I’ll be honest: I didn’t think the Yankees would win the AL East, right up to the day they won it.
Yet they did it, and in fact by a wide margin. Before we even consider the problems of the playoffs, we should acknowledge the gutsy job turned in by everyone, particularly manager Joe Girardi, who, though he is one of the worst on-the-field decision-makers in baseball, does know a few things about holding a team together over the long run.
I know I said somewhere that they could never get through the season with C.C. Sabathia as their only top starting pitcher, and I know I said more than once that a rotation fleshed out — and I do mean fleshed out — with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia could not hold together.
I’ve been very clear in saying that A.J. Burnett is an overpaid, overrated head case. I thought there was no way the Yankees could even contend unless Phil Hughes finally blossomed into the pitcher it looked like he would be a couple of years ago.
I thought Derek Jeter was much too old to be a winning shortstop.
I never thought the Yankees could win with Alex Rodriguez missing so much playing time.
I never thought the Yankees could win with Mark Teixeira hitting .240.
I thought there was no way they could win with Joba Chamberlain and Pedro Feliciano out for a significant portion of the year.
On TheYankeeAnalysts, Moshe Mandel makes a convincing argument for Girardi as Manager of the Year, a subject I really hadn’t thought about until I read his piece. Here’s some of Mandel’s argument:
“Rafael Soriano had a terrible start to the season and seemed to be becoming a clubhouse and media issue before his injury. However, once he returned from the DL, Girardi showed faith in him by plugging him back into an important role, and Soriano looks to be a key bullpen cog heading into October.”
“Derek Jeter started the season incredibly poorly, and many, myself included, were calling for him to play less and be dropped in the order. Joe showed incredible faith in the Yankee captain, and Jeter has responded by having an amazing resurgence. I have to imagine that he appreciates the trust that Joe exhibited.”
And so on.
To sum up, Girardi has navigated some pretty tough waters this year with only one proven starter, Sabathia, and him not always so reliable over the last third of the season. (But of course, who knew Ivan Nova was out there?) Girardi was faced with potential mine fields of problems with two ageing, popular stars in Jeter and Jorge Posada.
How did he solve those problems? In large part by downplaying them and winning. That’s good enough for me. If I’ve admitted I was wrong about so many things about the Yankees, I’ll admit I was wrong about Girardi, too. Give him the Manager of the Year award.