New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi could hardly be considered a failure. He has taken the Yankees to the postseason in four out of the five years he has managed them and won the AL East three times. But he only has one World Championship in that time and whilst that would certainly not be a bad return in any other team, it may not be enough in New York. The Yankees have long made it clear that they believe themselves entitled to the World Series and their humiliating sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers will certainly raise questions.
Girardi’s players certainly let him down; they hit a meagre .157 in the four games of the series and only scored in three innings. A lot of the focus has been on Alex Rodriguez but given his historic struggles in the postseason (2009 aside) that really is the least of the Yankees’ worries. More problematic is the fact that by the end of the series Girardi clearly had no clue what to do anymore. The Yankees had one sniff of a chance in Game Four and Girardi decided to pinch hit for Raul Ibanez, the only Yankee hitter who had done anything in the clutch in either the ALDS or ALCS. And worse yet he replaced him with Rodriguez, who has not been able to buy a hit in October since 2009. Rodriguez did manage to buck expectations by not striking out, but his harmless fly ball was no improvement and the Yankees did not get a hit in the rest of the game. To say it was a questionable decision is an understatement, more accurate would be to say that Girardi had by then completely lost the plot.
One of the main marks of a good manager is the ability to adjust to trying circumstances and this is something at which Girardi has failed utterly. Whilst the Yankees have been successful in the regular season with him, he has had the best line up that money could buy at his disposal. It is probably not true that anyone could have led the Yankees to regular season victories but it certainly does not take an above average manager. But when things have become difficult; when his players have struggled in pressure situations and when the opposition have put up a sterner than usual test he has had no ‘plan B’. He has not been able to do anything to get his players to improve and he has not been able to ‘buy’ a victory through tactical skill.
It is not Girardi’s fault that his big name players were shown up as they were and it is not his fault that he had to embarrass his GM by benching one of the most expensive players in baseball. But it is his fault that he looked utterly clueless once things went against him and that he never once looked like turning things around. The result was the first time the Yankees have been swept in the postseason since the 1980 ALCS. That sweep lead to then-manager Dick Howser being fired and this failure may be one too many for Girardi.