Patience With Foolhardy Girardi Wearing Thin


Jun 23, 2009

It seems weird to think that the Yankees could go 4-8 over their last 12 games, lose back-to-back series to the Nationals and Marlins and be 0-8 on the year against the Red Sox without feeling the wrath of George Steinbrenner.

As recently as a few years ago, Steinbrenner would have issued a statement through Howard Rubenstein apologizing to the city of New York and Yankees fans everywhere for his team's embarrassing performance. He would have made sure the tri-state area knew that the club's recent performance was unacceptable and that the current manager's job was unsafe if the poor results continued. But those days are long gone. And with them went the swagger the Yankees once held.

The "Bombers" plated just 18 runs in their six games against the Nationals and Marlins, two of the worst teams and pitching staffs in all of baseball. And in the matter of two weeks, the Yankees fell from first in the East to four games back of the rival Red Sox, who have beaten the Yankees in every way a baseball game can be won.

At some point, Joe Girardi's job security is going to start getting questioned, and his tenure in the Bronx could become an issue before week's end. With six games upcoming against the Braves and Mets, General Joe could be on the hot seat as early as this Sunday.

When Girardi was chosen to take over for the larger-than-life Joe Torre in October of 2007, no one questioned the Yankees' decision to bring in the 2006 NL Manager of the Year, a former Yankee and a modern-day Billy Martin. But after promising to be an aggressive manager who would make things happen — refusing to sit around and wait for the three-run home run the way Torre had grown accustomed to by the end of his reign — Girardi's first 231 games in the Bronx have only shown glimpses of the man the Yankees thought he would be.

Girardi was given a pass in his first year in the Bronx when the Yankees failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1993. With a slew of injuries that ended Jorge Posada's and Chien-Ming Wang's seasons early and saw Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Joba Chamberlain all spend time on the disabled list, it was a miracle the Yankees were able to finish 16 games over .500 for the year. But injuries or no injuries, no October baseball on River Ave. just doesn't fly.

This season has been much of the same from the young Yankees manger, with a nine-game winning streak earlier in the season keeping the Big Apple media from asking for Girardi's head already. A team that is worth just over $200 million, playing in a stadium worth $1.5 billion, shouldn't be chasing the division leader all season. But through the first 63 games, there's no reason to think that won't be the case this summer.

Girardi went away from the plan to rest Alex Rodriguez every five or six games after the third baseman returned from hip surgery. Instead, he played him in 45 straight games, as A-Rod's average fell to .212 with an 0-for-15 stretch before he finally got two days off. And it took general manager Brian Cashman stepping into the fray for A-Rod's hip to finally get some rest.

And in the same road trip that A-Rod got a day off, $161 million man CC Sabathia had to leave a game in the second inning with biceps soreness. Sabathia
might be a workhorse and arguably the most reliable starter in all of
baseball, but he has also thrown over 118 pitches three times this
season, and we are still in June. Sabathia didn't get over 120 pitches
in 2008 until July 5.

Sabathia isn't about to turn down taking the ball for another inning in
a start, the same way A-Rod wasn't going to demand a day off when he is
the clean-up hitter on what is supposed to be a first-place team. But
it's Girardi's job as manager to recognize situations like that and
plan accordingly. And the bullpen has been handled the same way this

Sure, you have to play the cards you are dealt, and the personnel in
the 'pen is Cashman's fault, but Girardi could not have done a more
horrible job choosing roles and situations for each reliever.

His infatuation with Phil Coke (1-3, 3.64) is puzzling, and his misuse of Alfredo Aceves (4-1, 2.32) and Dave Robertson (1-0, 1.84) is mind-boggling. And that's not to mention Phil Hughes — possibly the most dominant Yankee outside of Mariano Rivera,
now that he's a reliever — who Girardi brings into a different
situation every time he is called upon, whether the Yankees are winning
or losing.

Brett Tomko, who has played for eight different teams in 13 seasons, is holding a roster spot with promising talent in the minors. And Angel Berroa is wasting a place on the bench with 22 at-bats on the season, while Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre currently has an abundance of offensive power.

The Steinbrenners opened their wallets again this offseason bringing aboard Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira in an effort to make sure the best regular season show on Earth would once again become the best postseason team on Earth. And I'm sure the Steinbrenners aren't going to want to watch their All-Star caliber club and new stadium's season end in September.

Girardi is still just 44 years old and relatively early in his career as a manager. But in New York, his inconsistent success and ability to produce at least one questionable decision each game is a recipe for disaster.

There might be 93 games remaining in the season, but Girardi needs his Yankees to get on a run. And he's got to get them on a run now.

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