First Pitch: Don't blame Joe
July, 2, 2013
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJoe Girardi now has 600 wins as a skipper -- 522 of them, plus a World Series title, with the Bombers. But would Yankees fans want him to take the fall if the team misses the playoffs?MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Girardi won his 600th game as a manager Monday night -- 522 of them with the Yankees -- and he has certainly had better teams than the one he is sending out on a daily basis this year.
He's also got a World Series ring as a manager to go along with his three as a player, a manager of the year award (for managing the Florida Marlins), and three American League East titles and a wild-card appearance in five seasons as Yankees manager.
And yet, there are plenty of Yankees fans, it seems, who would like the manager to take the fall if the team fails to make the playoffs this year, a distinct possibility considering the number of injuries to key players the team has suffered and the failure of some of their replacements to maintain the level of performance they showed early in the season.
That is nothing short of ridiculous. In truth, this 2013 season has been one of Girardi's finest managerial achievements, if not his finest.
After all, Girardi can't hit for Vernon Wells or Travis Hafner and can't pitch for CC Sabathia or Phil Hughes. He can't make up for the losses of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.
What he can do, however, is maintain a positive attitude among the players he does have, and to this point, he has done that in exemplary fashion.
It is true that last week, the frustration seemed to boil over when he tossed a towel onto the field after the final out of the game against Texas in which the Yankees were shut out by Derek Holland, and I did detect a note of resignation in his voice after Sunday night's loss to the Orioles, completing a sweep, when he went philosophical on us and started saying things like, "It's only a game," etc., etc.
But day in and day out, Girardi has refused to make excuses or accept them. Not once have I heard him lament the incredible run of bad luck that has hit the Yankees from the first game of spring training, when Granderson broke his arm in his first at-bat. It would make it a lot easier to call for his head if he were whining his way through this season. The way he has hung tough -- and oh, yeah, handled his bullpen -- has made it impossible.
If the Yankees don't live to see October this season, you would expect that changes will be made.
You might see wholesale turnover in the roster and the coaching staff. There might even be calls to whack the GM, but this would be as big an injustice as firing the manager. (I'll get into that at another time.)
But if there's anyone who does not deserve to take the blame for this, it's Girardi.
In fact, he deserves the credit for whatever the Yankees do manage to accomplish this season.
AGREE? DISAGREE? Let us know in the comments section.
UP NOW: The Rapid Reaction off Monday night's 10-4 win over the Twins, and my column on why the Yankees can't afford to let Robinson Cano play anywhere else next year.
ON DECK: Game 2 of this four-game set, Phil Hughes (3-7, 4.82 ERA) versus RHP Samuel Deduno (4-2, 3.32), first pitch at 8:10 p.m. ET. The clubhouse opens at 4:40 p.m., and I'll be there with the lineups and pregame news shortly thereafter, so be sure to stick your head in. And as always, thanks for reading.
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