NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi is the eternal optimist, but the way his team has failed to respond to the "challenge" in front of it this week -- win the series against the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox, teams with a combined record of 113-141 -- has got to be driving him nuts now that the Yankees have lost the first two to the Astros, doesn't it?
Well, no. This morning, the Yankees' manager continued to express his belief in his team, although admittedly with a bit less enthusiasm than he has in the past. The face was glum, but the words were upbeat when he was asked if he was discouraged by the way the Yankees have failed to take advantage of what looks like a soft spot in the schedule.
"No, because I see the effort there," he said. "You look at last night, we're in the ninth inning, we're down three runs and we still have an opportunity to score some runs. Disappointed, no. Are guys frustrated? Yes. Discouraged? No. I'm not. Are guys frustrated, sure --because of why we play this game. We play this game to win and to win championships and to get into the playoffs and do those types of things. There's frustration in the room. But today is a new day and you've got to turn it around."
Girardi followed that with an anecdote about his predecessor, Joe Torre.
"Well, how many of you remember when a Hall of Fame manager said that I hit .360 one year and I hit .260 the next and I was the same guy? It happens," Girardi said. "These are not guys playing with remote controls in a Nintendo or Wii game. It's not. There's a human element and being off the slightest little [bit] is the difference between executing a pitch and getting a base hit. Sometimes it just happens."
But Girardi seemed to be out of answers when asked what else he could do -- "You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change. Eventually it's going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period," he said -- and acknowledged the Yankees were rapidly reaching that point in the season where they are no longer in control of their destiny.
"It becomes a concern when you get down to the last three, four weeks of the season," he said. "[It's] a concern now. But my bigger concern is us, not the other teams. Because if we don't win, it doesn't matter what the other teams do in front of us. My focus is still our club and if we play really good baseball down the stretch, we have a shot."
But again, what tells the manager his team will be capable of doing that?
"I look at the effort and I know the results are very important because if the effort is not there, there is no chance of having results," he said. "The effort is there every day. We have seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going, so I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard."