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Hartnett: Joe Girardi Needs To Tinker His ‘By The Book’ Approach

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Joe Girardi (credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Joe Girardi (credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
» More Columns

When the New York Yankees first hired Joe Girardi, I didn’t recall him being an unimaginative ‘by the book manager.’  While presiding over the Florida Marlins, he wasn’t a robotic figure who based his decisions purely on conventional wisdom.

You could drag anyone off the street and give them a book full of managerial guidelines if baseball was meant to be played this way.  The best managers know when use their gut and Girardi needs to dig out his thinking cap that he must have buried somewhere deep in his office at Yankee Stadium.

This is a call for Girardi to break free from his pedantic approach.  The way he’s managing lately is akin to 1490’s Christian theologians who obstinately believed that the world was flat while the rest of the educated world understood that the world was indeed round.  Christopher Columbus proved that theory wrong and I’d like to debunk some of Girardi’s managerial myths.

The Belief That A Lefty Specialist Must Always Face A Lefty Batter In Late Game Situations

Girardi has relied on Boone Logan in the toughest of spots when a more dependable arm is sitting the bullpen.  The left-handed Logan defies logic in that he is actually more successful against righties than lefties.  Take a gander at his splits and you’ll see that Logan’s BAA left-handed hitters is .300, while .167 versus righties.

Sure, he might get by against your weaker opposition but this isn’t the man you want on the mound in a clutch situation facing fearsome lefty hitters like David Oritz and Josh Hamilton.  On Monday night, Logan showed why he can be trusted with even the most simple of tasks.  Inheriting a runner on first, Logan preceded to plunk Joey Votto and force Girardi to use Mariano Rivera to close out the ballgame.

The fact is Girardi is better off using anyone but Logan in these situations.  It doesn’t matter which throwing arm they use.  At least in the eyes of Yankee fans, any arm at Girardi’s disposal inspires greater confidence than Logan.  I can’t see why the Yankees can’t go with an all-righty bullpen until Brian Cashman acquires a trusted lefty specialist.

Benching Brett Gardner Against Lefty Pitchers

Playing Andruw Jones over the hot-hitting Brett Gardner didn’t cost the Yankees Monday night but actually hold on… wait a minute, he almost inexplicably did.  Jones delivered an RBI single in the first inning that extended the Bombers’ early lead to 4-0 but a base-running gaff in his second at-bat could have turned out to be costly in a tighter game.  There is no excuse not knowing how many outs there are and Jones dogged it to first base assuming that there were two outs to end the third inning on a 5-4-3 double play.

If he made even the slightest effort to hustle, Jones would have been easily safe and allowed Robinson Cano to move to third base with Eduardo Nunez coming to the plate.  Jones later cited an ankle injury but no one will believe his lame excuse.  Those watching saw what happened with their own eyes.

Let’s forget about Jones’ lazy play and take a look at his role on the ballclub which is to be a right-handed platoon player to spell Gardner against lefties.  He’s not even doing that part of his job adequately as he’s batting .241 against left-handers.  When used in righty/righty situations his average sinks to a horrid .118.

What is most mind-boggling is that Gardner is being excused from the lineup at the moment he’s caught fire.  The best way of cooling off a surging hitter is by exiling him to the bench.  Girardi seems to use every excuse possible not to play Gardner against lefties as he’s used Nick Swisher as the lead-off man in his place.  Gardner is batting .286 with a scalding on-base percentage of .390 against lefties, which is an even higher OBP than versus righties.

I’d hate to imagine Gardner being lifted from the lineup in the playoffs because Girardi doesn’t feel comfortable with him or doesn’t like using back-to-back left-handed hitters in Gardner and Curtis Granderson.  It’s obvious what Gardner means to the Yankees’ lineup as a table-setter and stole base threat.

In Conclusion

Girardi needs to take that book his and throw it away.  We all know he’s a very prepared manager who meticulously studies match-ups but sometimes it’s best to manage the game using feeling.  Winning baseball isn’t about pitch counts or small sample statistics where a batter has only faced a pitcher roughly four times.

I remember Joe Torre trusting in David Cone to get out of a jam in the 6th inning of the 1996 World Series.  Even though Cone had lost his control, Torre stuck with him rather than turning to the bullpen.  Gardner has done everything to earn an everyday role as the Yankees’ lead-off hitter yet Girardi doesn’t view him that way.  Again, I implore Girardi to burn his book of tendencies and begin managing with his gut.

I ask you the fans, should Girardi change his managerial approach?  Let me hear your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

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