The Yankees biggest problem these days is too many guys want the ball, and nearly all of them are worthy of having it.
What’s a manager to do when, for instance, his fifth or sixth starter goes out there, as Jordan Montgomery did yesterday, and he throws six shutout and shutdown innings for the eighth win of his rookie season?
Or, what do you do with an aging, but still very productive (12-5) veteran like CC Sabathia, when you can conceivably get by pitching only Sonny Gray, Luis Severino, and Masahiro Tanaka in the playoffs.
And then you get to the conundrum in the bullpen where Girardi has, potentially, not one but three fully proven major league closers. And then you get the news Adam Warren is about to rejoin the team, and you still haven’t figured out what to do with Jaime Garcia.
Nor have you figured out who you are going to hand the ball to in the one-game playoff on October 3rd, when your season will be probably be decided based your best judgment, or maybe a coin-flip.
Who would ever have thought….
It seems surreal to be said of the Yankees that they have too much pitching. But even in the face of old baseball axiom saying a team can never have too much pitching, it’s real. Yankees fans quickly recall the ongoing question during the Spring, and even well into the season, when Joe Girardi was reaching into a bowl of numbers in an attempt to come up with a starting five.
And I hate to say this about any player, but when Michael Pineda went down for the season, a big sigh of relief blew across the East River. And at that juncture, together with the shoulder injury that lost Aroldis Chapman, it was almost like, okay, now the Yankees have to do something.
Change comes incrementally
It took a while, but eventually, Brian Cashman figured it out. Hitting the trade market with deadly force, he outbid and outmaneuvered everyone, landing Sonny Gray, Tommy Kahnle, and the Yankees former closer, David Robertson.
Prospects were surrendered, but most fans read between the lines knowing that Cashman was delivering a message, not only to the guys in the clubhouse but fans like you and me, that the Yankees are going all-in on the 2017 season.
For what it was worth, Hal Steinbrenner, who’s the Yankees principal owner in case anyone forgot, even chimed in with a poorly aped version of his dad, saying you boys had better win something now, or else!
Through the tough times, and there were many, Girardi handled himself and his team well as seen in this video right after the brawl in Detroit.
But it was not as though the team had flipped a switch and suddenly the team was rolling toward a 100 win season. In fact, for two and a half months, the Yankees could barely play .500 baseball. Instead, the changes came incrementally, and the biggest of those changes were in the pitching.
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Sonny Gray, almost immediately, fit into the organization with a smile as broad as the break on his slider. Gracefully, he endured three or four starts when the Yankee bats were silent, while never doubting himself or his team.
Then, Severino emerged as a full-fledged candidate for a Cy Young, putting aside what had been an inconsistent start to a career with more questions than answers. And with sizzling stuff and a rubber arm, here he is challenging for the title, Ace of the Staff.
And then, to confound everyone, including probably himself, Masahiro Tanaka found Masahiro Tanaka just within the nick of time when Girardi was cringing with the idea of handing him the ball every fifth day.
Making the pieces fit
Again, with incremental changes, the bullpen organized itself amidst the chaos of no one having any particular role. But it worked, and it’s working now because the guys down there only care about winning, and as Tommy Kahnle said (paraphrasing), I don’t care when you give me the ball, Joe, just make sure you give it to me.
And so it is that we wind down the final games of the season, with the Yankees poised to enter the crapshoot we call the playoffs. Anything can happen and it probably will. But rest assured, the only thing Joe Girardi will lose sleep over is deciding who and when he should hand the ball to.
Who woulda thought?