Tag: Joe Girardi

Joe Girardi Says He’d Ban Shifts from Baseball If He Were MLB Commissioner

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said on Tuesday he would ban shifts in baseball if he was the commissioner of MLB, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com.

“It is an illegal defense, like basketball. Guard your man, guard your spot,” he said, comparing the shift to basketball’s defensive three-second rule, per Marchand. “If I were commissioner, they would be illegal.”

Yankees starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi lost his no-hitter in the seventh inning Monday evening after the Texas Rangers‘ Nomar Mazara hit a ball through the gap at shortstop that was vacant because the Yankees were running the shift.

While Girardi conceded that he would continue employing the defensive tactic while it was legal, he added: “I just think the field was built this way for a reason, with two on one side and two on the other.”

The shift has also been employed successfully against the Yankees at a consistent rate, another reason for Girardi’s ire.

As Marchand noted, the shift “has hurt the Yankees more than any team the last three seasons. The Yankees have been shifted more than 1,000 times than any other club. Their .269 average is the worst over that span.”

Don’t expect the shift to go away anytime soon, however. While MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred considered banning the shift before taking over his post in 2014, per Marchand, he’s since noted: “When I talked about the defensive shifts, I let myself get into a situation where I speculated about a change I wasn’t serious about.”

Indeed, the shift has become a crucial defensive strategy for many teams. It is most often employed against power hitters who have a tendency to pull the ball, increasing the likelihood that what might otherwise have been a hit will instead find its way to a newly positioned infielder.

There is a trade-off, of course, as the team is left with just one infielder on the other side of the field, meaning a well-placed bunt or opposite-field hit is almost guaranteed to be a hit. That strategic balance is why the shift will likely remain a legal part of the game. 


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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: A Compelling New Rivalry Grows in the American League

1. The Budding Red Sox-Tigers Rivalry

The beautiful thing about sports is that the landscape is ever-changing and the competition is ever fiercer, and a couple of years after Torii Hunter lands upside-down in a bullpen in Boston in October, things between the Tigers and Red Sox can get even stranger.

Before Boston eclipsed them Tuesday by agreeing to terms with David Price on a record (for a pitcher) $217 million deal, the Tigers signed the first big free agent of the winter, handing Jordan Zimmermann a six-year, $110 million contract this week. Key takeaway: With Al Avila in charge of the front office, so far the Tigers don’t look much different than they did with Dave Dombrowski in charge.

Dombrowski, now running the Red Sox, was fired in August. Well, Detroit owner Mike Ilitch doesn’t use the word “fired.” But when your contract is running out and you are not asked back, what else do you call it?

“He knew he wasn’t getting a contract,” Ilitch told the media in Detroit on Monday as the Tigers introduced Zimmermann, via MLB.com’s Jason Beck. “That’s all there was to it, because I didn’t win with him. We were close. He’s a great guy. But you know, there’s times you’ve got to change. If you’re not winning, you’ve got to change.

“So I made up my mind: I’ve got to change. So I called him and told him like a gentleman.”

Combined with their acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez two weeks ago, the Tigers are leaping out of the gate this winter. Avila, highly respected in the industry, is off to a flying start.

Now, here’s the interesting part:

“This year, I like the way Al and [manager Brad Ausmus] are going after everything,” Ilitch said. “I’m telling them, ‘You have to go out and get me the best players. I don’t care about the money. I want the best players, and that’s it.”

Dombrowski brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Also Max Scherzer. Victor Martinez. Prince Fielder. David Price. One after another, like an assembly line. With him in charge, the Tigers won four consecutive AL Central titles from 2011-14. They played in two World Series (’06 and ’10) and just missed two more (losing the ALCS in ’11 and ’13).

Maybe Ilitch, 86, will get his long-awaited World Series title with Avila in charge. Could happen. But it is nearly humanly impossible for Avila to acquire players with greater marquee value than Dombrowski did.

Meanwhile, in Price, Dombrowski hauled in the ace the Red Sox couldn’t get last winter when they whiffed on Jon Lester. Dombrowski, of course, traded Price away from Detroit last July with the Tigers out of the postseason running, because an aging organization was desperate for an infusion of young talent.

Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, the young pitchers Dombrowski obtained from Toronto in the Price deal, figure into Detroit’s 2016 rotation behind Justin Verlander, Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez.

While it would have been even more interesting were the Tigers pursuing Price as well, the fact that Avila is operating in Detroit with nearly all of Dombrowski’s staff working under him while Dombrowski continues chasing a World Series title in Boston adds one more early layer of intrigue to 2016.

Maybe it was just time for the proverbial fresh start for both sides. But you can bet that of the many things now driving Dombrowski in Boston, sticking it to Ilitch and the Tigers is one of them. He’s got too much class to ever say that himself, but it is a natural human emotion, isn’t it? Someone tells you adios, no matter how friendly it is, and you still want to prove the other guy wrong.   

