By Steve Silverman
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Joe Girardi was not at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies for Greg Maddux and Joe Torre last week at Cooperstown, but his presence could be felt at baseball’s shrine throughout the ceremonies.
Girardi was a decent catcher for the Cubs and Yankees throughout his playing career. He did not have eye-catching ability but he made the most out of what he had. He was one of Maddux’s primary catchers during the first part of his career in Chicago, and the best pitcher of his generation acknowledged Girardi’s contribution to his success.
Nice tip of the hat there.
Girardi was also vital to the most significant victory of Joe Torre’s career. The catcher came up in the third inning of Game 6 of the 1996 World Series with Paul O’Neill on base and Maddux pitching for the Braves in a scoreless game. Girardi promptly launched a triple to center field that gave the Yankees a lead that they would not relinquish. It led to the first World Series title since 1978 and the first of the Torre era.
Torre acknowledged that hit in his induction speech as well.
Girardi took the handoff from Torre when he left the Yankees, and he has managed to keep this team in contention nearly every year despite a plethora of problems.
The job he is doing in his seventh year is perhaps the best of his career. The Yankees are a winning team once again even though CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are injured and done for the year. Masahiro Tanaka is out now, and while there have been some encouraging reports, there are no guarantees he will be back. Michael Pineda will likely return shortly, and that will be a big help for a team that badly needs pitching.
Girardi has managed to keep this team on the edge of contention, and he’s gotten an assist from Brian Cashman. Bringing in Chase Headley and Martin Prado are both solid moves, and the general manager deserves credit.
Just take a look at the Red Sox if you want to see how bad it can get. They are being widely lauded for a series of trade-deadline moves that have brought them Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. To many, it means that the Red Sox are loading up for the 2015 season.
What it also means is that the Red Sox screwed up the 2014 season completely. Their road to destruction can be clearly laid at the feet of owner John Henry.
They let Jacoby Ellsbury get away to the Yankees and they never replaced him. Ellsbury has shown flashes of his 4 ½-tool ability (his power is just so-so) with the Yankees and while he is in a vicious slump right now (three for his last 39), he could be the player that carries the team in September.
That’s something that he often did for the Red Sox. Yet Henry, through his general manager Ben Cherington, let Ellsbury get away. The team was fairly doomed when Boston tried to get by with the likes of light-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts in centerfield.
John Farrell, who received deserved laurels for his role in the 2013 World Series title, has not been able to do anything right. That criticism may not seem fair, but no matter what lineup he has put on the field, the Red Sox can’t not score runs.
Girardi has had many of the same frustrations, and the Yankees have not bowled over the competition, particularly when it comes to offense. However, Girardi’s Yankee lineups proved far more competitive than Farrell’s Red Sox batting orders.
That’s the primary reason that the Yankees have a chance to run down the Orioles in the American League East or at least make a run at the wild card spot while the Red Sox pat themselves on the back for the preparations they have made for the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, none of the pitchers that helped them win the 2014 World Series other than Clay Buchholz are still on the team.
Girardi has the same problem that all Yankees managers since Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy have faced. They are expected to win like no other franchise in sports.
Casey Stengel managed to win 10 pennants in his 12 years with the Yankees, including nine in his first 10 years. The Old Professor was fired after his last pennant, presumably because the Yankees were beaten in the 1960 World Series by the Pirates in seven games.
Decades later, Stengel’s run with the Yankees is legendary. But at the time, ownership was dissatisfied.
Ralph Houk was supposed to win, Billy Martin was supposed to win, Buck Showalter was supposed to win, Torre was supposed to win and Girardi is supposed to win.
The old standards, however, are not fair or reasonable. Girardi manages his butt off on a nightly basis, and if it weren’t for his moves in conjunction with Cashman’s maneuvers, Yankees would be the same kind of road kill that the Red Sox are this season.
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