Joe Girardi does an end-of-the-season press conference every year. It’s standard procedure, and it’s worth doing if only to get the manager’s take on several issues as the Yankees head into the offseason. Why was it so mundane this year?
Because there’s no real mystery for Girardi to address.
The offensive struggles of the postseason went on long enough that Girardi has already talked about them over and over again. Same for his handling of Alex Rodriguez, his take on Derek Jeter’s ankle and his opinion about whether certain players can be productive hitters when it counts. Anything Girardi says about the future is largely speculative because he’s not the final decision-maker.
“I believe we could have won a world championship with the players we had this year, I do,” Girardi said. “We didn’t, but I believe we could have. You look at Kuroda, he has to make a decision. Andy Pettitte needs to make a decision. Soriano has an opt out. Swisher, we have to make a decision on him. Granderson, we have to make a decision on. It just goes on and on and on. Cano is on an option. There’s a lot of players that we have to decide what we’re going to do, but I believe that when spring training starts next year, we’ll be a championship caliber club.”
What does that mean? I don’t know, it’s an optimistic manager speaking with optimism. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Girardi. There wasn’t much he could tell us today, but given the circumstances, there was little reason to expect anything else.
“There’s only going to be one team left standing when it’s over, so there’s going to be a lot of disappointed teams,” Girardi said. “It’s not easy for me to turn a baseball game on and watch it right now because I feel like if we would have played to our capabilities, one of those teams could have been us.”
Here’s Girardi addressing a few other topics:
Is Mariano Rivera coming back next season?
Girardi said he hasn’t spoken to Rivera since the end of the year — and even in spring training Girardi never asked whether Rivera wants to play next season — but Girardi said his expectation is that he’ll have his closer back.
“From watching how he rehabbed, and everything that he was going through – picked up a baseball sooner than he was supposed to and got his hand smacked a little bit – that would tell me that would tell me that Mo probably wants to play,” Girardi said. “But in saying that, it’s a decision that I think he’ll sit down with his family, evaluate where he is maybe a little bit later in this process and how he feels and how his arm feels, to feel like if he can compete at the level he’s always competed at. But I don’t think that you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in possibly coming back.”
Is Andy Pettitte coming back next season?
Similar story in that Girardi hasn’t asked Pettitte about his decision, but unlike Rivera, Girardi seemed to have no sense one way or the other about Pettitte’s future.
“There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him, I know that,” Girardi said. “We saw how he pushed himself to get back and to be a postseason and down-the-stretch pitcher for us going out there where he had 65 pitches, which is not normally something you do at this time of the year. I still think the fire is there, but every year as you get a year older, you have to ask yourself and your family, am I ready to give up eight months of my life. That’s something that he’s going to have to ask himself.”
When will Girardi address his own contract situation?
Next year is the final year of Girardi’s current contract. He said he has no plans of asking for an extension, and he’ll address the contract situation at the end of next season. It’s the same thing he did last time he was in the final year of a contract with the Yankees.
“I expect it to be the same,” he said. “I don’t expect it to change, and I don’t expect to ask to be changed. I understand. I understand how it works here, and I’m okay with that. I’m expected to do my job, and if I do my job, things take care of themselves.”
Does Robinson Cano need a lecture on hustle?
Many of you will be happy to know that Girardi did not dismiss the idea of talking to Cano about the need to hustle more often, especially running hard out of the box.
“Robbie plays every day,” Girardi said. “We expect our players to play hard, lead by example, and do those things. Sometimes frustration sets in. Maybe you don’t run as hard as you should, and that’s learning how to control your emotions. He had, for a little bit, a little tightness in his hip where we had to bring him out of a game, and we addressed that. I will address with every one of our players to play hard. You never know who’s going to drop a popup, or boot a groundball, and put pressure on a team. But sometimes frustration sets in, and that’s one of the things you have to learn to manage.”
Will the Yankees bring Ichiro Suzuki back to the Bronx?
This is the kind of question that’s most interesting heading into the offseason, but it’s also the kind of question Girardi’s not really in a position to answer.
“This is a guy that had a lot of fun playing here,” Girardi said. “You see it on a daily basis and seemed very happy here. Was great to be around, came to play every day, played hard and made adjustments in his game to me because we asked him to play left field, asked him to play center field. And he did those things. He was a treat to be around. As far as what we’re going to do as an organization, I can’t tell you that, but I enjoyed our time with him, I really did.”
What’s the role of Eduardo Nunez going forward?
Nuned was one of the few sparks in the Yankees ALCS lineup, but Brian Cashman has said he sees Nunez strictly as a shortstop, which creates real questions about whether Nunez has a role with the Yankees next year.
“It’s really hard to predict exactly what a guy’s role is going to be right now, because we don’t know who’s on the team,” Girardi said. “But I think this kid has something to offer us. I think we saw that in the Detroit series. There is talent there. There is speed, there is excitement, there is a guy who has the ability, I believe, to be a good shortstop. There is a lot to offer. He brings energy, and I’d have to say he’s one of the favorites in the clubhouse. The guys love him. But I’d say there’s talent there that we’ll try to bring out in him as much as we can.”
Didn’t Yankee Stadium seem to lack energy in the postseason?
Girardi said the relatively quiet postseason crowds at Yankee Stadium could be attributed to Yankees the lack of offense. If you were expecting the manager — especially this manager — to rip the fans or question ticket pricing, you’re crazy.
“I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees,” Girardi said. “We see it on the road when we go on the road. They’re very passionate about us winning. They like to see us score runs, and when you don’t score runs, it seems like every (stadium) is quiet. There’s not a lot to get excited about. You can get in some great pitchers duels where it’s 1-0, but nothing excites a crowd like people running around the bases. That’s just the way it is. We didn’t really have any big offensive explosions during the playoffs, but I know I feel their love, I feel their passion and we feel their disappointment too when we don’t accomplish the things that we want. I think they’re tremendous.”
Associated Press photos