There was some thought in Detroit at the time that maybe the Tigers would shift philosophy and embark on a retooling program. But Ilitch, speaking publicly for the first time since cutting Dombrowski loose, said he plans to continue spending toward that elusive World Series win. He made it clear that if the Tigers payroll passes the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million, it’s fine with him.

“I’m supposed to be a good boy and not go over [the threshold],” Ilitch said, via the Detroit News‘ Bob Wojnowski. “If I’m going to get certain players that can help us a lot, I’ll go over it.

“Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.”

The Tigers still need an outfielder, another starter and some bullpen help. The Red Sox have added Price and star closer Craig Kimbrel. Stay tuned.


2. The Dodgers, Dave Roberts and “Collaboration”

The reason Gabe Kapler emerged as an early favorite for the Dodgers’ managerial job is because it is clear that the front office wanted a man who is willing to play ball and employ the front office’s ideas. Congenial as Don Mattingly is, he was never fully that guy.

So call new manager Dave Roberts a compromise.

When Los Angeles ownership worried that Kapler could not be sold to the players because they would view him simply as an extension of the front office, GM Andrew Friedman and his front-office partners, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes, turned to Roberts. And any question regarding how much autonomy Roberts will have was answered in the first few minutes of Tuesday’s news conference.

“He’s got intellectual curiosity, he’s been around a lot of front offices with different philosophies, he understands the collaborative process of how to put a team together and how he’s going to run a team,” Zaidi said.

“I’m definitely open to it,” Roberts said, noting that the Dodgers have “the brightest people in this organization in research and development and baseball operations. … All great organizations in any industry depend on collaboration.”

Translation: When Friedman, Zaidi or Byrnes think the Dodgers lineup should tilt a particular way on a given night, Roberts will be fully open to implementing their thoughts.

In today’s world, it’s the way more and more clubs are doing business: collaboratively.

There’s always been a “collaboration” between the manager’s office and the front office, in that the general manager’s job always has been to construct a team. Tommy Lasorda had to “collaborate” with Al Campanis and Fred Claire to a degree, as well.

It’s just that the old way of doing business was that the GM would assemble a team and then turn it over to the manager. And a manager like Lasorda—or Sparky Anderson or Dick Williams—could have an outsized personality and was clearly in charge on the field.

Those days are gone. Fewer and fewer managers anymore come with dominant personalities. The job description now is to run the clubhouse, get along with the players and accept input when it comes to lineups, rotations and how to manage a bullpen.

Whether the pendulum ever swings back the other way, we’ll see.

Roberts is a terrific baseball man and a good guy who still gets mail from Red Sox fans after his epic stolen base in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. He becomes the first minority manager in Dodgers history, no small thing in an organization that hired Jackie Robinson to break baseball’s color line in 1947.

He is the right man at the right time, as long as the Dodgers get the pitching he needs.


3. Yasiel Puig Gets Smaller

Last week’s reported brawl and the fact that MLB is expected to investigate Puig under its new domestic violence policy only clouds Puig’s future even further.

We already know that the Dodgers have asked him to lose weight this winter following an injury-plagued season during which he played only 79 games. Maybe you’ve heard trade rumors attached to his name, but it is difficult to see Los Angeles trading him this winter, because right now the Dodgers would be selling low. Puig’s current trade value has never been lower.

One of Roberts’ biggest challenges as the new Dodgers manager, clearly, will be handling Puig. Roberts said he has never spoken a word to Puig, of whom he said, “From the other side, he is ultra-talented, a special player, feared, tough to compete against.”

“Feared” and “tough to compete with” could describe playing alongside Puig as well.

“This is an opportunity for me to embrace him,” Roberts said.

Biggest question is whether Puig ever will allow that to happen. It takes two to embrace.

 4. Barry Bonds and Miami is No Fish Story

The easy joke is that Barry Bonds just might be a better hitter at 51 than Ichiro Suzuki is at 42.

How might Bonds work out as the Miami Marlins’ co-hitting coach?

And can he be of any aid to Ichiro, who hit .229/.282/.279 in 153 games last summer?

And should Bonds even be welcomed as a full-time coach with any team?

Colleague Danny Knobler examined this issue the other day, so I won’t go deep here. Bonds generally got good reviews during his brief spring training stint as a San Francisco Giants hitting coach a couple of years ago and in working with Alex Rodriguez and others over the winter.

Whether or not Miami or any other team wants to hire Bonds is its own business. The man enveloped by one of the biggest steroids clouds in history has never acknowledged his cheating, nor is he expected to. Several years ago, it was made clear to Mark McGwire that if he wanted to leave exile to become Tony La Russa’s hitting coach with the Cardinals, he would have to cop to using steroids and apologize for it.

