Thirteen years ago, the sun was shining in Chicago when Mark Prior made his Major League debut. He went six innings, struck out 10 and got his first Major League win less than a year after he was drafted. Prior’s catcher that day was Joe Girardi.
“As I look back, that’s probably the most anticipation of a young player that I was around,” Girardi said.
Today is Luis Severino’s turn.
“This is what I would tell him (as a catcher),” Girardi siad. “You know yourself better than I do, so you throw what you feel is the right pitch at the right time. If I really feel that it’s the wrong pitch, I’ll come out. Don’t doubt yourself. Throw everything with conviction, and we’ll go from there.”
As a manager, what will Girardi say?
“Go have fun; just do what you do, basically,” Girardi said. “When a young guy comes up for the first time, you just want to see him compete. Just compete. Give us the best you’ve got, and it’s difficult because there’s a lot of emotions that go into it. There’s a lot of anxiety that goes into it. Get through the first inning, then we’ll see if we can get you on a roll.”
Severino walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse around 3:30 this afternoon. It was a quiet entrance and a few teammates came by to say hello. There were no trumpets. No confetti fell from the ceiling. His locker looked the same as any other minor league call-up this season.
But this one’s different. We all know that.
Severino’s cleared for roughly 100 pitches, and it’s time to find out what the kid can do. After that, it’ll be time to find out what he can do again.
“In games like this, you think about trying to get them out on a good note if you can,” Girardi said. “Those sort of situations so they can build off it. A guy who’s been through it, if he goes through a tough situation, you don’t really worry, cause there’s a lot of success on the other side, and he knows how to rebound from those, but you try to get (Severino) out on a good note.”
• Garrett Jones is back. He said he never talked to other teams. When the Yankees contacted him — presumably after the Dustin Ackley injury — to say they were going to try to bring him back, he was onboard immediately. Never wanted to leave in the first place and had no hard feelings about the DFA.
• What did the Yankees say when he was designated? “There was a guy they had an eye on, and Ack is a great player,” Jones said. “He was somebody that I think they had their eye on for a long time to where they wanted to bring him into the organization. It was my turn, my time. I guess I was that guy. Everybody was healthy at the positions I played. It just turned out it was my card to be pulled.”
• Obviously Jones is right back in his limited role. He’s returned for a game against a right-handed pitcher, but he’s not playing tonight.
• Not surprised the Yankees chose to option Caleb Cotham and Nick Rumbelow to make room for Jones and Severino. Rumbelow has pitched well when given a chance, but Branden Pinder’s fastball sat at 97 mph and topped out at 98 last night. No first-timer has gotten into more Yankees games than Pinder this season. He’s pitched 13 times with a 1.02 WHIP, nine strikeouts and two walks. A lot of low-leverage situations, but Pinder’s done the job several times now, so he gets to stick around in that rotating bullpen spot.
• Without McCann, it’s John Ryan Murphy catching Severino’s debut. “I don’t know if there’s a ton of challenges here because I think Murph does a really good job and has an understanding of the league and what he needs to do and follows the game plans well,” Girardi said. “He and Mac work very closely together, and they talk about situations and really pull for one another. In a sense, it might be easier for a young pitcher to shake off a young catcher and feel like, this is what I want to throw. I’m a little bit nervous shaking off a guy that has five Silver Sluggers, five All-Star Games and been an established catcher. I don’t really think there’s any downside to it.”
• McCann on missing the chance to catch Severino’s debut: “I was definitely looking forward to catching him,” McCann said. “But at the same time, Murphy’s one of the best that I’ve been around, to catch. He’s caught him before, and we’re all excited for his debut.”
Associated Press photos
Another day of throwing a baseball with no incident for Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t seem particularly newsworthy, expect when you consider that this is Tanaka that we’re talking about.
After throwing 50 pitches from 60 feet on Thursday, Tanaka threw 25 from 60 feet and another 25 from 90 on Friday. He spoke to the media after and said he’s “definitely going in the right direction,” and he seemed fairly unconcerned about any long-term effects from this forearm strain. He also reiterated that he doesn’t think that this relatively minor injury has anything to do with the elbow that caused problems for him last season.
“Everybody has their own opinion, but personally, I don’t think it had anything to do with it,” he said through his interpreter. “I don’t think it has anything to do with my elbow.”
Of course, there has been rampant speculation about Tanaka eventually — some might say inevitably — needing Tommy John surgery, but he isn’t buying it. He’s repeatedly said that there is no discomfort in the elbow. He said he’s “gradually” increased the intensity in these throwing sessions the last two days and feels nothing in the forearm, either.
