Associated Press photos
Now that Stephen Drew is officially on the roster, manager Joe Girardi sees a benefit to having Drew and Brendan Ryan sharing a clubhouse with young shortstop Didi Gregorius.
“It’s nice having a veteran shortstop presence with (Drew) and Brendan for a young kid like Didi,” Girardi told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. “Guys that have played the position. You look at Stephen Drew, he has played on a world championship team. He understands what it’s like to play in the American League East, and so does Brendan Ryan. I think it’s going to be really helpful to Didi.”
But even with that shortstop trio in place, Girardi isn’t ruling out the idea of Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela winning a spot on the roster.
“They’re going to have a chance to make the team,” Girardi said. “Obviously, when you put someone like Stephen Drew in front of them, I understand that’s probably extremely frustrating, but just continue to work extremely hard, and your opportunity is going to come.”
Associated Press photo
Girardi walks a fine line in managing A-Rod • 11.11.14
Later today, the BBWAA will announce its choices for Manager of the Year, and we already know Joe Girardi will not finish in the top three. I had a Manager of the Year vote this year, and Girardi did not appear on my three-person ballot. That’s not to say I thought he did a bad job — I actually thought Girardi had a pretty good year — but it’s hard to vote for a manager whose team largely underperformed, even if the manager himself might be not at fault.
I bring it up only because this morning I was reminded of one thing Girardi does pretty well: He handles the Alex Rodriguez situation.
Whatever the Alex Rodriguez situation of the moment might be — fighting with the front office, suspended for performance enhancing drugs, thoroughly unable to hit — Girardi stays on A-Rod’s side without necessarily condoning his actions.
“We live in a forgiving world in the sports world,” Girardi said. “His job and his main concern has to be just getting prepared to play and doing his job. That’s what he needs to do.”
That’s the only thing Girardi can say at this point. He’s neither judge nor jury. He’s not a lawyer. He doesn’t determine Rodriguez’s salary, decide whether his contract is void, or have any say in whether Rodriguez is suspended or active. Girardi’s the manager, and so he manages. And when it’s come to arguably his most difficult player, Girardi’s managed pretty well.
These are the past three years of the Girardi/A-Rod relationship:
2012: Rodriguez’s bat went stone cold down the stretch, which prompted Girardi in the postseason to replace him with late-inning pinch hitters or bench him against right-handed starters. Rodriguez never outwardly complained. In fact, he seemed to genuinely respect the decision. “I’m Joe’s biggest fan,” Rodriguez said that October. “Joe has always respected me the utmost, and I’ve given it right back to him.”
2013: Rodriguez returned from a hip injury only to be suspended, appeal the decision, and engage in an uncomfortable war of words with the Yankees front office. Brian Cashman acknowledged it was awkward for him to have a conversation with his third baseman, but Girardi said, “I haven’t seen our relationship change.” Girardi kept the relationship all about baseball, and in the middle of all the organizational tension, when Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster threw at Rodriguez during a game in Boston, Girardi went berserk. “You just can’t throw a baseball at someone because of your feelings toward them,” Girardi said. “I don’t care what the hitter has done or allegedly done. I will defend that person until I’m blue in the face.”
2014: Rodriguez was suspended for a full season. His name was rarely mentioned during the season, and he was still mostly out of sight and out of mind until this month when new reports opened fresh dialogue about his misdeeds. Some of it seemed custom made for reality television or dark episodes of Scandal: drug deals, cover ups, accusations of urinating on the floor. Even though he’s clearly knows about all of it, Girardi moves on as if he’s ignored it.
“My job is to get him ready to play baseball and to make sure he’s in that right frame of mind,” Girardi said this morning. “I’ll watch him carefully, and we’ll talk. We have open lines of communication, and like I said, I’ll see where he’s at. I won’t make it public, but I’ll see where he’s at.”
