With the Major League Baseball postseason starting Wednesday, we’re doing our best to sleep as much as possible so we can make it through the nightly 3 a.m. bedtimes baseball playoffs force upon us. And to preview the Yankees’ first postseason in two years, we’re taking a daily look at players vital to the team’s October success. Today: Joe Girardi.
One should not be so derivative as to assume that someone’s performance as a player in the playoffs would affect how they are as a manager … but hey, what are we gonna do, we don’t have anything else to draw from. So we’re going to point out that Joe Girardi was a truly dreadful postseason player. In twelve different postseason series — ten with the Yankees, one with the Colorado Rockies, one with the Chicago Cubs — Girardi batted .184 with no homers and one RBI. That’s a total of 127 plate appearances … with one RBI. Bizarrely, he somehow had two triples.
Anyway, Girardi’s never managed in the postseason before, so we have little to work on. Considering how easily the Yankees won the division this year, you can make an argument he’s never even managed in a pennant chase before; it’s only his third season as a manager, after all. Girardi is more a manager cut from the Joe Torre cloth than the Tony La Russa cloth. He gives guys specific roles, he encourages them them to perform, and he generally stays out of the way. None of this La Russa mock-military, “look how much of a great strategist I am” business. Girardi seems to understand that being a baseball manager — especially the manager of the New York Yankees — is a hard enough job without overthinking the on-field stuff. Put your lineup in, get the starters through six or seven innings, set up the Hughes-Rivera shut-’em-down at the end, and answer the right questions at the postgame press conference in the right way. There’s a no-nonsense nature to Girardi that has served him well in New York.
For now, anyway. All it takes is one move to backfire, one seemingly smart play to blow up in his face, one game the Yankees should have won to turn into a loss. It probably won’t be Girardi’s fault. But it will look like it. The job of a manager, particularly with a team this strong, is mostly to stay out of the way. In the playoffs, that’s impossible. Every manager Girardi will face in the playoffs not only has more experience than he does, but has been officially deemed “Wizened Playoff Veteran.” If the Tigers win tonight, Girardi and Rockies manager Jim Tracy will be the only managers in the postseason without a World Series win already under their belt. It’s an exclusive club. Girardi isn’t there yet. If the Yankees lose a game they shouldn’t, everyone will remind him of that. How he handles it will be his first real test as Yankees manager.