He also denied that the injury was caused by the way that he’s throwing the splitter, or because of pitching on four days’ rest instead of the five that he was accustomed to in Japan.
The only thing that he agreed with is that the process has been somewhat frustrating.
“Just to be honest with you, I did get injured from time-to-time in Japan,” Tanaka said. “But my absolute goal is to try to not get injured throughout the season and be apart of that rotation. With that said, I’m a little disappointed.”
• While the rotation has held up well in the absence of Tanaka, the bullpen continues to be the strength of the team. Andrew Miller, who may not have the official closer title but is pitching as well as any reliever in baseball, is looking like a very smart investment. He’s up to 12 saves. “I think he’s approached it just like any other inning that he’s pitched,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s done an unbelievable job for us. He’s really kind of kept his pitch count down in most instances when we use him multiple days in a row. He’s a strikeout guy who can hold runners on when they do get on. He’s really done a great job. Every time that we saw him, we saw him good, so I’m not surprised that we’re seeing what we’re seeing.”
• Girardi has been criticized for over-managing and not trusting his gut often enough, but he’s generally praised for the way that he handles his bullpen. It has to be nice having the type of weapons that he has down there this season, and that surely makes his job easier. But he does deserve some credit for putting guys in spots where they can be successful and rarely overusing them. “I kind of have in my mind some rules that I follow, depending on how much they’ve worked – multiple innings, days in a row, three out of four, how many pitches, quick turnaround – and I’ve been consistent with those ever since I’ve been here,” he said. “I usually let them know when they’re down so that they’re not over-preparing and maybe playing more catch than they should be, that sort of thing. The goal is, for me, it’s more than a one year term. It’s a long-term thing. We want these guys to be effective for a long time, and I’ve kind of stayed true to that.”
• Many of you are probably happy to see Jose Pirela in there at second base today. He’s become popular among the fan base, in large part due to the struggles of Stephen Drew. But Girardi said this is just a day off for Drew. He’ll be back in there tomorrow. “I think his last day off was Saturday in Fenway, so it’s a day off of him,” Girardi said. “Then (Gregorio Petit) will probably play second tomorrow against the lefty and maybe we’ll give Didi(Gregorius) a day off.”
• We discussed plenty about A-Rod last night, so it wasn’t a huge focus during Girardi’s presser today. But he was asked about if he thinks the next milestone in his path — he’s 38 away from 3,000 hits — will be more acceptable in the baseball world because it’s not a power statistic. I guess the idea is that steroids are more beneficial when it comes to home runs and that sort of thing, but I can’t imagine anyone suddenly overlooking his past PED issues for his hit total and not his home run total. “Obviously, it’s a ton of hits,” Girardi said. “You have to have a lot of longevity to come up with 3,000 hits. You know, this is going to be debated for years to come, I’m sure. But my job as the manager is to get the most of the players. My job is not to decide if something is a milestone or an accomplishment – that’s for baseball people to do and historians. My hope is that he gets it fairly quickly and the hits keep coming, and the home runs keep coming.”
• Girardi followed that question up by asking how far away Rodriguez is from 3,000. When he was told 38, he said, “You can see how closely I’m following.” Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo suggested that A-Rod get to 3,000 tonight. That would probably take about 100 innings, so for my sake, I hope not.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi wrote Alex Rodriguez’s into the lineup again on Monday, because that was his job. As manager of the Yankees, Girardi’s role in the ongoing Rodriguez saga is to keep him healthy, keep him productive, and use him in a way that helps the Yankees win baseball games.
One week into the season, Rodriguez has been the Yankees best hitter, and so he was back in the lineup for their series opener against the Orioles. Even at 39 years old, even with two surgically repaired hips, and even after missing all of last season with a drug suspension, Rodriguez became the only Yankees player to start each of the first seven games this season.
What that means for baseball historians, what it means for baseball purists, and what it means for Rodriguez’s contract is someone else’s problem.
“As you know, my job is to get the most out of Alex,” Girardi said. “That’s my job, and that’s what I will continue to do. So far he has played extremely well, and we need that to continue.”
The freshest bit of controversy surrounding the sport’s most controversial star came from Monday’s USA Today, where notorious slugger Barry Bonds was quoted saying he hopes Rodriguez is celebrated when he hits career home run No. 660 to tie Bonds’ godfather, Willie Mays, for fourth on baseball’s all-time list. Rodriguez is five away from the mark, and his contract calls for a $6-million bonus for reaching the milestone. The Yankees, as you’re probably well aware, are expected to decline payment by saying it’s no longer a milestone because it’s tainted by his steroid use, making it impossible to market.