Granted, years have passed, and we live in a different day and age now. But it sure seems hypocritical to press McGwire for an apology and give Bonds a free pass.


5. Free-Agent Power Rankings

1. David Price: OK, $217 million in Boston, baby. Can y’all top that?

2. Zack Greinke: Working on it, owner of Astro the dog, who will eat very, very well now.

3. Jordan Zimmermann: Signs five-year, $110 deal with Detroit. He ain’t David Price, but he’s a start for the Tigers.

4. Ben Zobrist: Chatter surrounding him is increasing as next week’s winter meetings in Nashville draw near. Mets fans are dreaming of a Zobrist Christmas.

5. Johnny Cueto: Reportedly spit at a six-year, $120 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks. What does he want, water included with his desert?


6. Reviewing Instant Replay Reviews

Ever wonder which managers are the best at challenging umpires’ calls? You’re in luck: David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research has doggedly tracked this for the first two years of replay, and here’s what he found.

The list below includes, alphabetically, all managers and interim managers, with totals at the end. The “Total” category represents how many instant-replay challenges a manager has asked for, the “Over” category lists how many of those umpire calls were overturned, and the “Over %” category lists by percentage how many of that manager’s challenges have been overturned.


With a small sample size of only two years, as Vincent notes, “Any manager within five percent of the 52 percent average is average as far as I’m concerned.” One other note: Remember, while the names listed are the managers, their success rates also include the video guys assigned to watch replays in the clubhouse and individual team philosophies regarding replay. Some teams challenge far more often than others.


7. Reviewing Instant Replays Part II

So, breaking down the above list per Vincent’s information, we have two more charts. The first lists managers with the most challenges, the second lists managers by success rate:

8. The Evolution of Pitching

Here are some interesting complete-game and relief stats, courtesy of friend Tim Kurkjian. It’s why the market for a reliever like Darren O’Day is so hot, and why the Reds are taking so many calls on Aroldis Chapman:


9. How Many Sluggers Has Your State Produced?


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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New York Yankees: A Healthy Tanaka Can Lead Yanks to Playoffs

The New York Yankees have a ton of question marks heading into spring training. It will be the first time in a long time without Derek Jeter at shortstop. Alex Rodriguez will likely lead the league in publicity, but he may or may not hit. And there is no clear-cut choice to start at second base.

But the biggest concern might be ace pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.  The Yankees signed the Japanese star to a seven-year, $155 million contract last January, and even though he pitched wonderfully in his first 20 starts of big league action, a huge scare jolted the organization when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow in July.

After throwing his first bullpen this spring, a 21-pitch session at the Yankees’ spring training facility in Tampa Bay, he said he feels better than ever.

“I actually feel a little bit better than last year,” he told ESPN.com. “My overall body and health is better.”

When healthy, Tanaka is an absolute beast. He is already one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, and he makes opposing pitchers very uncomfortable by repeating his delivery and mixing his pitches with tremendous efficiency.

Last year, he used his fastball, splitter, slider and curveball with impeccable variety.  But the thing that makes him to most effective is his ability to repeat his delivery.  He threw his fastball 40.6 percent of the time and his splitter 25 percent of the time, according to Fangraphs. Those two pitches have about a five mph difference, and when the batter cannot tell what pitch is coming until it is out of the pitcher’s hand, it is nearly impossible to hit.

But even if he comes back and pitches similarly to how he did last year, will the Yankees even be able to contend?

On the surface, it looks like 2015 will be a bleak year for the Bronx Bombers. In Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA rankings, the Yankees are projected to finish fourth in the American League East with a record of 80-82. But they do have some talent on the roster, and manager Joe Girardi has shown he is willing to be creative if it will help the team win.

There is a chance the Yankees start the season with a six-man starting rotation.  Pitching coach Larry Rothschild hinted at that possibility to reporters last Wednesday, per Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News.

While it is definitely unorthodox, teams generally use five starting pitchers, and it actually makes a lot of sense for the Yankees because the rotation has a history of injury.

Tanaka is coming off of surgery, CC Sabathia is coming off of knee surgery, and Michael Pineda spent time on the disabled list last year with a strained back muscle

The Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi in the offseason in exchange for Martin Prado, and the hard-throwing righty should be ready to contribute immediately in the upcoming season. Adam Warren and Chris Capuano are two quality arms that would likely thrive out of the bullpen, but if management decides to go with a six-man rotation, one of those two would be the sixth starter and the other would be the club’s main long reliever.

That rotation, although injury prone, has the potential to be among the league’s best. Tanaka is an ace, Sabathia used to be an ace, and Pineda still has his better days ahead of him.

