If the Yanks struggle, should Joe Girardi be worried?
THAT'S HOW IT GOES
The Yankees' clubhouse is stuffed with excuses for 2013.
From age to injuries, the expectations are low, as in not making the playoffs low.
Still, these are the New York Yankees.
They like to boast about being the greatest franchise in sports. Hal Steinbrenner may not be his old man, but we haven't seen him under fire yet, either.
With all the chatter about the $189 million mandate, Hal will be the one that fans first point to if all goes wrong this year. Injuries or not, fair or unfair, Hal is the one that Yankee fans feel may tear down the empire.
What do most owners do when the public turns on them? They point a finger at one of their underlings and shout to the mob, "He's the guy!"
So that is why Joe Girardi is managing for his job this season.
Already, in Hal's first chance to take Girardi off the griddle, he declined to do so in an interview with Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPN New York 98.7 FM on Tuesday.
Hal wouldn't say it was the playoffs-or-else for his manager, but he also refused to declare Girardi would be the manager next year.
Girardi won a World Series in 2009. Since then he has made the playoffs every season. Even if the ALCS felt like a failure, the Yankees did finish in the final four in 2012.
Girardi has proven to be a very solid manager. He can handle a bullpen very well and his reliance on statistical fact is better than the old "hunch play" of yore.
Still, the Yankees might need a scapegoat if this season goes wrong. Owners rarely blame themselves.
If the Yankees don't make the playoffs, the question if "Joe should go" will be brought up, for sure.
That how it works in the tabloid city.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
If the Yankees fail to make the playoffs this year -- and it is a real possibility, considering the injuries that have decimated the lineup roster, the age that is on this roster and the sheer number of productive players who were allowed to get away this winter because of this new era of fiscal responsibility -- someone is bound to take the fall.
But I don't agree that it will be Joe Girardi. Nor should it be.
In five years as the Yankees manager, he has won the AL East three times, the AL wild card once and the World Series once. Throw in his one season at the helm of the Florida Marlins, and he's got a Manager of the Year award, too.
Plus, he has binders full of built-in excuses, from an owner who put the brakes on spending just long enough for all the desirable free agents to be gone, to a laundry-list of injuries beginning with Alex Rodriguez and ending, so far, with Derek Jeter.
At this point, it looks like it will take a Manager of the Year-caliber season just to keep the Yankees in the race, let alone win the division.
And, as Hal Steinbrenner admitted recently, in an interview with Michael Kay and Don La Greca on ESPNNew York 98.7 FM, he refuses to guarantee Girardi a job next year. The son is not the father. Hal is not The Boss.
It just doesn't seem likely that the frugal, analytical son of The Boss will react in the same knee-jerk fashion as his father would. And even if he surprises us all and does, who would he replace him with?
Torre, Lou Piniella and Tony LaRussa are retired. Bobby Valentine's failure at Boston is a black mark on his legacy that makes him radioactive right now. Joe Maddon and Mike Scioscia aren't available. And Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel are dead.
The cold reality is, Joe Girardi may not be everyone's favorite style of manager, but for right now and for this team, who would be better? Manny Acta? Trey Hillman? Ozzie Guillen?
Hal is not George, and he has yet to show a tendency to create scapegoats. I don't think he will this year, either.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.