“My godfather means the world to me. I love him to a T,” Bonds told USA Today, “but when Alex hits No. 660, I’ll be happy for him. Willie will be happy for him. Everybody should be happy for him.
“Any time anybody in the game does something that’s a great accomplishment, the game of baseball should celebrate that. No matter what. Baseball is benefiting from that person’s hard work, so baseball should at least celebrate.”
Girardi said he’ll be celebrating in his own way. He’ll be celebrating at least one more run for the 2015 Yankees.
What’s Girardi’s opinion about the controversy surrounding such a home run?
“I’m not going to share my opinion,” Girardi said.
This has been one of Girardi’s great strengths as the Yankees’ manager these past three or four years. He’s handled the Rodriguez drama incredibly well. There is never any doubt that he’s against the decisions Rodriguez has made — Girardi is still a letter-of-the-law kind of guy; still a teacher and a father wanting to set a good example — but he’s managed to support Rodriguez as a player without condoning his actions. The Yankees, to their credit, have clearly given Girardi permission to do so.
There’s no evidence that Girardi’s felt pressure to speak out against Rodriguez or do anything that would damage his relationship with a key piece of the clubhouse.
“Anyone that supports me at this point, it’s well appreciated,” Rodriguez said of the Bonds comments. “It’s not taken for granted, that’s for sure. But my focus continues to stay between the lines.”
It’s interesting that the Yankees’ media notes — which include a lengthy list of milestones players are close to reaching — makes no mention of Rodriguez approaching the Mays home run total. It does, however, mention that he’s one stolen base away from tying Bert Daniels for 16th all-time. The Yankees are doing all they can to minimize the significance of No. 660.
Girardi, on the other hand, is treating it as nothing more or less than what it will be in the moment: another home run for his team.
“There’s going to be a lot of discussion (when he reaches 660),” Girardi said. “Some people are going to want to celebrate it. Some are not. I think it’s a personal preference. … I don’t know what the right thing to do is. Just let people do what they want to do.”
Associated Press photos
Late this morning, about two hours before today’s Grapefruit League finale, Joe Girardi was asked what’s surprised him most this spring. Girardi paused for several seconds, then gave three answers:
1. “Really pleased with what Alex did.”
That was Girardi’s first response, a one-sentence answer that basically speaks for itself. Alex Rodriguez was perhaps the least predictable piece of the roster coming into camp, but he’s thrived in all aspects. He’s played a passable version of first base and third base, he’s hit .286/.400/.524, and he’s handled inevitable off-the-field questions without digging himself into a new hole.
“I’ve said all along, I thought Alex was going to help us,” Girardi said. “But until you get into (you don’t know). I mean, it’s two years, really, since he played. I wasn’t 100-percent sure. If I was a betting man, I would have bet on him playing well, but there’s still that, you’ve got to see it after two years of not playing and being 39 and a half.”
2. “Pleased with our infield and them working together.”
This was the second sentence of Girardi’s answer, a fairly broad response that involves four players. Third baseman Chase Headley has been arguably the best everyday position player in camp, second baseman Stephen Drew has begun to hit in the last two weeks or so, first baseman Mark Teixeira has looked healthy and stronger than he did late last season, and shortstop Didi Gregorius has been perhaps the team’s most encouraging new addition.
“The way he moves (has been impressive),” Girardi said. “Arm strength. You can watch it go across the diamond, but you don’t realize it’s just that little flick and it’s gone. Relay throws. He’s the whole package. When you watch him play defense, he’s the whole package. And I’m excited to watch him play all year.”
3. “And I was really impressed with our kids.”
The Yankees’ farm system — particularly it’s lack of upper-level success stories — has been a problem in recent years, but the organization seems to be getting stronger. Not only with the addition of young talent, but also with the development of on-the-verge prospects. Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino impressed early in camp, while Jacob Lindgren, Rob Refsnyder and Slade Heathcott stuck around long enough to stay on the radar until the very end. That’s to say nothing of Mason Williams’ improvement, Cito Culver’s defense and Nick Rumbelow’s emergence.
“The kids played a lot in spring training,” Girardi said. “Their talent level. The way they hold each other accountable. The way they push each other. It’s really neat to see.”
Associated Press photo
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