Sabathia has been brutally ineffective in the past two seasons, but one scout is confident that he has what it takes to resurrect his career going into his age-34 season. The scout, quoted in an article written by Andrew Marchand of ESPN.com, feels Sabathia is smart enough to be successful even though he doesn’t have the dynamic arsenal he once did.

“When a guy gets into their 30s, they have to have a second career,” the scout said. “I always felt CC could do that because he really knows how to pitch.”

If Tanaka returns from injury fully healthy, Sabathia has a good season and Pineda builds on his excellent 2014 when he went 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA and a phenomenal 59-7 strikeout-to-walk rate, the Yankees will have one of the best starting rotations in the American League.

In the bullpen, things look bright as usual.  While former closer David Robertson opted to sign with the White Sox in the offseason, the Yankees were able to lure Andrew Miller to the Bronx.  Miller will pair with breakout star Dellin Betances to form one of the most formidable late-inning reliever duos in the MLB.

The offense, however, does not look nearly as promising as the pitching staff. 

The Yankees finished 13th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored last year, and the starting lineup is filled with players who are past their primes.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are both solid, speedy outfielders at the top of the order, but after that, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are either unproven or over the hill.

It’s not entirely hopeless, though. 

Beltran is only one year removed from hitting .296 with 24 home runs in his age-35 season with the Cardinals. He is a good enough hitter to continue to produce even as he ages.

Teixeira struggled last year with a career-low .238 batting average on balls in play, according to Fangraphs. He was one of the best power hitters in the game as recently as 2012, and while he might never hit over .230 again in his career, he could easily hit 30 home runs in 2015.

Catcher Brian McCann faced big expectations when he signed with the Yankees last offseason. His powerful left-handed swing was supposed to result in huge home run totals in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, but he struggled mightily all season.  However, he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he expects to have a huge bounce back in his sophomore season wearing pinstripes.

Third baseman Chase Headley is a steady third baseman, great defensively and a solid hitter, but he is not the type of player who can anchor a lineup. He is a nice complementary piece, but if he is forced to be the go-to guy in the middle of the order, the Yankees are in trouble.

And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. He will undoubtedly command a huge crowd when he arrives at spring training, but if he can hit, nobody will care about his questionable past. Despite the fact that he has been arguably the most criticized player in sports for the past few years, he is still a gifted hitter. If he can get in a groove, he could have a decent season playing as the designated hitter.

Finally, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew are good defenders but don’t provide much with the bat. Rob Refsnyder may have a future at second base, but it is unclear whether or not he will have an opportunity to crack the big league club in 2015.

All in all, the roster does not look intimidating. The Yankees have the potential to be a good pitching team and a decent hitting team, especially if Tanaka comes back strong from surgery. He is the key.

If Girardi can count on Tanaka every fifth (or sixth) day to flummox the opposition with his filthy fastball-splitter mix, the Yankees will be in a good position. But if Tanaka shows some of the ill effects of elbow surgery and the Yanks are forced to rely on Sabathia and Pineda, it could be a long year.

The Yankees likely won’t make the playoffs. They are just too old, and there are too many questions regarding the team.

But with the way the postseason now works, with two wild-card spots, anything can happen. Last year seemingly every team had a chance to make the playoffs until the final days of the regular season. The Yankees have a chance to be one of those teams, and a healthy Tanaka would drastically improve their chances.

And if the Yankees did find a way to qualify as a wild-card team, a healthy Tanaka would ideally pitch the one-game playoff in an attempt to take the team to the ALDS for the first time since 2012. 

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Joe Girardi Reportedly Blasted Yankees Players in Home Finale Pregame Speech

Derek Jeter might have given the New York Yankees a memorable moment with a walk-off single in his last-ever home game, but manager Joe Girardi is still not happy about the season.

While the rest of the baseball world was focused on the tribute to the future Hall of Fame shortstop, Girardi kicked off Thursday night’s home finale with an angry tirade at the team after a disappointing year.

Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported news of the team-only speech:

According to clubhouse sources who were present for the critique, and backed up by interviews with more than a half-dozen players, most of whom spoke to ESPNNewYork.com off the record for fear of angering their manager, Girardi chided some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough.

One source described Girardi as “angry,” and said he even took a brief timeout to allow the players, led by CC Sabathia, to present Jeter with the original painting of The New Yorker’s Sept. 8 cover depicting the shortstop waving goodbye, and an expensive watch, before returning to Part Two of his tirade.

The manager did not deny the event when asked about it, explaining:

I addressed the team just to let them know what I expected of them next year. I think that obviously there’s a lot of disappointment when you don’t make the playoffs. And the expectation is, the reason you play the game, is to make the playoffs and win the World Series. We need to get better, and I let them know that.

I felt we had chances to make it and we just didn’t execute. I told them we had work to do to get better.

