Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting Better

I have become less and less critical of Joe Girardi over the course of his now nearly three years as Yankees manager. This is because he has gotten better and better as a manager. Outside of his guiding the Yankees to the 2009 World Series, what I have been perhaps most complimentary of when it comes to Girardi is his ability and willingness to recognize where he is not doing a good enough job and improving. Hence the title getting better.

In 2008 he recognized he needed to get better with the media, and did. The same year he realized he had to better connect to his players on a light-hearted level, and he did. I won't list everything, because it goes on and on. He really is able to improve himself quickly as a manager, and that is part of what has made him elite as a manager. And he absolutely is elite.

Obviously, this attribute of getting better isn't about how he compares to other managers around the game, it's about how it impacts the team as far as he can control it. Just as obvious, the impact is big. Another example was seen this week against Detroit. Three weeks ago, Girardi had most of the Tri-State Area that are Yankees' fans scratching their heads when he played the B lineup and was not very urgent in his bullpen managment in a rubber game against Tampa Bay. I was having conversations with Yankees fans about this event over a week later, that's how befuddled many were.

After losing the opener of a four game set against Detroit, Joe Girardi managed these last three games more like playoff games than anything else. Which was a beautiful thing. Whether this is him learning from playing the B lineup too frequently, or reacting to being tied in the division a few weeks later in the season, I don't know. But the bottom line is he is adjusting to the circumstances and the results are noticeable. He's playing his best players and being aggressive with his bullpen. Twice this week he used Rivera in non-save situations, something I thought was outstanding. They were four run games, and he clearly had no interest in them becoming eventful. That sends a message that goes something like "we haven't won a series since late July, and it's time to start winning them in the middle of a pennant race." This echoes what Girardi directly said after the Kansas City series, which was something along the lines of losing and splitting series just isn't good enough, we need to win series. That sentiment seems obvious, but it is good to see his managing matching up with his statements. I love it.

Speaking of getting better, the Yankees need Andy Pettitte to get better. He got injured on July 18, his first start after the All-Star Break. At the time it seemed like a mid-August, early-September return at the latest. It's now August 22 and he's still not throwing consistently off a mound. It's been one step forward one step back for a week or two now. Not good. Early September would probably be absolute best case scenario now, and by that I mean first week or two, not the first few days. Mid-September is probably more realistic, and that's without any further setbacks. It's not just about getting him back in time to get him ready for the playoffs, if the Yankees make it. It's that the Yankees need him as they try to win this division and make the playoffs in the first place. As the days go by the impact he is potentially able to make becomes less. The Yankees are doing a good job competing without him, but seeing as he is the Yankees' starter with the lowest ERA, they could really use him in this race for the AL East title.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

I almost want to feel bad for you due to the fact that you have very little to write about when it comes to the Yankees. But then I realize that the reason for this is that the Yankees just keep steam-rolling everyone else and I don't feel badly anymore.

Here's something to chew on though--by all accounts it appears the Yankees will win the World Series this year--they are certainly the front runners. And at the very least you have to think that in the next 3-5 years they will win at least one more championship.

My question is this--if they don't (and I for one think they will win 2-3 more), will the Teixeira and Sabathia signings have been worth it if it means one World Series?

My take is that yes, it is worth it. The expense is one that the Yankees can absorb unlike any other team, so what difference does it make? But I think that there's an argument out there to the contrary and I'm wondering if anyone can make it.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Pat,

I agree with you - looks like Girardi's twisting the knife. The old Pettitte would have been back by now.

Gunn,

Jason Giambi. Got way too much playing time while ineffective, simply because he was paid a lot of money.