Joe Girardi has been carrying the loss of his father for nearly a week now. Around noon on Saturday, the Yankees were on a bus, heading to a train station, making their way to Baltimore for Game 1 of this division. That’s when Girardi got the call that his father had died.
He did not tell a single player. Made no public announcement. Did not expect to say anything about it until this series was over. Because of the tears in his eyes on the bus that day, Girardi wore sunglasses to hide his emotions from the team.
“I told a couple people but for the most part no one knew,” Girardi said. “… I didn’t really want to talk about it. I didn’t want to take away from what we were trying to do here, because I know my dad wouldn’t. The one thing my parents always taught me was, finish the job at hand.”
Jerry Girardi suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and had been in a bad shape for several years. Girardi said today that his father didn’t fully understand the World Series win in 2009, and might not have fully comprehended what it meant when Girardi took the Yankees managerial job five years ago. The last time Girardi saw his father was the White Sox series in August.
“I think the best way to describe it is, if I could be half the husband and half the father my dad is, I’d do pretty good,” Girardi said. “He was always there for me, even though he was working three jobs, he was always there for me. He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance, family and the important things in life.
“At times he would be working three jobs at once to support the five kids. So he was a salesman. He would bartend at night a couple nights a week. He would lay bricks on the weekend, which he took me to do that with him, taught me that. So he gave me my first $100 bill at 7 years old because I worked four days with him and was covered in black mortar. We were doing a fireplace. It was a special relationship. Wherever my dad was, I was right behind him.”
Funeral services will be Monday, which means Girardi will miss that day’s workout if the Yankees advance to the American League Championship Series.
“(He was a) huge Cubs fan, loved the other sports, loved basketball, played a year at Bradley,” Girardi said. “So we played in the backyard. He was tough on me when we played basketball. I mean, he’d knock me down. He taught me about how to get back up.”
• Girardi said he’s liked both Mark Teixeira’s and Alex Rodriguez’s at-bats against left-handers, and he could have gone either way in terms of who hit third and who hit fifth today. “I’ve liked Texy’s at-bats, too, against left-handers,” Girardi said. “And Texy has been one of our most productive hitters against left-handers. He swung it really well against Saunders the last time we faced him, too. I could have went either way on that with Alex third and Texy fifth, but you put the switch hitter in between, I don’t mind doing that. I could have gone either way.”
• Rodriguez has hit .308/.410/.514 against lefties this season, and Girardi said he’s not worried that batting Rodriguez fifth will take the bat out of Robinson Cano’s hands. “No, I don’t think so, because Alex has hit them,” Girardi said. “If they want to walk Cano to get to Al, let them.”
• A day later, any concern that last night’s pinch hitting decision will strain the relationship between Girardi and Rodriguez? “I think you have to manage that,” Girardi said. “I think you could see the team attitude of Alex when he hit it. Our guys want to win at all costs. That’s what we have in there, and for that, I’m pretty fortunate.”
• Girardi said he does not think last night’s decision will change the way Rodriguez is handled going forward. “I’m thinking, he’s just in a tough little rut right now,” Girardi said. “He’s had good at-bats against lefties, and I expect him to be productive today. I do. He’s a guy, he had good at-bats against Saunders the time we faced him, and he had good at-bats against Chen the other day. You do have to manage things, and I understand that, but you have a responsibility to everyone.”
• Derek Jeter is going to go through batting practice to prove he can play, but there’s little reasont to think he’ll be pulled from the lineup unless he’s in extremely bad shape today. “He tells me he can’t play (is the only reason to scratch him),” Girardi said. “I would have to see him really running like he was yesterday.”
• How’s the team feeling coming into a potential clinching game? “I think it’s just try to put good at?bats together, pitch well, and just stay in the game, stay in the moment,” Dave Robertson said. “When you get an opportunity to score runs, score runs. When you get an opportunity to get a big out, get a big out. You’ve just got to grind it out with these guys and hope that you get a win. We’ve played a lot of tight ballgames with Baltimore this year, and that just seems to be the way this season is going with them.”
• Same plan as last night in terms of blog content during the game. I’ll be hosting an in-game chat, so swing by to vent or celebrate or ask a question or whatever. Hope to see you then.
Nate McLouth LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Chris Davis RF
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Jim Thome DH
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Flaherty 2B
Manny Machado 3B
LHP Joe Saunders
Associated Press photos