While his emotional speech might have taken some of the luster away from Jeter early on, Girardi does have a lot to complain about after another miserable season. With two games remaining, the Yankees accumulated an 83-77 record. One more loss would mark the team’s worst winning percentage since 1992.

Additionally, this is the second year in a row the Yankees have missed the playoffs. It’s just the third time since 1995 the squad has not been part of the postseason.

Although Girardi led this team to a World Series title in 2009, things have not gone the way he had hoped lately, and it would not be surprising to see him on the hot seat next season.

There is clearly a lot of talent on the roster, with the highest payroll in baseball, but Girardi will hope to see more production out of this group in the future.

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Joe Girardi Has Yankees’ Bullpen Exceeding Expectations

A rookie closer. A bunch of minor league starting pitching prospects who never panned out. A few no-name relievers. Some kids out of the farm system.

This is what Joe Girardi has had at his disposal in the Yankees’ bullpen throughout the 2014 season. On paper that group does not seem like much. Heading into the season the pen was projected to be a major weak spot for the Bombers, but as of now, that is not the case. To the surprise of many, the pen has been strong, especially David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances.

When New York opened the season, its relief corps consisted of the four above plus Matt Thornton, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno. Since then Nuno and Phelps have joined the rotation and several relievers have come along while others have hit the disabled list.

As of May 30, the Yankees’ pen looks as such: Robertson, Warren, Betances, Thornton, Alfredo Aceves, Preston Claiborne and Matt Daley. Kelley is currently out with a back injury but has already begun rehabbing and is expected to rejoin the club soon.      

Again, there is not much notoriety here, but this pen has done an exceptional job, far better than anyone could have hoped for. According to Fan Graphs, the Yankees’ bullpen has an ERA of 3.74 in 170.2 innings pitched. They are allowing less than one HR/9 and have a K/9 ratio of 10.49, the best in baseball. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the pen has a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 2.8, second to only the Red Sox‘s pen (3.0).

As mentioned, several Yankees are standing apart from the rest.

Despite having the unenviable task of replacing the game’s greatest closer in history, Mariano Rivera, Robertson has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for thus far. He has converted 11 of 12 save opportunities, sporting a 2.20 ERA, and has 27 strikeouts in 16.1 innings.

Kelley, before going down, was doing rather well in his new role as the club’s setup man. In 16 games he is averaging just over one strikeout an inning and has a 3.52 ERA. He has also yet to allow a home run this season. At one point, when Robertson was on the DL, Kelley served as the team’s closer, recording four saves in five opportunities. He is expected to throw a bullpen session May 30.        

Warren, after making 90 career starts in the minors, has emerged as a top-notch reliever this year. With a 1.76 ERA in 30.2 innings of relief, Warren has limited opposing batters to a .225 average this season. He has also surrendered just one homer.

Nobody has stood out more the Betances. Another failed minor league starter, Betances has seen his velocity, accuracy and consistency improve coming out of the pen. With a fastball that can reach 100 mph and a devastating slurve, Betances has been able to blow hitters away, striking out 51 in 30.2 innings of work.

In comparison, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander has 50 strikeouts in 71.1 innings. Those same hitters have a miniscule .143 batting average against Betances. Add a 1.47 ERA and it is safe to say Dealin’ Dellin has become the Yankees’ best relief pitcher.

For Girardi, it has been a challenge not to go to Robertson, Betances, Warren and when healthy, Kelley, on a daily basis. Robertson has come in for three four-out saves in the month of May alone, and Warren and Betances are tied for the most innings pitched out of the bullpen.

“There’s times you just have to give guys days off,” Girardi said earlier this week. “That’s all you have to do. I’m trying to do that.”

Warren said his manager has done a fine job of doing that so far.

“There are certain days where you’re like, I could pitch, but I’d rather not just because of the way your arm feels. Joe’s been great at that. He kind of reads it to see how we feel, and he’ll sort of take the decision out of our hands.”

Betances echoed that thought as well: “Joe told me, if you ever need a day or feel sore, (say something). I told him I feel great. He’s communicating with me, trying to give me days whenever he can.”

Regarding his new shutdown reliever, Girardi wants to be careful with his workload, saying, “We’re trying not to kill Betances.”

Girardi, in his use and development of this no-name, no-experience pen, has done a phenomenal job. Very few people thought there was any potential here, but Girardi has brought this bullpen past the point of potential. The majority of this pen has proven to be reliable, some even dominant, and that is now the expectation when the starting pitcher leaves the game.        

All stats were obtained via Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted and are accurate as of May 30, 2014.

Question or comments? Feel free to follow me on Twitter @GPhillips2727 to talk New York Yankees and Major League Baseball.

