Joe Girardi: Why 2012 Is Yankees Manager's Best Managing Job Yet
It's been a challenging season thus far for the New York Yankees, with injuries to key players and horrid starting pitching being amongst the biggest issues. Through it all, manager Joe Girardi has kept a steady hand and done a solid job adjusting to the many changes this roster has seen.
While Girardi has made some bad blunders this season, so far the good has mostly outweighed the bad during the 2012 campaign.
Here's why 2012 will truly stand out for Girardi's managerial career.
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In New York, it's easy to get impatient when an athlete doesn't perform, especially when you are the manager of the Yankees, a team that always wants to win now.
That being said, Phil Hughes started the year off struggling mightily, and while it might have been easy for Girardi to pull the plug on the 26-year-old, he didn't. Instead, Girardi stuck with his young gun, and it has worked out for the Bombers.
After pitching to a 7.88 and 4.66 ERA the first two months of the year, respectively, Hughes posted a 4-1 record and a 2.67 ERA in the month of June. Other than one bad start, Hughes was very effective and surpassed six innings or more in each winning outing.
If Hughes can continue to be a factor in this team's rotation, it'll be the Yanks' skipper getting the credit for sticking with him when many thought he shouldn't.
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Freddy Garcia signed a one-year deal before the season under the assumption he'd have an automatic spot in the starting rotation. But thanks to Andy Pettitte's comeback and the previous acquisition of Michael Pineda, it appeared his slot was no longer guaranteed.
Garcia might not have been happy about it, but it didn't end up mattering. Pettitte didn't return until May and Pineda got injured, thus leaving the door open for Garcia to start the 2012 season in the rotation by default.
The 36-year-old suffered a brutal start to the season; in April he allowed 19 earned runs in 13.2 innings pitched. Girardi quickly removed Garcia from the rotation to stop the bleeding and inserted David Phelps until Pettitte would be ready to join the big-league club.
While Phelps didn't exactly work out as well as Girardi had hoped, the move to the bullpen for Garcia seemed to be a wake-up call for the right-hander.
Garcia went on to allow two earned runs in 9.1 innings pitched in May and only one earned run in eight innings pitched in June, throwing ERAs of 1.93 and 1.13, respectively, out of the 'pen. Clearly, he has settled down from his bad start and righted the ship.
Now Garcia has another crack at the rotation while Pettitte is on the disabled list for an extended amount of time, and in his first start Garcia pitched 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on five hits in a losing effort to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Without Girardi making the tough decision, Garcia would have continued struggling and not had the time to fix his problems. However, with some time in the bullpen, Garcia has worked the kinks out and could be improving his game just in time to help out a starting rotation that desperately needs him.
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With many of his players getting older, Girardi needed to find time for extra rest to keep some of his best players healthy and fresh.
Granted, he did overreact early in the season when he put Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter at designated hitter too early in the year, but you can't say the Yanks' manager isn't trying.
Jeter has been the DH in nine games this season and taken two full days off, playing in 79 games. A-Rod has gotten half a day off at DH 20 times this season and sat out three more, but he's been able to play in 78 games this season (two of which were pinch-hit appearances), which is only 21 shy of his 2011 total.
As a result of a more careful approach, most of the injuries have been to the Bombers' pitching and far less to their position players. I might joke around about Girardi's overbearing approach at times, but I doubt this instance is a coincidence at all.
In all, Girardi has done a great job of rotating his players, aging or not, in and out of the DH slot as well as the bench, and that should help keep New York's important pieces healthy and ready for the MLB postseason.
Handling the Bullpen
After losing closer Mariano Rivera, it was interesting to see if Girardi would lean too heavily on his more trusted arms in the bullpen to fill the void, but the Yanks' skipper hasn't done that at all.
Instead, he's used a steady mix of different pitchers to bridge the gap to the more well-known commodities in the Yanks' relief corps.
Guys like Boone Logan, Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, David Phelps and Freddy Garcia have all made an impact at one point during this season, and there's likely to be many more to add to this list before it's all said and done.
Girardi hasn't been afraid to spread it around, and showing he has confidence in all his pitchers will only help this team moving forward. Not relying too much on one or two guys will keep this bullpen fresh and confident.
If there's one thing Girardi does best, it's handle his bullpen, and this year is a shining example.
Bad Start Pressure
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Remember way back on May 21, when the Yankees had just finished getting beaten down by the Kansas City Royals, 6-0, and lost their sixth game in seven days?
Of course you do, and it didn't feel too great. The Yankees were 21-21 at that point in the season and didn't look like they were any better than their flailing American League East opponents.
But all of a sudden, the Bombers turned it on and won 10 of their next 14 games. After that, they reeled off a tiny winning streak totaling 10 games and quickly became the class of their division at 41-25.
Behind solid, consistent pitching and their normal offensive attack, the Yankees righted the ship.
While their talent level would suggest this surge was inevitable, Girardi's experience as a player and manager helped keep things even-keel. Unless he's yelling at an umpire, the Yanks' manager stays level, especially when speaking to the media.
He can handle the storm of questions about why his team isn't performing up to task with the same tedious responses most managers give, except Girardi has to deal with it on a larger scale. Talking down the problems of his players and massaging the Yankee press circus is an unmistakable asset to this team, or any team for that matter.
How Much Credit Does Girardi Deserve?
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Girardi may never get the credit he deserves being that he's skipper of the big bad New York Yankees, who will come through to huff and puff and blow your house down.
There's no way Girardi, with the benefit of the near $210 million Yankee payroll, will get enough respect to be named AL Manager of the Year. We'll have to see if that changes when the Bombers' plans to cut payroll go into motion.
Until then, the former Yankee catcher will fly under the radar in regards to the things he does well and will be stuck in the stereotype that anyone can manage the Yankees.
But knowing Joe, as long as he's winning, nothing else matters, and the Yankees Universe will always be pleased with that.