Imagine being really good at your job. You go to work everyday, you produce, and you exceed any expectations that anyone had for you this year. Then your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re fired.
That’s the situation Joe Girardi is going through. The New York Yankees fired Girardi Thursday after he took a young team – a team that wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs – to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
If you’ve followed along with the two columns I’ve written so far, you know that my first column was about the idea of Joe Girardi being fired at the end of the season. I took a firm stance on Girardi’s side, citing his World Series championship, his postseason appearances, and his overall winning record as reasons to keep him as the Yankees skipper. Apparently the Yankees front office doesn’t agree with me.
The issue of managers being fired despite having good track records goes deeper than Girardi, though. Two other playoff teams have fired their managers already this offseason. John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox and Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals were let go after their teams were eliminated from the postseason.
John Farrell had been the Red Sox manager since 2013 and won a World Series in his first season at the helm. Boston missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, but won back-to-back AL East titles in 2016 and 2017. However, the Sox were eliminated in the ALDS both years. It is my guess that the lack of postseason success is what ultimately led to Farrell being let go.
Dusty Baker only spent two years with the Washington Nationals, and won back-to-back NL East titles. Like Farrell, though, Baker’s team was not able to get past the Divisional round in either year.
So now there are three playoff teams searching for a new manager for the 2018 season, and that’s where I have a problem.
Managers are not always the one to blame for poor performance, but they’re usually the easiest to blame. You can blame the players, but in order to fix that problem, you have to try to make trades or acquire new players through free agency. The front office could be to blame, but the general manager is not going to fire himself. So the easiest person to blame and replace is the manager, even if the lack of success is not their fault.
It takes time to put together a winning team and bring home a World Series. Out of the last 30 World Series winners, the average manager was in his fourth year with the team. But these days, the front office wants to win and it wants to win now.
On last Wednesday’s episode of the podcast, Billy Parvatam said the Nationals are “a very arrogant organization,” citing the number of managers they have had throughout their 14-year history – it’s seven, by the way. For a team that has never won a World Series, firing a manager who has just taken you to back-to-back division titles does seem pretty arrogant. It also makes this job look less attractive to potential candidates.
As the Nationals new manager, you go into the job knowing that anything less than a championship will get you fired. If you aren’t able to bring the Nationals a World Series trophy within two years you’re gone. That’s not a job I would want.
The Yankees and Red Sox jobs are more attractive, but they’re moving towards World Series or bust territory. Girardi was able to keep his job for a decade despite winning one championship. Farrell lasted four more years after his sole championship. If this trend continues though, these teams are going to expect a lot more out of their future managers.
Welcome to the new era of baseball. Bring us a World Series, or pack up your things and leave.
Yasiel Puig has been the star of the show this postseason for the Dodgers. The 26-year-old right fielder has a slash line of .414/.514/1.169 in the 2017 playoffs with a home run and six RBIs.
He has also drawn the ire of some observers of the game.
Puig has been somewhat of a polarizing figure since he came into the Majors in 2013. His showboating antics have caused some writers and commentators to question his work ethic and describe him as “insufferable.”
Here’s the thing though: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating.
Ever since bat flips became common among home run hitters, baseball fans and media have been divided, with those opposed to the celebration claiming that it goes against the unwritten rules of baseball. But those rules are outdated and need a change.
The most commonly cited “unwritten rule” is that you don’t pimp a home run. If you hit a ball out of the park, you just jog around the bases without showing any signs of celebration.
In a sport where the winning team in a playoff series goes into the locker room after the game and sprays champagne all over the walls, you can’t celebrate an individual accomplishment. In a sport where the winning team celebrates among themselves on the field after a game and never shakes hands with the opposing team, you can’t celebrate and individual accomplishment.
If you decided to be flashy after knocking a ball over the outfield fence, you’re liable to be hit by a pitch on your next at bat.
Think about that for a second. If you flip your bat after hitting a home run, the pitcher is very likely to throw at you when you are at the plate next. Because you did something to celebrate that did not affect the pitcher at all, the pitcher is allowed to cause physical harm to you, maybe even putting your career at risk.