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MLB Ejections Alive and Well, Thanks to Joe Girardi and Umpire Laz Diaz

Joe Girardi and Laz Diaz exchanged words Monday night, which is a nice way of saying a manager/umpire shouting match ended with one party fuming and the other feeling as accomplished as Dikembe Mutombo swatting away a would-be dunker.

For The Win’s Ted Berg spotted a couple of videos from Monday’s game between the Yankees and Angels, one New York lost, 4-1.

The game wasn’t the only thing lost, because composure was at a premium in the eighth inning. However, some might say the skipper and Yankees relief pitcher Shawn Kelley—both tossed from the game by Diaz—were provoked into getting ejected.

Here are some thoughts from Girardi in the aftermath of a game that featured quite the peculiar ending:

The Yankees manager had this to say, via ESPN:

I mentioned to Laz in a respectful way that I thought the pitch was up to Kelly Johnson earlier in the game and he gave me the Mutombo [wagging his finger]. I don’t appreciate that. I’m not a little kid. I don’t need to be scolded. Obviously we’re trying to work together, and I just thought there were a lot of inconsistencies tonight.

If you believe Girardi, Diaz sent him to the clubhouse in much the same way a shot-blocking Mutombo once shamed NBA players. If that were the case, we certainly hope Girardi got some words in before heading off to cool down.

There were some, such as Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, who felt the advent of instant replay in MLB might kill off the entertainment that comes with irate managers scolding umpires. It seems Girardi and Diaz found a loophole because they really got after it.

Now, Diaz was 2-for-2 on the night because he also tossed pitcher Shawn Kelley amid a bullpen implosion in the eighth.

Kelley wasn’t ready to place blame, though. “I’m not going to say anything about the strike zone,” Kelley said postgame, via the New York Daily News. “I made a lot of bad pitches. It’s on me.”

The Star-Ledger‘s Brendan Kuty adds that the dual ejections were particularly noteworthy: “Kelley had never been thrown out of a game before. It was the first time Girardi had been tossed since Aug. 18 in Boston after Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster hit Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez with a pitch.”

Of course, we might add the obvious sentiment that the Yankees would do well to keep their composure, but it’s a long season, and it’s a good sign to see some fire in May, which might go a long way to helping the team in what is a jam-packed AL East.

However, it seems Diaz didn’t exactly help the situation because he continually waved Kelley away, much like an annoying older brother might needle you with jabs until you exploded.

For Girardi, we can only take his word that he was respectful in his kerfuffle with Diaz at home. Perhaps the skipper said something that really irritated Diaz. Maybe Diaz was just being a diva.

None of this matters, because we should all just sit back and appreciate an increasingly rare sight, one that only shows up when umpire and manager come together like Voltron and form one beautiful debacle.


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New York Yankees Will Reportedly Offer Joe Girardi a Contract on Wednesday

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman seems to be wasting no time in the negotiations process with free-agent manager Joe Girardi, as he plans to offer Girardi a raise over lunch on Wednesday, reports Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.

Whether or not Girardi will immediately accept the offer remains to be seen. He’ll surely have an opportunity to manage his hometown Chicago Cubs, and other teams with positions available could look to bring him aboard. He could even take a job with Fox Sports, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Girardi claims that the opportunity to be in Chicago isn’t actually as appealing to him as it once was (via Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger):

Our home has been here [in New York]. My kids are engrossed in schools here. I haven’t lived there [in Chicago] since 2006. I have a brother still there, a couple brothers there, actually. But my father’s gone. My mother’s gone. So there’s not as much there as there used to be.

Girardi, 48, has been the Yankees skipper since the beginning of the 2008 season. In his six-year tenure with the Bombers, he has a record of 564-408 (58.0 winning percentage), one World Series championship (2009) and an average American League East finish of 1.8.

That being said, Girardi has been at the helm for each of the past two times the Yankees have missed the postseason (2008 and 2013).

He was the National League Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006—his first year as a manager—and there are many around the sport that believe he’s in line for the AL side of the award this year. John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox and Terry Francona of the Cleveland Indians also deserve consideration, but their teams faced significantly fewer issues over the season.

This may have been Girardi’s best job at the helm yet.

He battled injuries from his best players—Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis—while also dealing with injuries from key role players such as Jayson Nix, Travis Hafner, Francisco Cervelli, David Phelps and Ivan Nova.

Despite these hardships, Girardi led the Yankees to an 85-77 record.

Many have questioned Girardi’s managerial tactics throughout his tenure in the Bronx, as many don’t agree with his constant use of the infamous binder that, for him, holds the answers to all his toughest decisions.

He silenced many doubters with the job he did in 2013, though, and the Yankees would be hard-pressed to find a manager better fit for the 2014 squad than Girardi. Options could present themselves later in the offseason (like Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), but the Bombers aren’t in a position to wait.

