After looking at some of Girardi’s questionable managerial choices yesterday, it seems only fair to spend some space looking at three of his decisions that paid off significantly. Agreeing is never quite as fun as debating, but here they are.
Derek Jeter as the leadoff hitter
The experiment of Brett Gardner at the top of the lineup and Jeter batting second didn’t even last through the entire first month. By the end of April, Gardner was back in the No. 9 hole, Jeter was at the top, and Curtis Granderson was thriving as the No. 2 hitter.
When Gardner went on one of his extended hot streaks, there were plenty of calls for Girardi to make another change. Jeter looked like a lost cause, Gardner was getting on base regularly, and it seemed time to give up the idea of The Captain playing up to his title.
Of course, Girardi stuck with Jeter, and Jeter made him look like a genius with a terrific second half, when he was clearly a better offensive player than Gardner.
Dave Robertson as the setup man
Initially, Girardi’s hand was forced. Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain both landed on the disabled list, and clearly the Yankees best reliever – non-Mariano division – was the escape artist Robertson. Girardi moved Robertson from the sixth inning to the seventh inning to the eighth inning, and Robertson kept getting the job done.
The tough decision came when Soriano finally came off the disabled list. There seemed to be an expectation that Girardi would cave to Soriano’s contract and his status, but that was never the case. Girardi stuck with Robertson in the eighth inning, and Soriano became the best-paid, most-accomplished seventh-inning reliever in the game.
Of course, it seems like an obvious move now, but Girardi often takes heat for not being willing to make this sort of decision – he tends to favor a lengthy track record ahead of recent results – but he stuck with Robertson’s hot hand, and it paid off.
Jesus Montero being allowed to fail
Remember Jesus Montero’s first Major League at-bat? Bases loaded against Jon Lester, Montero somewhat notoriously swung through a fastball that was way up and out of the zone. It was not a particularly impressive first look, and Montero went hitless that day.
But Girardi kept giving the kid opportunities, and the kid came through with a strong month of September that would have won him a starting spot in the playoffs had the Yankees faced a left-handed starter. Girardi didn’t give up on Montero. If anything, he seemed fully committed to giving him more and more chances.
In a relate move: Girardi’s decision to put Jorge Posada back in the regular lineup for the division series also paid off. Posada was one of the few Yankees to actually hit with any sort of consistency that series.
Associated Press photos