(This guy was pretty fun, though. Courtesy of the AP)
It’s no secret around AB4AR that I’m not a Joe Girardi guy. I wasn’t a Joe Torre guy either, and I will readily admit that I think Girardi does a much better job than his predecessor, but I’m still not a Joe Girardi guy. To be honest, I’m really not sure why I’m not. As someone who embraces all things statistical and sabermetric when it comes to baseball and writes for 2 analytical, stat-based Yankee blogs, I should be bowing at the altar of Joe and his bullpen binder, but I just don’t. There’s something about the way he manages that always leaves me thinking he made his move a little too early or a little too late, and I get very tired of his paint-by-numbers coachspeak when discussing players who are in a slump or stretches where the team as a whole isn’t playing good baseball. Why am I spelling all of this out right now? Because so far in the postseason, small 2-game sample size that it is, I’ve been a huge fan of the job Joe’s done.
I like that he didn’t get cute with the lineup for Game 1 and went with his best 9 from game 162; I like that he rewarded Russell Martin for continuing to swing the bat well and moving him up to the 7th in the batting order last night and moving Curtis Granderson, who has not been swinging the bat well, down to 8th; I like that he didn’t stay married to the veteran Ibanez and went with Eduardo Nunez as the DH against the lefty Chen last night; I like that he let both CC and Andy go out and pitch for as long as they absolutely could. He’s got a stacked bullpen out there that he loves to play with, but Joe watched the game and how his best guys were pitching instead of just watching the pitch count, and he gave them as much leash as he could before finally making the call.
And it goes back a bit further than just the start of the division series. Sending out the killer lineup in the final regular season games against the Fraud Sawx, while not a brain-buster, was the smart and aggressive move to make. Finally giving up on Andruw Jones and sitting him late in the season, and then not gifting him a postseason roster spot because of his “veteran experience” was the right decision to make. So was taking Derek Lowe on the postseason roster over Cody Eppley, Freddy Garcia, or Ivan Nova. So was taking the ball from Nova and giving it to David Phelps to start game 161 last Tuesday. They were simple, smart baseball decisions made based on logic and current performance instead of reputation and past performance, and they were all correct.
There was a time around the middle part of September where I had an idea for a post asking if the late-season pressure and the tight division race after the “collapse” was getting to Joe. He had just finished lashing out at a postgame press conference heckler in Chicago and getting into a nose-to-nose shouting match with Joel Sherman in front of the entire Yankee beat writer corps, and had made some questionable in-game strategic moves that contributed to some tough losses. Since then, however, Joe has been on the money and it would be incredibly unfair of me to not point that out. He’s pushed a lot of the right buttons in the past few weeks, and he’s done it by actually pushing fewer buttons.
Joe is playing his players who are playing well, he’s sitting the players who aren’t, he’s trusting his pitchers, and he’s using his bench wisely. He’s put his best possible lineup on the field in the first 2 games of this series and put his team in the best possible position to win the games, and the moves he’s made in the batting order have all been correct. Now if he would just make one more move with one more guy hitting higher in the lineup than he should be, then Joe would really have me on his side…