But that’s just part of the unwritten rules.
Every other major sport allows its players to celebrate when they do something good. Football fans love when a player celebrates after scoring a touchdown, and the league recently relaxed the rules to allow for more elaborate celebrations.
In NASCAR, the winning driver stays in his car and does burnouts on the track after the race is over, and no one ever complains.
In soccer, players run all the way across the field after scoring a goal.
In hockey, sirens sound and lights flash after the home team scores a goal.
But if you even think about tossing a bat after crushing a home run, you’re the worst kind of person in baseball and you’re ruining the game.
Players who partake in bat flips and other antics are simply having fun. Jose Bautista’s bat flip in the 2015 ALDS was an act of pure emotion and it fired up an excitable Rogers Centre crowd. Puig has had the same effect on Dodgers fans this postseason, helping them get pumped up as the game goes on.
There was a point in Yasiel Puig’s career when his immaturity caused him to be sent down to the minor leagues, but he has since come around and proven his worth to this Dodgers team. In a season where he played the most games of his career while knocking out 24 home runs and helping the Dodgers to an NL pennant, it’s safe to say Puig’s antics are no longer an issue to anyone who understands how outdate these unwritten rules are.
Joe Girardi is a good manager; that much should be clear by now.
Just three days after receiving heavy boos from the home crowd at Yankee Stadium, Girardi guided his team to a 5-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians to advance to the American League Championship Series. Any doubts about Girardi’s managerial abilities should be gone at this point.
The Yankees pitching was the difference maker in game five of a hard-fought American League Divisional Series. Starter CC Sabathia lasted 4.2 innings while only allowing two runs on five hits. Relievers David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman combined for 4.2 innings of shutout, no-hit baseball against the best team in the league.
Yankees fans will have to search far and wide to find a way to criticize Girardi following Wednesday's win.
Girardi was faced with heavy criticism after failing to challenge a hit by pitch that clearly hit the bat of Indians pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall in game two of the series. The Yankees had an 8-3 lead at the time, but the hit by pitch loaded the bases for the Indians. Shortstop Francisco Lindor decided to clear the bases with a grand slam on the next at bat and the Indians eventually came back to win the game and take a 2-0 series lead.
Many Yankees fans and media personalities questioned Girardi’s decision making with some even calling for the skipper to be fired after the season.
Maybe they need a reminder of what Girardi has done since he took over the Bronx Bombers in 2008.
The Yankees won their 27th World Series championship under Girardi in 2009 and have made the playoffs six times. They have won three AL East titles with Girardi at the helm. This year’s ALCS will be his fourth with the team. Girardi’s 21 playoff wins are fourth all-time among Yankees managers. In a town where winning is expected, he has certainly provided his fair share of that.
Those questioning Girardi’s managerial skills can take a look at last night’s game for some reassurance. Sabathia had not given up a run until the Indians scored two in the fifth inning. Recognizing the crucial situation they were in, Girardi immediately pulled Sabathia in favor of Robertson, who only allowed one baserunner in 2.2 innings.
The only time Yankees fans had any reason to worry was when Aroldis Chapman, who has had trouble finishing games this season, was left in the game in the 9th inning. Everything worked out, however, and Chapman retired the side.
Perhaps Yankees fans reacted too harshly following the game two loss, and who could blame them? After not being projected as a postseason team, the Yankees had the first Wild Card spot locked up for most of the season. Fans didn’t want to see their team eliminated any earlier than necessary. So when Girardi messed up in game two, they panicked. And in a league where winning back-to-back AL East titles can get John Farrell fired, you never know what to expect when it comes to managers.
For a team as accustomed to winning as the Yankees, eight years without a championship feels like a lifetime, but Girardi owned up to his mistake and they’re moving on to the next round with a shot at a title.
No one can be sure what the ALCS brings, but one thing is certain: Joe Girardi knows how to win and has done a lot of it in New York. Firing him for one mistake would’ve been unfair, but he has more than made up for it with a comeback win over the league’s best team.
Matthew Atkins, Journalist and Baseball fan.