The press conference will be on Monday in Dallas, Texas. Easily a first ballot Hall Of Famer. Congrats to him.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Joe Girardi gets a lot of heat for the way he handles the team, and although I've defended him numerous times, I can't deny that some Girardi detractors do have a point. Waiting to stop the 6-man rotation last summer did not help CC Sabathia, who... just like every other baseball player... is a creature of habit who'd rather throw once every three games than every six (just look at that August ERA of 4.68, which was over 1 point higher than any other month in 2011). The 2012 season is only a couple of weeks old yet Joe has done questionable things such as having his staff ace walk Sean Rodriguez to get to Carlos Pena (who hit a grand slam), leaving in Clay Rapada to face Evan Longoria when Clay couldn't get this right-handed batter out (and I play softball for crying out loud), and start Raul Ibanez in RF when I thought Raul was strictly going to play the field when totally necessary.
There are some Girardi haters that are never going to accept the former catcher as the Yankees skipper. They'll insist that Brian Cashman should have hired a guy that had zero managerial experience, let alone a Manager of the Year award in his trophy case. And in the one game "that guy" managed in spring training, while the real manager was out of the country, he filled out the scorecard wrong which ended up in the team batting out of order. Then there was the time, in a regular season game, that "that guy" made the mistake of stepping onto the mound while speaking to his pitcher, leaving the mound, then immediately stepping onto the mound again, which umpires rightly ruled being a 2nd trip to the mound forcing the team's closer to leave the game.
The point is, all managers make mistakes. I've heard numerous people bash Girardi for using the binder too often, instead of going by his gut. Yeah... because one's gut is never wrong. But there's one thing in particular that Joe could do that would make me applaud the guy at every opportunity... get rid of the closer.
For one, Yankee fans are not going to get another Mariano Rivera. Whether you believe Major League Baseball started in 1869 or 1876, the fact is the game of baseball has not seen a guy as good or better than Mo in it's 143 or 136 years of existance. So to think that David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, David Aardsma, Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, or anybody else could replace Rivera is beyond dumb. Some people have gone as far as to say the team should let Rafael Soriano take over the closer role next year (after Rivera retires *tear*), so that David Robertson or whoever can take over the job without nearly as much pressure as Mo's immediate replacement. That makes little sense to me, as every Yankee closer from now until the end of time will be compared to the Sandman anyway. Besides, does that mean the team should go with somebody less worthy in 2013, which could make them worse off? Since when are Yankee fans okay with the lesser player?
It's already been said over and over that the best relievers should appear in the biggest spots, and shouldn't be hand-cuffed to a particular inning as if a Justice of the Peace legally bonded them to it. That brings me to something I thought was a good move by Girardi... bringing in Robertson in the 7th inning the other night to bail out Soriano, instead of waiting til the 8th/David's inning. I watched MLB Networks show Prime 9 recently, which counted down the 9 best closers in the history of MLB. Not surprisingly Mo was at #1, but it was said by somebody that Rivera and other great closers shorten the game to 8 innings, making them easier to manage and easier to win. Umm... sure. But wouldn't getting through a tough 8th inning give the team a better chance of winning as well? What help is Rivera, Jose Valverde, Craig Kimbrel, or John Axford if the team loses the lead before their team's defensive half of the 9th inning? For example, if the Yankees need to strike out a batter, and the bases aren't loaded, then I want David Robertson on the mound. Whether it's the 6th, 7th, or 8th inning.
How about money? The Yankees are in a tough spot, as they want to get to a payroll at or under $189 million for 2014 and 2015, but currently have $75 million committed to four players in 2014 (only counting Jeter's buyout, not if he picks up the player option), and $68 million committed to three players in 2015. Then there's the impending free agencies of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin, and Nick Swisher, along with replacing Derek Jeter and... oh yeah... Mariano Rivera. Some say to go after somebody like Jonathan Broxton or Houston Street (free agents in 2013 or 2014). Well how about just saying "no" to a big money closer, and instead just get good relievers? Have David Robertson as your top reliever in 2013, along with maybe David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and others (most likely Phl Hughes will be among them). Look at the price of closers this past offseason. Heath Bell signed a deal with Miami worth $27 million over 3 years, Frank Francisco agreed on a deal with the Mets for 2 years and $12 million, Ryan Madsen closes for Cincinnatti at a cost of $8.25 million (sorry, he's hurt, so he's getting that money for nothing), Joe Nathan cost Texas a 2 year contract for $14.75 million, Jose Valverde will make $9 million in Detroit, and Jonathan Papelbon will get $50 million over 4 years in Philadelphia. Meanwhile Jeremy Affeldt was the only non-closing reliever to touch the $5 million a year mark with San Francisco.
The only downside to such a thing would be Girardi making more decisions during a game, which I can tell is making the Girardi haters cringe. However, bullpen management has been the best thing Joe has done for the team in his 3 plus years in the Bronx.
To sum up...
1. There's never going to be another Mariano Rivera, so why even try?
2. The best relievers should be pitching in the biggest spots anyway.
3. The team could save money by not paying closer prices.
So here's my message to Mr. Girardi.... "Be a pioneer in saying 'no' to the closer position after this season."