It’s easy to second guess a manager. With the benefit of hindsight and the comfort of distance, it’s easy to point out mistakes and offer alternatives. When the Yankees aren’t hitting, it’s easy to say that Joe Girardi should shuffle the batting order or play someone off the bench or send a player to Triple-A.
But the Yankees haven’t lost four out of five because of their manager.
With this group of hitters, Girardi is pretty much along for the ride. He should be able to put these hitters in any sort of order and expect better than 3-for-41 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees are top five in baseball in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and that’s usually a productive combination, but these hitters have not hit in big situations. That’s the problem.
“The players are here, and they’re very good players,” Girardi said. “It’s just playing to your ability.”
Just yesterday the Blue Jays sent Adam Lind to Triple-A, and the Padres released Orlando Hudson. A few days before that, the Twins optioned Danny Valencia. It’s not unheard of for a team to get rid of somewhat established, everyday players. But the Yankees? With this roster? The Yankees aren’t mix-and-match. They weren’t designed to play the hot hand. This team was put together so that a group of proven players could perform, and the ones who were well past the point of everyday production were assigned specific roles to maximize their remaining value.
The big decisions were made long ago. Success or failure depends entirely on the players doing the job.
Russell Martin has been bad at the plate. But who is there to replace him? Robinson Cano is hitting .176 with runners in scoring position. But is there a player the Yankees can trade for who they’d rather have in a big spot? Steve Pearce has an impressive Triple-A slash line. But on a day-to-day basis, is he really a smarter option than Mark Teixeira and his .228 batting average?
The Yankees lineup is not made up of Lind, Hudson and Valencia.
If Brett Gardner were struggling, he might not have the track record to deserve continued playing time. If Raul Ibanez had been stone cold all year, it might be time to move on. When Eduardo Nunez couldn’t make plays, the Yankees demoted him. When aging Jorge Posada kept struggling last season, he was dumped to a part-time role. When Randy Winn couldn’t hit two years ago, the Yankees released him.
“There’s always a point where you do it,” Girardi said.
But that point is not 38 games into the season. Not with a group of players like this.
“I think you have to be careful because this is not a game you play once a week,” Girardi said. “This is a game that you play every day. Hitters are going to go through peaks and valleys, and if you start trying to time it, it’s probably like trying to time the market. It can be dangerous. As I always talk about, you’re always managing personalities and egos, too. These guys have done it for us. Every year we look up and Tex has 30 (home runs) and 100-plus (RBI). Would I like every one of my guys to hit .350 and have an on-base of .425 with 35 homers? Hell yeah I would. But that’s not going to happen. It’s not. So you have to be patient.”
Patience isn’t exciting, but when it’s up to the players to turn things around, the best thing a manager can do is get out of the way and wait for it to happen. If it doesn’t happen, the failed decisions will be the ones made long before Girardi made out the lineup card.
Associated Press photos