Everything about Rodriguez’s off-the-field noise seems to go against Girardi’s very core as a person. There are awkward conversations to have with his children. There are awkward questions to answer with the press. There are awkward messages to send to the public. But Girardi handles it as well as could be expected. He supports Rodriguez as a player and shows genuine concern for him as a person, but Girardi leaves no doubt that he disagrees with Rodriguez’s many poor decisions as a liar and a cheat.
Girardi moves on because he has little choice but to move on.
“When Alex has walked into spring training, when hasn’t there been a lot of attention on him in the last five years?” Girardi said. “Yeah, there’s going to be attention, some of it is going to be negative, some of it will be positive. We’ll deal with it. … My job is worrying about preparing him to play, and making sure that he’s prepared and how he’s doing physically every day.”
Associated Press photos
One year ago today: Girardi’s new contract • 10.09.14
It was exactly one year ago today that Joe Girardi finalized a new four-year contract that will — assuming he stays the length of the deal — keep him in place as Yankees manager for a full decade.
Girardi knew when he arrived in 2008 that this would be a period of transition. His first seven years as manager have been marked by one championship, three missed playoff appearances, an assortment of Alex Rodriguez scandals — which Girardi’s actually handled very well — and the unmistakable end of an era as Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have each drifted into retirement.
These next three years, it’s going to be interesting now to see how Girardi tries to push the Yankees toward a new era of winning. Obviously he’s going to need some help from the front office, because a manager can only do so much if he doesn’t have players capable of doing the job, but Girardi might also have to show the patience and big-picture thinking to allow some young guys to get meaningful at-bats and innings as the team tries to rely less heavily on free-agent spending.
“I favor the best players, is what I favor,” Girardi said on the day he signed his new deal. “Sometimes it’s an older player, sometimes it’s a younger player. I had a chance to manage in Miami, and I think during the course of the year we had 23 or 25 rookies. I loved it. I loved working with the kids. Me favoring one player over the other because of age, I’m not sure where that came about. To me, I want the best player, and I think youth can serve you really well on a club because they respond day after day and you don’t have to manage some of the other things you have to manage with older players. Whatever makes us the best, I’m all in favor of.”
We’ve seen that willingness with the pitching staff where guys like Ivan Nova, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Shane Greene have gradually gotten an opportunity and won Girardi’s trust. We’re going to see whether a young position player can do the same next season. Brett Gardner seems to have done that over time, and to some extent Francisco Cervelli has done the same, but in these next three years — or within the next 12 months — Girardi could be the manager as guys like Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge begin to emerge as legitimate candidates for everyday jobs. It’s going to be crucial for the Yankees that those players are at least given the opportunity to sink or swim.
“Our job is to get the best players we can,” Girardi said last year. “We’re going to probably have to use our minor leagues, as well. We need these kids to develop, to get better and play a role. If you look at the run the Yankees have had over the past 16-17 years, the farm system played a very important role. We need that to happen again, because you can’t just go out and buy every free agent at every position. You won’t be able to build a team and you won’t have enough money. I think that through the minor-league system, the free agents and players that we have, we’ll be very good.”
Girardi recognized that need when he signed. As these prospects get ready, he’s going to have to put those words into action and let some kids play for better or for worse.
Associated Press photo
On the day he came off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings against Toronto, and that was his shortest outing of the year. Its brevity was easy to dismiss because he was working with a limited pitch count and the results were still awfully impressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in more than two months.
Today, Tanaka was cleared for more pitches, and there was a definite expectation that he would simply give the Yankees more of the same. One more encouraging start would boost confidence and send the Yankees into the offseason feeling relatively good about the status of Tanaka’s right elbow.
Instead, Tanaka got just five outs. He was charged with a season-high seven runs — five earned — and he was pulled from the game after just 50 pitches. It was bad. Except that Tanaka said afterward that he was simply having a bad day, not a injured day.
“Obviously I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be today,” he said. “But arm and body is fine.”
That is, I suppose, good news, but hearing Tanaka say he’s healthy certainly carries a little more weight when he’s coming off a strong and encouraging start. This start was neither of those things.
