Yankees fans expect only one thing, and that is to win. New York fans don’t want to win every once in a while; it’s nothing they want to do just sometimes. Every year both the Yankees and their fans feel that they should be in the mix for a World Series title. That mindset is part of the greatness that this organization has been built upon and it will never change. The Yankees are holding on to their “win-now” attitude, and are a franchise that has and always will be about winning.
When the team doesn’t perform to these incredibly high standards there are normally two main targets. First, the player or players who are slumping, or not pitching well make for easy fodder. But easiest of all to criticize is the manager. Yankees fans are at odds with one another when it comes to Girardi. Sure, he has arguably made his share of moves that baffle fans across the country, but on the other hand there is a chance that he just may be best manager in baseball.
Consider this for a moment. On April 5th the Yankees opened their season against Houston. That day their line-up had Alex Rodriguez batting third and Mark Teixeira batting clean-up. As we all know Alex Rodriguez was released by the Yankees earlier this season after batting just.200 with 9 long balls, and Mark Teixeira hasn’t fared much better batting just .203 with 11 homers. These were the guys that the Yankees laid their playoff hopes upon. Just one year removed from the duo combining for 64 home runs and 165 runs batted in, they combined for just 20 home runs and 47 runs batted in 2016. That production resulted in the Yankees starting the season with an abysmal 9-17 record.
Since April however, The Yankees have not had a losing record in any month and have played to a record of 12 games over .500. If you were to put the Yankees at 12 games above .500 right now they would be ahead of Boston for the first wild card spot and they would be tied in the loss column with Toronto for the divisional lead. So how did this Yankee team turn it around after such an ugly start?
The Yankees offense has been far less than stellar. They are 20th in runs scored this season, 18th in batting average, 21st in on base percentage, and 19th in home runs. All of those numbers put the Yankees offense in the bottom half of the league. Their cleanup hitters are batting just .225 with 18 homers and 64 runs batted in. The stars they were relying on – Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley, and Brett Gardner -have all under performed to this point in the season.
With an offense like that it must mean that the Yankees pitching staff has been unhittable this season, but that would be wrong too. The Yankees have posted the 18th worst ERA in baseball this season, they have allowed the 6th most home runs in the league, and they are 18th in the league in quality starts. To make matters worse the Yankees traded their two most reliable relievers in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. That has left Girardi’s middle relief completely mangled. The Yankees have had to turn to Swarzak, Yates, Goody, Barbato, Heller, Parker, and others in crucial points of games this season. This has resulted in some heart breaking losses. From the Kirby Yates 2:30 AM debacle against the Texas Rangers to the Anthony Swarzak-led massacre that resulted in the Yankees losing a game 12-6 in which they had a 6-0 lead.
Everyone would agree that the strong playoff push has been a result of the rejuvenation of the ‘Baby Bombers’ into a team filled with veterans. Gary Sanchez has obviously been a driving force behind this success with his record month of August. With Sanchez leading, the Yankees have had a hot month at the plate. As a team they’re batting .274 with 42 home runs and have scored 148 runs. Compare that to the month of May where they batted an ugly .232 with 30 home runs and 114 runs batted in.
The Yankees and Joe Girardi have continued to prove the doubters wrong and continue doing what true Yankees do – win. Joe Girardi has done a wonderful job steadying the ship this season with the lack of production at the plate and the inconsistency he has gotten from his starting rotation from everyone not named Masahiro Tanaka. Off the field he has had much to manage through as well. He had to handle the Alex Rodriguez situation which caused a lot of controversy. He dealt with a short bench for almost the entire season because Rodriguez could only DH and struggled so badly. He has managed the Mark Teixeira farewell tour.
There’s a good case that if the Yankees make the playoffs this season, or continue to stay as tight as they are, that Joe Girardi should win Manager of the Year. It would also be the right decision. He has done exactly what a manager is expected to do. He hasn’t pouted when the Yankees traded off key players down the stretch this season. He has never admitted that the Yankees are rebuilding and instead has stayed true to the Yankees number one priority – winning. He said that he expected the Yankees to continue to compete and that he thought the Yankees could still make the playoffs. Just a month removed from all of those moves the Yankees are now placed in the best position they have been all year to make a serious run at the playoffs. They sit just two games behind the Orioles in the loss column and begin a three game set with them tomorrow. Either way, the Yankees and Joe Girardi have proven they are good enough to play with anyone. Girardi has these kids believing in their abilities and he will continue to lead these 2016 Yankees down the stretch.
Edited by Joey Santanello @Joeysantanello