Karpin: Personnel Speaking, Yanks Wanted a Change in the Dugout

“Managers are hired to be fired.” The ol’ adage was never more applicable than now.

Joe Girardi’s tenure as the manager of the Yankees ended earlier today when the team announced he would not return. Girardi issued a statement that said, “With a heavy heart, I come to you because the Yankees have decided not to bring me back.” It was a surprising, although not a totally unexpected move. Surprising in that it was the Yankees who made the decision for Girardi.

During the post season, there were whispers that Girardi may step down on his own accord, that he’d had enough after ten years at the helm. There were also rumors of a rift between the manager and the front office.

So why did the Yankees decide to make a change?

I have to think that this was not a decision that was made as a result of the gaffe that Girardi made in game 2 of the ALDS vs. Cleveland. That didn’t help his situation, but I get the feeling a number of factors came into play and that the Yankees were intent on making this change before the playoffs even began.

As anyone who has been around me knows, I wasn’t the biggest Girardi fan. First, let’s get this straight. I was critical of Girardi in the dugout, that’s all. Girardi is a good man, with strong, family values, but at times, his handling of the team left you scratching your head.

No one, except those involved, really knew what the relationship was between the field manager and the front office. In the coming days, stories about that relationship will begin to surface, so let me throw out a couple of my observatons.

I don’t have any anonymous sources to quote or anything like that but having covered the team for the past 38 years as a professional, you develop a sense of what goes on behind closed doors.

Under the old regime, Girardi would’ve been gone a long time ago. The new regime operates in a different manner but the impatience is still there. Maybe Hal Steinbrenner is not as impulsive as his late father, but there comes a point where a change, at least in the minds of management, is needed.

The resume’ speaks for itself. Girardi’s overall record was outstanding. He made six playoff appearances (five series) in ten years and won a World Series in his second season. He was a good manager but not a great manager as some portrayed him to be. Remember, with this latest loss,, that makes three out of four losses in ALCS play (won in ‘09, lost in six in 2010 and were swept in 2012) under Girardi’s watch. Not a good number in “Yankeeland.”

Girardi was big on using analytical data so I wouldn’t think that would be cause for a disconnect. If anything, he was criticized for being too influenced by the numbers and took a lot of ribbing for going to “the binder.” To ignore the analytical data that has made it’s way onto the scene is foolish, but so is ignoring the “old school” values that have supported the game for over 100 years.

I get a feeling that the way Girardi handled the personnel on the field became a point of debate with the decision makers.

Girardi’s use of the roster in the post season may have come into question. Jacoby Ellsbury became an after thought, even after he was swinging a hot bat coming into the post season. Girardi elected to stick with Aaron Hicks who was invisible. With the way the Yankees offense struggled on the road, Girardi never thought to shake up the lineup and it proved to be costly. Matt Holliday’s status on the roster may have been an issue. Holliday was one of three slots (Jaime Garcia and Jordan Montgomery) that became useless. We don’t know who had the call on the post season roster but you have to think that became a point of contention.

He stubbornly stuck with Aaron Judge in the two hole, instead of moving him down a few spots to take some pressure off when he struggled during the season. Girardi always said “moving him down may not work.” Did he ever consider that it may have worked. Yes, Judge got some hits in the two-hole during the post season but his strikeouts killed too many potential rallies that could’ve made the difference in those close games in Houston. (Astros Mgr. A.J. Hinch moved a struggling Josh Reddick from second to ninth during the latter part of the ALCS and he broke out of an “O-fer.”)

The Yankees were not a fundamentally sound team under Girardi. Over the years, there were too many base running mistakes and that really showed up in the playoffs. They were deficient in moving runners with productive outs.Their power output at home helped camouflaged those deficiencies but how many times did the Yankees see rallies fizzle this season by leaving men on third with less than two out.

There are reports that Girardi and the front office may have clashed over the manager’s reluctance to play Chris Carter, who was eventually released. The Yankees put a lot of stock into Greg Bird being their everyday first-baseman, but they never backed themselves up with a quality, veteran first baseman in case something did happen. Bird struggled out of the gate, got hurt and the Yankees were in a quandry until the young first-baseman surprisingly returned in September and Carter was not the answer.

Gary Sanchez’ defensive deficiencies (blocking and calling pitches) were on full display in the post season. There was a point, during game 4 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, that the pitches were being called from the bench but it lasted only an inning or two and was never used again. Another point of contention?

In the latter part of the season, Girardi publicly criticized Sanchez for his defense behind the plate. Sanchez deserved the criticism but not in a public forum. You wonder how that sat with the rest of the players, especially coming from a former catcher.

Which leads to this? Was Girardi alienating some players? On MLB Network, Ken Rosenthal indicated the Yankees were looking for a (paraphrasing) “younger manager who relates to players.” As incredible as it may sound,
was Girardi losing the room?

These are questions that won’t necessarily require immediate answers because Girardi’s tenure is now over.

The question now is who takes over. Despite the perception that managers are being used as “puppets” by the executives, it’s important to have a good communicator and someone who can balance the new philosophies, with some old school, in the dugout. General Manager Brian Cashman will have a new contract shortly and I’m sure he has a list of candidates in mind, even with some quality names already off the board.

Girardi finishes his Yankee tenure with a winning record and a team that bodes very well for the near future, so that puts even more pressure on whoever takes over.

Cashman will not make any comments until the World Series is over (per MLB regulations during the World Series) so any announcement will not be made until next week. In that time, there will be plenty of speculation but one thing is for sure. A crucial Yankee off season has begun with a bang.

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