If they do, then Girardi will likely flee to Chicago.

Cashman seems ready and willing to offer Girardi whatever he wants to keep him in pinstripes. For a team with an uncertain future, locking down a familiar face at the helm is a good start to the offseason.

*Note: Managerial statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com. 

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How Joe Girardi Has Become a Better Yankees Manager Without His Superstars

Through the first 33 games of the 2013 season, the New York Yankees are defying predictions and poor expectations. When they take the field on Friday night in Kansas City, they’ll do so as a first-place club.

At 20-13, New York is playing .608 baseball.

While much of the credit in New York has gone to general manager Brian Cashman‘s ability to find contributors on the scrap heap over the winter and into spring training, it’s been manager Joe Girardi who has gotten the most out of those players.

The 2006 Manager of the Year arrived in New York for the 2008 season, taking over a franchise that hadn’t missed the postseason since prior to the 1994 strike. If replacing a legend like Joe Torre wasn’t hard enough, a portion of the fanbase was unhappy with Girardi‘s hiring at the expense of former Yankee legend Don Mattingly.

Even though Girardi was a former Yankee, had success in Florida and was the top choice of Brian Cashman, few were sympathetic when the 2008 Yankees missed the postseason during his first year in the dugout.

While that team was flawed, few gave Girardi credit for coaxing them to 89 wins. Instead, his rigid personality and decision-making were routinely questioned.

Over the years, Girardi has been accepted, if not lauded. The 2009 World Series championship helped, but for the most part he’s still underrated in his own town.

In fact, you can make the case that he’s a better game manager than Joe Torre ever was—especially when it comes to handling the bullpen. Throw in his preparedness, willingness to make the unpopular move and yearly success and Girardi should have gotten praise before the 2013 season began.

As this campaign has played out, the masses are coming around.

Not only is Girardi winning with a lineup that features Chris Nelson, Jason Nix and Chris Stewart in prominent roles, he’s coaxing the most of these players and consistently winning one-run games.

This Yankee team doesn’t have the margin for error to win 90-plus games if it leaves winnable games on the table. Thus far, it hasn’t.

Girardi has been an excellent manager, but almost handcuffed at times in his Yankee tenure. With the American League featuring the DH, his roster featuring an overwhelming number of veteran everyday players and few base stealing threats outside of Brett Gardner at his disposal, Girardi has kept his gambling to pinch hitting and bullpen maneuvers.

That’s all changed early on this season.

Daily lineup shifts—including using Robinson Cano in the No. 2 hole to increase his plate appearances, long-term plans to keep Travis Hafner healthy and using Vernon Wells at third base—have shown how good of a manager he can be without the luxury of an All-Star lineup.

In fact, Girardi‘s ability to think through a game, both on the fly and through pregame preparation, is reminiscent of what Tony La Russa brought to the dugout on a nightly basis for over 30 years.

When the reinforcements do trickle back to the Bronx this summer, Yankee fans should be in good hands with a manager who can juggle a platoon, find playing time for everyone and not panic if a star is slow to find his stride.

Handing out contract extensions is against the new organizational policy of the Yankees, but if anyone deserves to be considered for one right now, it’s the manager that looks to be improving by the year.

Has your opinion of Girardi as a manger changed over the years?

Comment below, follow me on Twitter or “Like” my Facebook page to talk all things baseball!

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MLB: Why Former Players Are Being Hired over Experienced Managers

A bizarre phenomenon has been occurring over the past decade in Major League Baseball regarding the hiring of ex-MLB players over experienced managers.

Most of these decisions to hire managers who have played in the past 15 to 20 years have been initially controversial, but the majority have actually benefited teams over the past few seasons.

Third baseman Robin Ventura was just eight years out of baseball when the White Sox hired him as their manager last year. Ventura transformed the previously sub-.500 White Sox to a legitimate contender in the AL Central with a relatively unchanged roster from 2011.

Guys like Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham showed vast improvements over their 2011 numbers as a product of the coaching change.

Take another guy like first-year manager Mike Matheny, just six years removed from the majors, and look at the results of his St. Louis Cardinals this season. Matheny’s Cards returned almost all of the players on their 2011 World Series-winning roster, except for one key piece: one of the best hitters in the league, Albert Pujols.

In what was one of the more criticized hires of last season, Matheny dealt with the substantial loss of Pujols and took his Cardinals to a place few thought possible: the seventh game of the NLCS.

Guys like Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina had some of their best seasons on record under Matheny.

Even the Yankees hired Joe Girardi just five years removed from baseball in 2008. While “Binder Joe” has taken some deep criticism over the state of his team during his tenure, you cannot overlook his four playoff appearances and one World Series title.

So what’s the secret behind this hiring strategy? Why does upper management take the risk on guys with no professional coaching experience?

