“Fire Girardi!” Every time the Yankees stumble, we hear this default cry from a collection of frustrated fans, searching for an outlet to place blame and demand action.
One of the most common scapegoats in sports is the manager or coach, regardless of the source of a team’s struggles. A team’s success is commonly a reflection of how their skipper is leading their team, at least in the eyes of many spectators.
Given the present state of the Yankees, teetering around the .500 mark, and behind a number of teams for the last Wild Card spot, a number of fans have decided to lay heavy blame on Joe Girardi, and demand a change in the dugout. If these fans could step back and take an objective look at Girardi’s job so far, they could all see just how ludicrous such a demand is.
Yes, the Yankees are a mediocre team right now. Yes, it is an uncomfortable situation for fans, given what the norm has been since the late nineties. However, Girardi doesn’t deserve a failing grade. Much of Girardi’s tenure with the Yankees has been a scramble to put a lineup together, starting with his first season in 2008, when a tidal wave of injuries washed playoff baseball away from the old stadium in its final season.
Then, there have been years like 2013, when the Yankees sent out a lineup with the likes of Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner, and Vernon Wells. Girardi juggled new tweaks and additions to his Swiss cheese lineup on a nightly basis, and somehow, kept that type of team in the playoff race up until the final month of the season. He has brought out the best in his bullpens, with new stars like David Robertson and Dellin Betances emerging for a team with the best relievers in baseball since he took over eight years ago.
Girardi has consistently made something out of nothing throughout his tenure with the Bombers. How about when he did have something to work with? After their first playoff absence in 15 years in 2008, the Yanks reloaded in a big way for 2009 by adding CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, and Girardi responded with a championship, and guided them to the ALCS in two of the next three years.
A common complaint about Girardi heard across the radio waves of sports talk shows is his commitment to his stat books, and the analytical aspect of baseball. Is that not just adapting to the times? Sometimes it takes studying to find out which of your hitters has the most success against your current opponent, and maybe the way to get the most out of guys like Jayson Nix is in the numbers.
Of course, a lot of the Girardi backlash could stem from an attachment to the past. Nobody wants to let go of the magical run the Yankees once had, and why would you? That string of success may never be seen again in baseball, but times change, and personnel changes.
Joe Torre didn’t have everything to do with the Yankees success in his tenure, just like Girardi doesn’t have everything to do with the Yankees troubles in his tenure. Both managers have their strong suits, and both have different styles. Is Girardi’s crime that he is simply different than what we saw when the team was constantly winning?
Torre was blessed with an incredible roster, an owner who spent in free agency at all times, and good clubhouse figures to produce champions. He also was incredibly skilled at relating to his players, and helping them buy into their roles so everyone was on the same page to accomplish a goal. Girardi shines the brightest when he mixes and matches what he has, and sends out a group with the best chance to win.
Just because the outcome hasn’t been ideal recently doesn’t mean it’s Girardi’s doing. Fans have to look at the pieces he has been given, and then judge accordingly. Currently, he’s been dealt an aging roster with high fatigue risks, and had to insert people like Aaron Hicks to produce some offense. Still, Girardi is in position to keep the over-.500 streak alive for the franchise.
Girardi should not be the punching bag for angry fans. He is a winning manager who has proven he can thrive with a solid group, and can somehow stay competitive with below average personnel. He’s also capable of bold moves when necessary, like temporarily benching a struggling Alex Rodriguez in the playoffs for Raul Ibanez. That move won a playoff series for the Yanks, and helped send Girardi to his third ALCS as manager.
The Yankees find themselves in frustrating times. They have dished out way too much money for older players, but one thing they have done right is to leave Girardi out of any hot seat talk. Girardi is doing a fine job, and this season should not be placed on his shoulders. Instead, it should be seen as another season where Girardi made the most out of what little resources he had, and stuck to his strengths.
Joe Girardi is not Joe Torre. Both have great managerial credentials, but comparing their outcomes is unfair to Girardi, who deserves credit for his fine work as the Yankees’ skipper.