Despite endless second guesses from his critics, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi has deftly handled this season’s transition and has the team in position to make a late playoff push.
Managers and coaches come under more fire than anyone in New York. Take one look at social media, or tune into sports talk radio, and you will find no shortage of criticism. Often it appears as though these men are only successful if they are winning championships. Yankees skipper Joe Girardi is no exception.
Observers have been critical of the Yankees’ manager for years. Some say he mixes and matches his relievers too much. Others will point out his reliance on his binder while making lineup decisions. Many were up in arms over his handling of the Alex Rodriguez farewell tour earlier this month. Girardi is never free of second guessing.
After an underwhelming first four months, Girardi drew more condemnation than anyone in the organization. But even after Brian Cashman executed an unprecedented fire sale before the August 1 trade deadline, the Yankees are just 3.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot. Girardi must be given much of the credit for steadying the ship.
More from Yanks Go Yard
- Yankees top prospects butt heads after Giants’ gritty win over Commanders
- CC Sabathia defends Yankees’ massive Aaron Judge contract
- Scott Boras closed Yankees-Carlos Rodón deal from Fenway Park, put cherry on top
- Orioles are bailing out Yankees and AL East by botching free agency
- 4 blockbuster trade targets that could be Yankees next ‘big’ move
Girardi was asked not only to usher out a group of highly paid veterans with track records, but to bring about the Yankees’ future core, as well. The day after A-Rod said goodbye to baseball, the Bombers called up both Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin. The pair of 24-year-olds joined Gary Sanchez, 23, who had just begun playing every day.
To get back into the race, the team has been largely riding Sanchez’s epic tear. But Girardi has shown great managerial chops over the last three weeks.
He continues to play Sanchez on a daily basis– including in day games after night games– despite having a former All-Star in Brian McCann at his disposal. Girardi is a big proponent of giving his players rest, yet Sanchez is behind the plate mostly every night.
The decision to ride the hot hand of Ronald Torreyes, leaving Chase Headley on the bench, has worked. The 23-year-old Torreyes is 12-for-23 (.522) in his last six starts. This development is significant for Girardi. The manager was reluctant to give youngsters like Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder consistent playing time in past seasons. Instead he opted to grant the at-bats to floundering veterans like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew.
Sanchez and Torreyes have adjusted to new roles with great success, but both Judge and Austin have struggled since their historic debuts. The right fielder has just one hit in his last 14 at-bats while the first baseman is 1-for-his-last-21. Girardi continues to give both players consistent playing time.
Judge has played in seven of the team’s last eight games despite the slump. Austin has seen less action– just two at-bats against Baltimore– mostly due to Mark Teixeira‘s hot bat. Girardi is allowing these guys to work through their struggles and get adjusted to major league pitching. The experience is invaluable.
Girardi’s reputation for being impatient with youngsters is overblown. Austin and Judge are just two examples. Look no further than how delicately he’s handled both Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks over the past two seasons. Gregorius has turned into a borderline All-Star and Hicks has made good on his frequent at-bats with a .310 average this month.
This youth movement has breathed new life into players and fans alike. Starlin Castro is hitting .323 in August with seven home runs and 20 RBI. Gregorius has six homers of his own. Luis Cessa and Chad Green— 24 and 25, respectively– have been unlikely contributors to the starting rotation.
Coming into Monday night, the Yankees are 15-10 in August and are now legitimately in the hunt. Of course much of this is the players’ doing, but Girardi has done a masterful job of handling a tricky situation. The future of the organization hinges on this youth movement and based on what Girardi has shown so far, the team is in a good place with him at the helm.