“There was no problem,” Joe Girardi said. “He had just thrown a lot of pitches in those first two innings, and I just thought it’s not smart to send him back out or leave him out there, so I just made a change. … He struggled with some command today a little bit and wasn’t real sharp with his fastball for whatever reason. We asked him, ‘Do you feel good?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He got in some bad counts and they hurt him.”
Worry about it all winter?
“I would think that he would have some peace of mind knowing that he feels good and knowing that spring training, we’ll build him up as normal as we would any other time,” Girardi said. “I hope he has peace of mind. I’d hate for him to go through the winter and not have it. We asked him even when he came in after the game, ‘You sure you felt OK?’ He said, ‘I felt good. I just didn’t have it today.’”
So this will be the Yankees final image of Tanaka as they move through this offseason. Physically, it seems the injection-and-rehab protocol has helped the ligament, and the Yankees are as confident about his health as they could be given the circumstances.
So how does Tanaka evaluate his first year with the Yankees?
“My goal coming in this season was to stay healthy and keep a spot in the rotation,” he said. “So obviously I wasn’t able to do that. I was only able to do half a job, so with that said, I think I’m a little bit disappointed how the season was. … I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of expectations, but for me, I just try to go out on the mound and try to do the best I can. Try to put up a W. As far as comparing the first half of the season with next season, I feel like I want to do better than I did the first half of the season.”
• Two at-bats in tonight’s game was the plan all along for Jeter. It’s what he told Girardi he wanted. How many at-bats will he get tomorrow? “Whatever he tells me,” Girardi said. “He told me two at-bats today, so that’s what I did.”
• Kind of looked like Jeter might have hurt himself a little bit while beating out that infield single in the third inning. “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he had run extremely hard, he had to stretch. He probably felt it a little bit in his hamstring. He didn’t say that he was injured, but we’ll see.”
• This was Jeter’s 152nd career game at Fenway Park, matching Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig for the most games ever played here by a Yankees player. He should break that record tomorrow.
• This was the first time since August 11 that the Yankees allowed 10 runs or more. It was their 21st loss when scoring at least four runs.
• Ichiro Suzuki had another two-hit day and has hit safely in six of his past seven starts with a .360 average in that span. … Chase Headley also had two hits, his third multi-hit game in the past five. … Chris Young had two more hits including another double and another RBI. Turned out to be a nice addition for the final month of the season.
• As for the ESPN.com report about Girardi addressing the team on Thursday: “Let me clear this up,” Girardi said. “I’m going to clear it up right now. I addressed the team and told them what I expect for next year. Yeah, we’re all disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I addressed the team because it’s easier to do it at our ballpark. We need to be better. We need to execute better next year. That’s what baseball comes down to; execution. Everyone in that room is disappointed. I’m not the only one that’s disappointed. I just felt it was the place to do it. We have to go back to work.”
• According to the report, Girardi got on some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough. Girardi said he has no problem with the conditioning of his team, and as he’s said publicly all year, he said he’s been happy with the team’s work ethic and desire. “Our team never stopped playing, so I don’t know what you’re asking for,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is we didn’t execute well enough in certain situations, and we have to do better. Whether it’s getting a run in, getting a runner over, making a pitch when you need to make a pitch. We were in a lot of close games. If you could have won five or six more of them, you might be playing next week. Because we were in so many, there are probably some that you can think about. It’s disappointment.”
• Would the message have made a difference if it had been delivered several weeks ago? “I have had some individual meetings where I pull a guy aside and talk about things, but we were eliminated and I just told them,” Girardi said. “… These guys never gave up on us. They never gave up. They kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. We went through difficult things and they kept fighting and fighting. People wrote us off a bunch of times, but they didn’t. They kept fighting. For that, I’ve told you all along, I was proud of them. I just wanted to let them to know what we expect next year. None of us are happy that we’re not playing next week.”