The game of baseball has changed significantly over the past two decades, and players and managers have no choice but to adapt.

In 2000, the league’s average ERA was 4.77, with no teams having an average ERA below four. The league’s batting average was .270.

Today, more than half of the teams in the league own ERAs under four, and teams are scoring less runs as a whole.

Guys like Girardi, Matheny and Ventura played in the heart of the 2000s, experiencing and adapting to the change in pitching talent.

Catchers are specifically familiar with the shift in pitching talent and have observed the league in its bloated offensive days as well.

That’s what the Miami Marlins were thinking when they went out and signed 13-year veteran catcher Mike Redmond as their new manager.

Redmond, just two years removed from baseball, is the next managerial experiment in MLB that has a chance to really pay dividends for the long term.

These young managers have evolved along with the game and are familiar with modern day pitchers’ tendencies.

For example, having pitchers go the distance and pitch complete games is a trend that’s beginning to fade away in MLB. Older coaches like Jim Leyland, Dusty Baker and Terry Collins are more prone to having their guys pitch seven or eight innings, while guys like Bob Melvin and Bruce Bochy are traditionally more conservative.

Signing a manager with no MLB coaching experience is a risk, no doubt, but it can have a unique effect on a team.

Focusing on St. Louis, Matheny had a similar path through the majors with some of the veterans on last year’s team such as Beltran and Berkman. Matheny also played in a somewhat similar league to everyone on the team. Like the Marlins’ Redmond, Matheny played in the conservative pitching era’s infancy in the mid-2000s, winning four Gold Gloves along the way.

Hiring younger managers allows players to relate to their skipper and will usually strengthen a team’s chemistry.

In regards to the Ventura hiring last year, White Sox GM Ken Williams said, “I wanted someone who met very specific criteria centered around his leadership abilities. Robin Ventura was that man. His baseball knowledge and expertise, his professionalism, his familiarity with the White Sox and Chicago and his outstanding character make him absolutely the right person to lead our clubhouse and this organization into the seasons ahead,” reported Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago.

Williams was looking for Ventura to transfer his leadership and success on the field to the manager position, and he did just that.

MLB GMs are targeting players who not only display apparent knowledge for the game, but also were leaders on and off the field when they played.

The Marlins signing Tino Martinez as their hitting coach and the Rockies signing Dante Bichette as their hitting coach and Walt Weiss as their manager are more examples of MLB organizations taking this approach to hiring.

Don’t be surprised if former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus becomes the next recent MLB player to take over the reins of an organization, as this trend will most certainly continue in the years to come.

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Joe Girardi Has ‘Great’ Talk with Alex Rodriguez

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi had a “great” phone conversation with slugger Alex Rodriguez last week, according to an anonymous source who spoke with ESPNNewYork.com.

According to the source, the call happened Friday. That was the same day CBSSports.com reported that Girardi placed a call to the public address announcer during a postseason game at Yankee Stadium. The call, according to the report, was to request Rodriguez not be named when Raul Ibanez was going to pinch-hit for A-Rod.

Instead, Ibanez went to the plate and was announced, but there was no mention of the player he was hitting for.

It’s nice for Girardi to be considerate of Rodriguez’s feelings, but it doesn’t do the embattled slugger any favors.

Fans of the Yankees and every other team in Major League Baseball have more than a half-billion reasons—the combined dollar amounts of A-Rod’s last two contracts—to hold him to a much different standard than they do any other player in baseball.

Ever since Rodriguez left the Seattle Mariners as a free agent after the 2000 season, he’s never been perceived the same way. Signing for a then-record $252 million will do that to a player. ESPNNewYork.com’s Wallace Matthews wrote last week about the standard Rodriguez is held to by fans. According to Matthews, A-Rod’s image began to change when former New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips talked about the demands being made by Rodriguez during the Mets’ courting of Rodriguez in the offseason of 2000-01.

Among those were private jets, big billboards and an office. When he eventually signed with the Texas Rangers, he got all of those perks.


But Girardi didn’t do A-Rod any favors by making that call to the public address booth during the postseason. What, fans weren’t smart enough to realize on their own that Rodriguez wasn’t hitting?

Instead, it heaps more abuse on Rodriguez even though he had nothing to do with this incident.

For a dozen years, A-Rod has dealt with a perception—fair or not—that any club he plays for has a “24-plus-one” hierarchy. There is the way Rodriguez is treated and then there is the way the other 24 guys on the roster are managed.

It’s a positive development if, as the anonymous source said, Girardi and Rodriguez were able to have a productive conversation moving ahead to the 2013 season.

It’s unfortunate it had to come on the heels of another episode becoming public knowledge where Rodriguez was treated differently than anyone else in the Yankee dugout.

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