Apparently, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman recommended to Yankee ownership that Joe Girardi not be retained as manager. There are many threads to this to consider, all of which require more than 140 characters or 10 second sound bites worth of consideration. Here is what you need to ponder before calling up sports radio, ranting on social media or opining at the water cooler tomorrow about the Yankees managerial opening:
If you’ve read my stuff before, you know I bring some baggage to this discussion, as I was a consistent critic of Joe’s during the 2017 season. I thought his in game decisions left much to be desired that cost the Yankees more than a couple of games. Being that they lost the American League East by two games, the criticisms are not insignificant. Put a pin in that, I’ll come back it.
But Joe has many strengths as a manager, and there surely is a “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water” aspect to this. He clearly has the ability to keep a few dozen professional athletes with different agendas on the same page for six months – that is no small task – most managers struggle with that, especially in the spot light of NYC.
His ability to handle a daily barrage of asininity from the New York media is the best I’ve ever seen, in any sport (although Allain Vigneault is in the discussion). It was mind boggling how good he was at politely and calmly addressing the same nonsense night after night for 10 years from Simpleton Summer Camp. And again, in NYC, even though this has nothing to do with baseball, it has an enormous amount to do with whether or not you can handle the job.
It’s his skills in those areas, plus I’m sure a handful more that go on outside our purview that have made him successful. As I’ve written previously, it’s not a coincidence the Yankees have fielded some pretty shitty teams over the last decade and yet they’ve still played meaningful games in September every season. If you’re looking for a manager, you certainly could do worse than Joe Girardi – but that may not be reason enough to retain him…
Because those seemingly small, but consistent strategic mistakes may only cost a team two to six games a season, but if you expect your team to be within that range of winning a division, those are significant mistakes, even if they occur in June. If you expect your team to be in the post season, those are colossal mistakes that can be the difference between winning the World Series…or not.
We’ll never know if winning the division would have made a difference to the Yankees’ season, but not having to play the Wild Card game certainly would’ve helped heading into the ALDS.
We’ll never know if Joe’s WTF? level poor decisions in the ALDS would’ve changed things heading into the ALCS. But maybe the ALDS wouldn’t have needed to go 5 games, which certainly would’ve helped going into the ALCS – as it was, they almost won. Imagine if they started the ALDS with a rested pitching staff, where they could dictate the matchups, instead of the circumstances doing so.
Which brings me to my point, in my usual circuitous manner:
The more I watch other managers, the more I feel strongly that there are no good strategists in the dugout. In the past couple of post seasons we’ve seen Terry Francona, Joe Maddon, and Buck Showalter among others make very poor decisions that cost their teams games.
So if the question I’m being asked is, “Was firing Girardi a good move?”, I can’t answer without more information. I would say:
If firing Joe Girardi means you’re going to put someone in the dugout who is going to implement an organizational philosophy based on information, percentages and logic, then this is a good move. (I’m thinking the Yankees version of Bob Melvin, A.J. Hinch or Dave Roberts.)
However, if firing Joe Girardi means you’re going to replace him with John Farrell, Dusty Baker, or another recycle, then no, this was a poor decision. If that’s the direction in which you’re heading you should have just kept Joe.
The ball is in your court, Mr. Cashman.
This issue is not specific to the Yankees, Red Sox or Nationals – it’s systemic. Until there is a manger who is both respected by players and simultaneously is OK with managing games wearing an earpiece where a very smart person can tell him what strategic moves to make, this merry go round will continue. And since we’re talking about a sport that took 70 years to implement a strategy that clearly worked (defensive shifts), we aren’t going to see that anytime soon. Until then, doing what the A’s, Dodgers and Astros are doing is the best route.