Multiple deadline deals from the New York Yankees’ front office should indicate that these next two months are as crucial as ever for skipper Joe Girardi.
A team featuring a strong bullpen, something he has excelled with in his tenure in New York, and an abundance of youth, a characteristic that led him to a Manager of the Year award in his Marlins days, was the perfect mix for the Yankee manager to maximize.
However, bullpen management has turned from a strength to a weakness for Girardi, who has made numerous questionable decisions that have cost New York games, and a youthful roster has not been taken to the next level.
Although the Yankees have returned to relevancy a year sooner than expected, in his 10th year as manager of the Yankees, Girardi has failed to churn every last ounce of success out of his team — unlike many of his tremendous jobs in years past.
New York’s Pythagorean record indicates that the team should be 22 games over .500 (64-42) in its current state, which, if taken to its conclusion, would give the Yanks a firm six game lead over Boston. At the moment, due to an abominable (11-20) record in one-run games, an attribution to poor management and a string of back-end bullpen woes, the Yankees trail the Red Sox by a game in the standings and boast a record of 57-49.
Putting everything into perspective, if any fan (entering the year) was asked if they would be satisfied with that record — a year removed from a deadline fire sale — on August 3, they would say yes in an eye-blink.
With that said, the amount of games that have been squandered, a lack of forward thinking with lineup construction and a bevy of recent “all-in” moves by the higher-ups could lead one to believe that Girardi, in his final year of a four-year contract, could be on a short leash if postseason success does not find its way to the Bronx this Fall.
Leading the Opening Day roster to the playoffs would have been an achievement worthy of a contract extension, but now a playoff berth is unquestionably a mandate. Correctly strategizing playoff wins out of the Opening Day roster would have placed Girardi on a pedestal, but now a pennant would not come as a surprise.
Since January, questions have been thrown around regarding the skipper’s good-standing within the organization, and the answer has essentially been projected.
As a result of the recent moves, the Yankees will have very small tolerance for what they perceive as failure (a season without October baseball), and Girardi, someone who has missed the postseason with four of his nine clubs while in pinstripes, can ill-afford to falter on what is now an expectation: a playoff series coming to Yankee Stadium.
What was initially an evaluation year has turned into a “right here, right now” ordeal.
If the addition of Sonny Gray did not tell you that, the strengthening of an already formidable bullpen with the additions of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the acquisition of a powerful corner infielder in Todd Frazier, and the swap for a veteran rotational presence in Jaime Garcia should have.
A roster that had multiple flaws in late-June now contains very few weaknesses. The starting rotation is above average at the very least, the bullpen is arguably the best in all of major league baseball (if not one of the best of all-time), and the lineup, top to bottom, is extremely well-balanced, and will be even more so when Starlin Castro returns and Greg Bird is healthy and reactivated.
Since the Yankees’ last ALDS appearance in 2012, Girardi has never been handed a roster nearly this strong.
If he wants to continue managing this team in 2018 and beyond, he must come through with no less than what the fan base witnessed in ’12 — and most likely a more bearable finish. It’s back to the good old Yankee way, and in that world, a 50-percent “success” rate does not earn you a new contract, it earns you a pink slip.