• Final word we’ll give to Brian Cashman from pregame: “We didn’t hit for the most part all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position. We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. Pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense we could not fix.”
Associated Press photos
After asking for a couple of injury updates, this was the third question of Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference this morning:
Do you feel in any way that the team has been hurt overall with Derek playing shortstop every day and batting second?
“No,” Girardi said. “There’s been so much talk about this during the course of the season, and I’ve said, you look at Derek, he had a slow April. He had a pretty good May, a pretty good June and pretty good July. We had a lot of guys who struggled in August and a lot of guys who struggled in September. A lot of the focus has been on him, because of who he is, obviously, but look at our numbers in September. Look at what a lot of the guys have done. You could move guys around, but you move a guy up who’s hitting .200 to replace a guy who’s hitting .220. There’s been a lot of talk about it. You asked me (jokingly) why I didn’t move him up to third yesterday. Collectively, as a group, we have not hit as much as we thought we would have. And that’s been the bigger issue to me than maybe one guy or a spot in the lineup.”
Girardi went on to discuss the clubhouse as a whole, the idea of not only managing an entire lineup, one through nine, but also managing a room of 25 guys, each with a unique perspective and opinion. Some might have seen favoritism in sticking with Jeter at the top of the order. Others might have seen scapegoating had Jeter been moved down when plenty of guys were struggling.
“People always want to put it in one simple compartment,” Girardi said. “That if you do this, that’s what you do. But there’s a ripple effect for everything you do in the clubhouse. You have to make sure that they’re together, and that you’re not putting the clubhouse in a bad place, and that’s something you do have to manage, and you do talk to players. You talk to them about a lot of different things, and situations. Whether you’re going to move them, or you’re going to give them a day off, or a couple days off. That’s why there’s a lot more that goes into decisions than just the individual player. And I think sometimes people lose sight of that.
Does Girardi think the clubhouse would have responded negatively had he made a lineup change after Jeter’s brutal month of August?
“It could have had a ripple effect, sure,” Girardi said. “I think that any move that you make, whether it’s to Derek or any move that you make, has a chance to affect a clubhouse. And that’s my job to talk to coaches and people that understand the pulse of the club all the time. I’ve been in a clubhouse, and I see what things can happen and how it can really change a clubhouse. Sometimes it can be through a trade, and it really disrupts things. That’s a constant worry about me and the clubhouse.”
Has the Yankees clubhouse responded negatively to Jeter’s treatment this season? Would the clubhouse have responded negatively to Jeter being treated differently? I honestly don’t know. It’s hard to get a sense of the clubhouse with so many new guys and so many hurt players. CC Sabathia is a clear leader in there, and he’s one of the guys who’s played with Jeter the most, but he wasn’t around for much of the season. Carlos Beltran seems to be a respected voice, but he’s new, not always vocal, and he was also not always around because of his own injuries (and his numbers were also a problem). I don’t get the sense that players grew frustrated by Jeter hitting second all year, but I’m also not convinced the players would have been upset to see him moved down in the order.
Ultimately, I think Girardi’s right. The Yankees didn’t have enough guys who did nearly enough offensively, and that was a much larger issue than the treatment of Jeter in his final season.
• Carlos Beltran is still not doing much of anything because of his elbow, and Jacoby Ellsbury has not yet begun baseball activities, just a few light exercises in the weight room. Is there enough time for either one to return to the lineup this season? “It’s going to be pretty tough,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he still hasn’t asked Jeter whether he’ll want to play this weekend in Boston. Might depend on whether the Yankees are eliminated in the next two days. “That’s probably a better question for when we get to Boston,” Girardi said. Jeter said basically the same thing yesterday.
• One more DH day for Jeter. “The one thing that I’ve tried to do is manage Derek the whole year so he’d be as productive as he could be and as good a player as he could be all year,” Girardi said. “That was my focus for him, but that’s my focus for every player. How do I manage them so they’re the most productive throughout the course of a season?”
