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Dear Girardi: Here’s a Cheat Sheet On How to Manage Your 2011 New York Yankees

We all know that the Yankees have another solid team heading into the 2011 baseball season.  However, there is a reason why they are not the favorites this season and it is much bigger than failing to get Cliff Lee and barely attempting to get now new Boston Red Sox, Carl Crawford.

The Yankees still have a powerful lineup especially when clicking all at once.  They have a much improved bullpen as they signed Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano.  They are finally heading into a spring training where they will give Jesus Montero and Austin Romine a big chance to make the Major League squad.  Of course as we all know only one can make it.

They have Damaso Marte coming back from  injury to give them a viable second left handed reliever to bring out of the bullpen along with Feliciano.  Though they did lose Andy Pettitte to retirement, they have two front line starters in C.C Sabathia and Phil Hughes along A.J Burnett who believe it or not will rebound in 2011 to have his usual 14 or 15 win season.

Now, of course Burnett will have games where he makes you want to throw and break something.  But, on the positive side, he will also have those spectacular outings that will make you wonder, why with a curveball like he possesses is he not one of the greatest pitchers in the game?

That’s the good side of the Yankees as a whole.  The bad side—well we all know what it is.  They have mediocre pitching at the 4th and 5th starting rotation spots. Their bench is okay at best and some might say that Derek Jeter’s defense is another issue.  But frankly that is ridiculous.  When Jeter is hitting well the media says he is playing great defense and when he is batting .260 like he was last season his defense is a “liability”.

It is to be expected that this team will not look the same when we get into the dog days of August and September because of the two glaring holes on the bench and in the starting rotation.  That is the beauty of of having rich bosses who will undoubtedly invest money in a starter and some bench help by the July 31st trade deadline.

With that said, the biggest concern with this Yankee team is Joe Girardi.  The truth is that though they are not the favorite to win it all this season the Yankees have a really good shot.  It is up to Girardi to not mess it up and to help this team overcome all the flaws that they have this season.  That is what good managers do.

Thankfully this writer is willing to help.

Now, it is well known that managing from your living room couch when you are not in the public eye, and criticizing from the outside looking in is much easier than being one of only 30 major league managers.  Not to mention that a Yankee manager works for an organization that has no patience for not winning it all.

But eh! I decided to do it anyway.

Here is how the 2011 Yankees should be managed from starting pitching, to the lineup, the bullpen, the bench and defense.

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Glaring Holes on the Yankees: How Are They in First?

You really have to wonder about the Yankees. They currently have the best record in all of baseball, but in watching them play, their weaknesses are obvious.

If you break the team down piece by piece, the best part of the team is the starting staff that includes CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes.

They all have at least 11 wins this season, and always give the Yankees length, especially CC Sabathia. He is the ace of the staff, and for that, they were rewarded with spots on the American League All Star team. 

Another positive part of the Yankees is their defense. They have, without question, the best defensive infield in all of baseball.

The bright spots in the outfield are Gardner and Granderson. The only weak spot in the outfield is Nick Swisher, but even he has shown in his time with the Yankees that he can make great simple plays, and even outstanding plays from time to time. He also has a very good arm, along with a good bat at the plate.

Speaking of batting, this brings up their first glaring weakness. From the beginning of the season, there has always been something wrong with their hitting.

Whether it’s injuries to Posada, Johnson, and Granderson or the annual horrible start by Teixeira, there is always something wrong. 

Jeter is not having a very good year at all. He is batting only .269, down over 40 points from his career .315 average.

Alex Rodriguez is not having a good season either. His power comes and goes, and he doesn’t seem to have any control over it.

Granderson is only hitting .239, which is inexcusable, especially since he is not putting up the power numbers he did in Detroit last season.

The only players who are having good seasons at the plate are Cano and Gardner. Ironically enough, Gardner is a ninth place hitter. As for Cano, he started slipping at the plate lately.

To his credit, no one can actually expect to go the whole season without some type of slump. Nonetheless, he is still batting .333 with 17 HR and 59 RBI entering today’s rubber game against the Rays.

The Yankees are in first place but haven’t had a situation where all their hitters have been clicking at the same time. That is unfortunate, but what is more unfortunate are the struggles of A.J Burnett, Javier Vasquez, and the Yankees’ bullpen this season. Joba Chamberlain is also struggling mightily.

It is down right frustrating to see the bullpen, Vasquez, and Burnett struggle like they have this season. Moreover, it’s mind bottling how the Yankees are still in first place despite their pitching woes.

Lets focus on the Bullpen first. The bullpen, with the exclusion of Mariano Rivera, has been very inconsistent. Mariano remains the best closer in baseball. Sadly, it’s the same problem that the Yankees have had for many years this past decade. The bridge to Mariano is very shaky. And it’s shaky because of Joba.

Joba is currently pitching to a 5.79 ERA and a 1-4 record. That is highly disappointing to anyone who remembers what a force he was coming out of the bullpen in 2007. In his defense, the Yankees moving him from a starter to a reliever quite a few times might have rattled him. Still, a 5.79, Era is hard to defend. 

With the exclusion of Mariano, the Yankees bullpen ERA this year is over five. That is not going to get it done, especially in the playoffs.

What has saved the Yankees is the length that their starters have been giving them. But, they should not expect this every time out.

After all, Sabathia, Pettitte, and Hughes are only human. At this rate by the postseason, their arms will be shot.

Though Vasquez, after a horrendous start, has been pitching better of late. 

The pitcher who has not figured it out yet is Burnett. He has been extremely inconsistent to say the least.

Is he really worth that $80 million contract? After yesterday’s loss to the Rays, he is now only 14 games over 500 for his career.

To top it all off, yesterday Burnett lied about slapping a wall that had the Yankees line-up card in plastic out of frustration. He, by mistake, cut his pitching hand and never told the Yankees about it.

It was stupid and irresponsible of him to do that and it ended up hurting the team.

As if things weren’t bad enough, today Andy Pettitte in the third inning threw a pitch to Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach and strained his left groin.

Though the Yankees have the best record in baseball at 57-33, if they continue playing this way, they will not win the World Series.

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