The Yankees are basically a press release away from retaining Joe Girardi as manager. He’s coming off a season in which he was constantly second-guessed by the fan base and the media, especially down the stretch. Like any manager, though, he had a year of good decisions and bad.
I’m not looking for in-game decisions here. Some of those work, some don’t, and it’s impossible to say whether a different choice would have yielded different results. In the course of a season, the big picture choices play out positively or negatively, and those are generally easy to define.
One overriding theme of Girardi’s choices: For better or worse, he trusts and believes in his players.
Three decisions that worked
Taking the fifth: Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes
The Yankees most significant questions heading into spring training involved the number 5: Who would bat fifth and who would be the fifth starter? Girardi went with Cano and Hughes, and both responded in a big way. Cano had an MVP-type season, and Hughes won 18 games as a 24-year-old all-star.
Trusting Tex: In the No. 3 spot, Mark Teixeira rebounded
Teixeira is a notorious slow starter, but it would have been hard to predict him hitting .211 with a .363 slugging percentage on June 6. There were plenty of cries to Girardi to finally give up and move him down in the order, but Girardi kept him in the three hole and Teixeira responded with a .309/.406/.632 slash line from June 8 to September 1, at which point injuries took their toll.
Resting Rodriguez: Days off kept Alex Rodriguez fresh
In his first two weeks off the disabled list, Rodriguez was kept out of the starting lineup three times. The result was a fresh third baseman who had his best month of the season, and never showed any signs of recurring problems. True, he might have stayed healthy and productive without those days off, but Girardi played it safe and got the result he wanted.
Also give him credit for: Recognizing Javier Vazquez couldn’t start… Sticking with Marcus Thames through a brutal spring training… Pushing the right buttons with minor league call-ups in the middle of the season.
Three decisions that didn’t work
Hoping for better: Keeping Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot
Give Girardi credit for his 2009 decision to move Jeter into the leadoff spot, but keeping him there this season was a mistake. Jeter was good in the beginning and at the end, but in between, Brett Gardner’s .383 on-base percentage was a better option at the top of the lineup.
Joba rules: Or maybe he doesn’t
I’m not sure what the alternative would have been, but sticking with Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning didn’t work through the first half of the season. To Chamberlain’s credit, he turned things around at the end of July, but only after allowing at least one run in six of 10 outings from June 27 to July 25. He was prone to complete implosions and only got his season going after Kerry Wood came onboard and took some of that late-inning pressure away.
Bad platoon: Austin Kearns kept getting at-bats
In his first three weeks with the Yankees, Kearns hit very well, but he had only a .164 average with no extra-base hits from August 24 through the end of the season. He was dealing with a few injuries, which might explain the struggles, but it doesn’t explain why he continued to get starts ahead of Brett Gardner against left-handed pitchers. He didn’t get a single at-bat in the postseason, so why play him so much down the stretch?
Also worth questioning: Using Chad Gaudin ahead of playoff pitcher Sergio Mitre down the stretch… Treating A.J. Burnett considerably differently than Vazquez, despite similar seasons… Keeping Francisco Cervelli partnered with Burnett, despite poor results.
Associated Press photos