• This will be Shane Greene’s final start of the season. Pushed into the rotation in July, the rookie sinkerballer has certainly put himself on the map for a possible rotation spot next season. One of the unquestioned bright spots of this season.
• Girardi on whether he’s holding out hope for a playoff spot now that the elimination number is down to one: “I think you always have to hold out hope,” Girardi said. “I know that what’s in front of us is extremely difficult. There’s five games left and we have to win five, and Kansas City has to lose five. That’s pretty difficult. But as long as you have a shot, you keep fighting. And I’ll continue to make moves to keep fighting and then you go from there. You see where you are tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos
The final regular-season homestand of Derek Jeter’s career began well for the Yankees thanks in part to The Captain, in part to Shane Greene and in part to Adam Lind doing his Bill Buckner impression at first.
Jeter went 2 for 4 in the 3-2 win over the Blue Jays after arriving at 1 for 30. He hit a solo homer to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the sixth, his first home homer since July of last year, snapping a 298 at-bat streak without one here and a 158 at-bat streak without one overall this season, dating to Aug. 1. So he’s up to .250 with four homers and 41 RBI.
“Obviously this year, up until this point, hasn’t turned out how I would like it to,” Jeter said. “But you’ve got to keep fighting. You’ve got to keep battling.”
The Yankees are five games back of Oakland for the second wild card with 10 to play. A rather longshot at this point. So Jeter keeps getting reminded that it’s his last homestand everywhere he turns.
“I’m trying not to think about it being the last homestand,” Jeter said. “We still have a week left. We’re trying to win games. I’m going to go out there and play hard like I’ve always done my entire career until we’re out of games.”
Greene should be back to pitch more games next season. The 25-year-old rookie has allowed three runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts, including no runs and three hits in 6 2/3 in this latest outing. Greene has a 1.06 ERA to show for his last three starts.
“This young man has four pitches he can go to and he has confidence in them, and he has the ability to throw strikes,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s been impressive to me.”
The Yankees won when Chase Headley’s grounder got by Lind for a walk-off error.
“It was a tough play for Adam,” Jeter said, playing defense for him.
Stephen Drew had an RBI double, snapping a career-worst-tying 16 straight games without driving in a run. He went 2 for 3 to lift his average to .163. Somehow I don’t think he’ll be the heir to Jeter’s throne.
Here’s my Lohud.com/Journal News story on Jeter and this first game of the homestand. And here’s my feature story on Headley after speaking to him before the game about possibly returning and about the aftermath of getting hit in the chin last week.
The photo of Jeter’s home-run swing is from The Associated Press.
Since six games back with 11 to go seems like a rather long shot for the Yankees, this homestand figures to be the last time we will ever see Derek Jeter play at Yankee Stadium outside of on Old-Timers’ Day.
“I just want to try to enjoy it,” Jeter said.
It’s a chance for the fans to say goodbye, with the home finale set for next Thursday night. Joe Girardi doesn’t expect an easy homestand for Jeter despite the love.
“I think it’s going to mean a lot, but I also think it’s going to be difficult, just because of what baseball has meant to his life and what the Yankees have meant to him and what he’s meant to this city,” Girardi said.
“I think it will be difficult for him emotionally. He’s probably not going to show a lot, but it’s hard to take this uniform off.”
It may be even harder on him come February.
“I think he’ll miss it in spring training,” Girardi said. “It becomes a reality that you’re not playing anymore, in a sense. I can’t speak for him and how he’s going to feel, but that was when it really hit me because I was used to doing something around February 15 and all of a sudden I didn’t have anything to do.”
Girardi said Carlos Beltran will be available despite the sad news that came Wednesday that he and wife Jessica had lost their unborn son, reportedly due to a miscarriage.
“My heart goes out to him, and obviously to his family,” Girardi said. “When guys go through this, I think sometimes people think we’re immune to problems because we’re professional athletes. We deal with things on an everyday basis and we go through issues, too. That’s the most difficult part. I just want to get a temperature of where he’s at when he comes in today and then we’ll go from there.”
