As we head to October, many have looked back at the job Joe Girardi has done this season and look forward to his lame duck contract status for next season. Tyler Kepner did a profile on him yesterday, looking at the changes he’s made and the expectations he faces heading to October. Our very own Chris H says World Series or bust for Girardi, while RAB’s Joe Pawlikowski appears agnostic.
Let me state up front that I’m a big fan of Girardi. I wanted Torre replaced after 12 seasons (actually after year 10) and like Girardi’s disciplined, thorough approach to managing. We haven’t seen any reporters stump him in a post game show with match ups he was unaware of. The Joba Rules weren’t a personal affront to the manager. We haven’t seen anyone coming up with a sore arm in September from overuse. We didn’t see this team sleepwalk though April and May and then to try to cram for a playoff appearance in September, only to show up in October out of gas. All of these things happened in the latter Torre years, but don’t happen anymore under Girardi.
Don’t be surprised when Girardi wins 2009 Manager of the Year. There really isn’t another AL candidate (except Ron Washington) and winning 100+ games in NY should do the trick. Tigers aren’t that good, Angels/Sox had good, but not outstanding years. If he does win it, that will be his 2nd MOY in his 3rd season of managing. Which is not bad for a guy who some think ‘has no feel for the game’ or ‘anyone could manage this team’ which is a notion that few in Baseball would agree with, due to the expectations attached to the job and the mercurial nature of the game.
But the notion that the Yanks HAVE to make the World Series this year or any other is borderline irrational. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding the nature of the playoffs, almost zero consideration for the other teams, their talent level and their own desire to win. The reality is that there are at least 4 teams on equal footing (Yanks-Dodgers-Red Sox-Cardinals) for the World Series this year, and if Brad Lidge gets his act together in the next 2 weeks you could make that 5 equal teams. All of those teams are every bit as good as the Yanks are overall, stronger in some areas and weaker in others. If the Yanks faced any of them Vegas oddsmakers would have the Yanks as either slight favorites or slight underdogs. They’re evenly matched, and one of the teams that’s a notch below (The Angels) has always given the Yanks trouble. This is not going to be a cakewalk, and if I had to bet my own money, I’d pass on placing a bet.
I understand that winning it all is the goal, but no matter how much you spend on talent it’s still tough to win games. Look at what happened to the Mets this year, who had the highest payroll in the NL. Then once you get to the playoffs, we all know it’s a crapshoot. In a short series anything can happen, bad teams beat great teams all the time. Mike Scioscia’s Angels won 100 games last year and lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS, and I didn’t hear one word about firing him. Actually, they just gave him an insane extension of 10 years. Yet in NY, if the Yanks were to lose a short series to Verlander and the Tigers, everyone would be calling for Girardi’s head.
I think managing the New York Yankees is the toughest job in all of sports. No manager has to deal with the expectations he does, and only Francona has to deal with a media that is as big and as critical as the NY press corps. But he’s up to the job, he embraces the challenge wearing #27 on his back. Joe Torre always went out of his way to lower expectations, understanding the difficulty of the task at hand.
It’s the hardest job in Baseball, period. The nature of the sport and the expectations of the job simply don’t coincide with each other.
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