Doubling down on the skipper

I wrote an article early in the year that fans should take it easy on Joe Girardi, and after his mistakes in the Cleveland series, I still believe this. I stated in my original piece that for the past few years Joe had managed subpar teams way above their talent levels, and this year is no different. I also said how he handled the tricky situations of fixing Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, and Gary Sanchez, and how he manages the Aaron Hicks and Greg Bird return from injuries will shape how management will view the maligned Joe Girardi. Since then, Judge had his best month of his career in September, Chapman has been near perfect since regaining his closer job, and Sanchez was incredible in August and has shown significant improvement behind the plate in the Cleveland series. As for the injuries, Bird has become the arguably the best hitter in the postseason for the Yankees, and Hicks was able to regain his starting spot and was more than serviceable in the playoffs.

Kathy Willens, AP

Joe has fulfilled all the requirements to deserve a new contract, but there is still that situation in Cleveland that his critics will point out. It is tough to defend him on that, he failed on multiple levels throughout the game, and it is his fault they lost his game, but fans shouldn’t expect for a new manager to be perfect. Joe Girardi is a good, even great manager, that made his biggest mistake of his long career as a manager, but let’s slow the roll on letting him go. Memories are short, and many have seemed to have forgotten his excellent bullpen usage in the wild card game and game three of the ALDS.

In the Wild Card game, Joe pulled his ace after only one out and was able to stretch Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Chapman incredibly for an 8 2/3 relief effort to get the win where the bullpen only surrendered one run and set the postseason record for strikeouts for a bullpen. In game three, Girardi had the guts to pull David Robertson out after only one out and put Chapman in for a five out save, which was asking a lot for a closer who pitched two innings just two days ago, and it worked to perfection. Also in game four, where it seemed that Severino was starting to falter in the middle of the game, but Girardi stuck with him enough to get seven innings of three-run ball out of Severino, is another redeeming occurrence in this series. On top of that, he saved Green, Robertson, and Chapman for the decisive game five. 

 David Dermer/AP

In regards to the non-challenge, Girardi messed up that call, and it could cost the team the series, but the Yankees lead the MLB in challenge effectiveness at 71% on the season. One can argue this mistake should be treated as an outlier rather than an indictment on his ability to challenge as a whole. Next, a lot is being made in his post-game comments on that challenge, stating he didn’t get the replay booth didn’t have the slow motion video yet, and he didn’t want to mess up the rhythm of his pitcher, which were both horrible excuses. However, the next day, a much more contrite and emotional Girardi admitted his mistake and talked about how terrible he felt about his error, taking full ownership for the outcome. Some don’t value his second response as much as the first, but his first reaction was right after a gut-wrenching loss, and it was probably still very raw for the manager. Although that isn’t a pass for giving such a ridiculous excuse, it should be noted that it’s not as if the manager cannot admit he was wrong.

New York fans and media are quick to point out the bad but slow to remember to good. We are overly critical of our athletes and coaches in New York because we demand perfection, and it is that standard that drives the success of the cities great dynasties. However, it can come back to haunt them as well, just look at Metlife and the Giants. Fed up with Tom Coughlin, fans called for his job, and their wishes were granted, and Jerry Reese replaced the two-time-Super Bowl champion with Ben McAdoo. The Giants now sit at 0-5 and their coach looks lost as ever, while over in Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin is overseeing an upstart 3-2 Jaguars team that looked incredibly inept this offseason. Many fans probably wish they stuck with Coughlin instead of moving on from him, and there are countless examples of teams moving on from coaches too soon, and regret it for years after.

Girardi’s critics also point to his inability to deviate from structure and numbers, nicknaming him “Binder Joe,” referring to managers attachment to his binder full of advanced statistics, but this isn’t just Girardi. The whole world of sports is heading in this direction, especially the New York Yankees. The Yankees are one of the leading teams using advanced statistics to run their team, and removing Girardi will not cause the organization to change that direction, but instead will most likely mean they will hire someone with similar views as their recently fired manager. Thus, if you hated that part of Girardi before, you will have same distaste with the new manager.

It is rumored that the Phillies and Mets are monitoring the Girardi situation closely, hinting that they would sign the Yankee manager if he went unsigned by the organization. This interest should be telling because these are teams with young cores who hope to compete in the next few years in the postseason, and surely many other organizations are interested as well. On top of this, as stated in my previous article, who would you want to replace Joe? There aren’t many options that the Yankees could and would realistically sign that are better options than Girardi, and even the widely renowned great managers of Terry Francona and Joe Maddon has struggled in recent weeks. Joe Maddon was facing flak for his pitching choices against Bryce Harper, and Francona just let a 2-0 lead disappear to a less talented team. No manager is perfect, and you have to take the good with the bad.

Jim McIsaac/Newsday

As for the outrageously loud boos for the Yankee manager before game three at Yankee Stadium, they were undeserved for a manager that has been contrite for his mistake and has repeatedly taken this team far past expectations. Many point to that if Joe didn’t blow game two they would’ve won already, but they forget how they got to game five in the first place. This team was not supposed to be in a playoff spot at all, let alone taking on the hottest team in baseball, a team that won 22 straight in September, to a game five after going down 2-0. 

Charles Wenzelberg

Dramatically, the Yankees were able to capitalize off that comeback, winning game five in Cleveland 5-2, In that game, Joe once again managed his bullpen to perfection, bringing out Chapman for another six out save. This comeback is the "cherry on top," in the argument to bring back Joe Girardi, you could believe he is the reason they got in that 2-0 hole, but there are only ten teams ever to run the table to win the series, and Girardi's Yankees are one of them. Through all the criticism and difficulties, the Yankee skipper was able to win three straight elimination games, and there are only a few managers in the world who can say the same.

I wrote in defense of Joe Girardi in August and gave ways he should prove himself to deserve a contract extension by the organization, and he has fulfilled all of those and then some. If critics want a perfect manager, they will be sorry when they cannot find one and miss Joe. He has expertly maneuvered this team to a postseason berth they weren’t supposed to get and then doubled down to force a decisive game five in Cleveland. The fans don't always praise Girardi's moves, but he has shown his method works over the years, and if he wants to return to the Yankees in 2018 and beyond, Brian Cashman and company should do their best to retain him.

Article by: Maxx Hotton


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