I spent much of my “Twitter time” in September defending Joe Girardi’s plan for preparing for the postseason. While the team was clearly struggling as Girardi rested players and held postseason roster auditions, he was skewered in the media for costing the Yankees a division title. I felt at the time that Joe was making the right move, as close observation showed that Joe had most of the players important to a potential Yankees World Series run rested, healthy and effective going into October. Additionally, while losing the division cost the Yankees one home game for the upcoming ALCS, it also ensured that they would face the inferior potential opponent in the ALDS. Once the Yankees swept the Twins, I did not expect any of the media members who had ripped into Girardi every day for a month to do much more than briefly acknowledge that Joe may have known what he was doing.
Surprisingly, I was wrong. Wally Matthews, of all people, penned a column in which he called Girardi the MVP of the ALDS:
Yet no one did more to ensure that the New York Yankees would advance to the second round of playoffs, the final hurdle between them and another World Series, than the only Yankee who didn’t play for one pitch of any of the three games….
For all the head-scratching we self-styled experts have done over some of his in-game moves and his interview-room gyrations of the tumultuous final month of the regular season, it is Girardi who comes out looking like a genius…..
And it was he who, as September became a sticky mess of shoddy play and growing uncertainty, doggedly stuck to his plan of resting his regulars — ultimately at the cost of winning the AL East — in the hopes of having a healthy roster come October.
He was ridiculed for many of these moves, and quite frankly, at times I was one of the ridiculers.
But right is right, fair is fair, and you are what your record says you are. In his fourth season as a manager, Girardi now has one Manager of the Year Award, one World Series ring and, now, a 3-0 record in the 2010 playoffs and the luxury of allowing his team to rest a full five days while waiting for the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays to settle their increasingly nasty argument…
And thanks to Girardi’s careful rotation of off days and DH days for his aging and aching core, it is likely that by the time the ALCS gets under way, Jeter, Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada will be as fresh and rested as it is possible to be after 165 games.
That last paragraph is the reason I credit Girardi for a job well done in both 2009 and 2010. In both seasons, the Yankees have gone into the postseason as healthy as it is possible to be with an aging core of veterans. The lineup does not have single hitter who is exceedingly worn out, and it showed in the Yankees offense against the Twins. The bullpen is fresh as well, as Kerry Wood, Dave Robertson, Boone Logan, and Mariano Rivera look primed to have a strong October. And although the rotation is not perfect, Andy Pettitte pitched well enough to justify his Game 2 start and Phil Hughes looks quite strong despite having surpassed his career high for innings.
Although the Yankees were not winning down the stretch, they were making sure that when the games actually became important, they would be in the best possible position to succeed. It is a credit to Girardi that he had the confidence to execute his plan despite the angry bleatings of some fans and most of the media, and it is a credit to Matthews that he was able to admit that he was wrong and tip his cap to the manager.