Mood Music - Pathway to the Moon by Pathfinder
Remember Joe Torre? When napping in the dugout and ruining the careers of relievers stopped being a cute, quirky Torre-ism and started to actually bother people, he fell out of favor with the front office. Some early playoff exits may have contributed to that too. Actually, some early playoff exits were why he was eventually not brought back and everyone knew it. Not any real issues with his managerial tendencies (although, as I said, you could find them) or specific decisions, but a general feeling that the team hadn't been going all the way and should get a new manager.
It is often said that managers get too much of the credit for the success of the team and too much of the blame for their failures, but that's the nature of the business. We hold leaders and figureheads accountable for results that they likely had little to do with. Whatever your thoughts are on Joe Torre the manager, he was probably doing about the same thing in 1998 and in 2007. It's hard to believe that he suddenly became the problem, but it's also hard to believe that he was a real driving force behind four championships. He was just the manager.
Torre probably had a late hook on his starters, he probably overused some middle relievers, and he probably had his favorites in the clubhouse. When he was replaced, the general feeling was that Joe Girardi could improve on some of those things. Girardi was expected to be a better tactician, but the real question was how he would adapt to being the manager of the New York Yankees.
Joe Torre had managed the Yankees for twelve seasons, presided over a dynasty, and built up a ton of goodwill with the fans and the media. What if Girardi couldn't get out of Torre's shadow? What if he couldn't handle the relentless questions, expectations, and national attention that comes along with the job? Joe Torre had a reputation for handling all of this with a calm and collected manner. Joe Girardi had one year of managerial experience that included a falling out with the front office.
But, now in his fifth season as manager, can anyone recall Girardi having trouble with the media? Or any division in the clubhouse? Or Girardi ever failing to go to bat for someone on the roster*? Of the original concerns with Girardi taking over for Torre, it's hard to say that he has done anything but wildly exceeded expectations.
*And not just the big names either. It's easy to show support and confidence in CC Sabathia or Robinson Cano when they have a few bad games. It's a lot harder to go to bat for Eduardo Nunez and Freddy Garcia when everyone wants them run out of town.
I've been known to criticize his in-game managing. I wish his decision to pull a starting pitcher didn't revolve around the one-hundred pitch idea. I wish that he did a better job of mapping the most important outs late in games to the best relievers. I wish that a pitcher pitching well would be left in the game instead of being pulled for a slight matchup advantage. But, in each of those things, there is a sound philosophy of maximizing the quality of the pitching.
Starting pitchers are conditioned based on pitch count, and you could reasonably expect for their performance to start to deteriorate and their risk of injury to increase when they get too far beyond a certain number of pitches. You can't always predict when the most important outs are going to come, and you'd expect guys to pitch better when they can warm up and prepare with a solid idea of when they're going to be used. Boone Logan and Clay Rapada are much better against lefties. If you have them in your bullpen and want to get some innings and production out of them, use them against lefties.
Part of being a manager is making decisions that there is never going to be a consensus about. I'll happily take a manager who seems to have a logical and consistent approach to his decision making, even if I would sometimes do things a little bit differently. Especially when you consider the fact that he almost always has more information than we do.
Maybe Boone Logan threw a really great bullpen session two days ago. Maybe during the last offensive inning, CC looked noticeably tired in the dugout. Maybe their scouting has tipped them off that Matt Wieters is really having trouble hitting sliders from left handers. There are any number of things that make most strategic decisions nuanced judgement calls and not slam dunks with obviously right and obviously wrong answers.
As of now, Girardi's approach to winning games and leading the team have been fine with me. Dusty Baker thinks that walks clog up the bases, so it could always be a lot worse.