girardi, obviously, did not remain composed last night. He lashed out in frustration at a reporter, probably the worst possible thing he could have done outside of a physical altercation with a fan. It’s the media’s job to dig and dig and dig, hoping for moments just like this. It makes for great copy. Girardi and his team are going to get torn to shreds by the media not just for their play anymore, now the conversation moves on to their mental state and their ability to remain poised during this tough stretch. It’s an unwanted distraction the club will have to deal with not just today or tomorrow, but pretty much any time things get tough on the field during the next few weeks. Now that the skipper has revealed his boiling point, the questions and probes from the media will only get tougher.
I understand that Jerry Meals made a laughably bad call to cost the Yankees a game, but Girardi is the proverbial adult in the room. He can’t lose his cool, at least not publicly. If he wants to yell at his players behind closed doors or slam his hat and kick dirt on the umpire on the field, fine. But he overstepped his bounds last night and frankly it’s not the first time it’s happened during this slide — remember when he lashed out at the fan in Chicago a few weeks ago? It reflects horribly on Girardi and his ability to remain in control when the adversity ramps up. The guy calling the shots is supposed to be the last one to crack, not the first.
Via Marc Carig, manager Joe Girardi called a team meeting following Friday night’s loss to the Orioles. Girardi was the only one to speak and he took a “reassuring tone,” just telling his club to relax. The meeting only lasted for a few minutes.
The Yankees have been playing what amounts to .500 ball since the All-Star break and have been especially crappy of late, yesterday’s win notwithstanding. A little talking to was certainly in order. Both Girardi and Brian Cashman held a team meeting back in May and the message was more of the same, but the Yankees went on to win five straight and 20 of their next 24. Let’s hope this meeting is just as effective as that one.