Masahiro Tanaka threw 32 pitches in the bullpen in preparation for his return Sunday. We’re were told he had no pain.
“So far, so good,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Derek Jeter admitted that he was on guard over getting emotional during his pregame speech, although he did say his hand was shaking a bit. He wanted to say his thank yous. Most of all, he wanted to thank you.
“In my opinion, I’ve had the greatest job in the world,” Jeter told the crowd. “I got a chance to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees, and there’s only one of those. And I always felt as though that my job was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can’t compare to what you brought me. So, for that, thank you very much.
“I’ve loved what I’ve done. I love what I do. More importantly, I’ve loved doing it for you. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”
In his postgame press conference, Jeter said: “The fans are the ones that made this fun. It’s been an extremely fun 20 seasons. When you’re out there playing, you’re out there trying to do your best. You’re playing as hard as you can, and you’re doing it for the fans, because the fans, Yankees fans in particular, they pay attention. It means something to them. They push you. They push me. They’re hard. They’re tough. But I think they’ve helped shape who I am.
“So I wanted to have the opportunity to thank them. I don’t know if I can truly thank them enough.”
Chase Headley did a nice thing, coming up with the idea to let Jeter run out alone before the anthem.
“I was unaware of the fact that no one was behind me,” Jeter said.
“He deserved the moment to be out there by himself on his day,” Headley said.
Derek Jeter Day will stay with Derek Jeter.
“The Yankees know how to throw big ceremonies,” Jeter said. “To be a part of it, having all those people come out there and honor you and show their support and the fans, they way they’ve treated me, this is a day I’ll remember forever.”
Here’s my Lohud.com/Journal News story with much more detail on Jeter’s big day.
The game was forgettable for the Yankees, four hits in a 2-0 loss to Kansas City, their second shutout loss in the series. They have been shut out five times dating to Aug. 9.
“I’ll never give up on them,” Joe Girardi said about his inconsistent hitters. “It’s not my personality. We’ve just got to continue to grind it out and try to get better every day.”
They’re running out of days.
The Yankees remained 4 1/2 back of Seattle for the second wild card with 21 to play.
Here’s my story on the game and the happenings with Brett Gardner and David Phelps.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees pregame: Derek Jeter Day • 09.07.14
There are No. 2 flags waving in the breeze around the top of Yankee Stadium. There’s a No. 2 logo painted on the grass in front of each dugout. The Yankees were all greeted with a commemorative bottle of wine sitting upright on the chairs in front of their locker with the No. 2 over pinstripes on the label.
It’s Derek Jeter Day.
“I’m sure it’ll be extra special,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s probably a day in a sense that a player doesn’t want to have.”
That’s because it signifies the end is near.
“I hope he does take it in,” Girardi said of the ceremony.
He hopes the rest of the Yankees will take it in as well.
“I think it’s important they understand what he’s meant to the organization, what he’s meant to our fan base, the importance of playing the game right,” Girardi said.
Next year will be very different without Jeter. This is really the end of an era.
“The thing you get used to in this game is people come and go,” Girardi said. “… He’s going to be missed. There’s no doubt about it. But the game will go on. No individual is bigger than the game.”
Girardi didn’t have a lineup yet when he met with us. The hurting Brett Gardner was the issue. Girardi didn’t think he would be available to start. Gardner said it might be a lower abdominal strain, but he wasn’t sure. Gardner, who also had this problem earlier in the season and missed a game, sat out Saturday.
Asked about if it could possibly get worse if he played, Gardner said, “Just the way it feels like, it could.”
David Phelps threw a 31-pitch simulated game and said he felt good. He will return from his upper elbow inflammation as a reliever. But there was no word yet on when he will be activated.
“I feel like I made some good pitches,” Phelps said. “I was just nice to be out there with some adrenaline flowing. … It feels good enough to get guys out right now.”
Photo by The Associated Press.