Credit Where Credit is Due

AL East 

I simply don't have time for a proper tribute now or any time in the next week.  I even have to give up my tickets to the Stadium tonight and tomorrow night thanks to work.  But a few things strike me:

First, as Rob Parker points out, Girardi and his coaches did a spectacular job managing a team with

  • A weak starting rotation.  They came in with only 2.5 starters that anyone could predict were ready for a full season in the AL East and that was being generous to AJ Burnett and counting on Hughes to have a full and very strong season.  The rotation only got weaker when Hughes started horribly, dropped off the face of the planet for months, and never returned with any consistency.  Burnett was so bad that only he and John Lackey appear to be in the same league – and it's not the majors. 
  • A slew of serious injuries to key players. Joba was supposed to be their 7th or 8th-inning man.  A-Rod – their clean-up hitter – missed almost half the season and when he did play he produced the worst stats of his career pretty much across the board.  In addition to Hughes and A-Rod, Jeter and Soriano hit the DL.
  • The delicate and dicey reality of players' pride.  How do you handle Jeter through a horrid first half of the season?  How do you handle a very angry Posada and a clubhouse-morale-threatening public leak of that situation when Jorge inadvisably pulled himself from the lineup in a fit of anger and pride gone amok?  How do you handle a kid like Ivan Nova who had to feel slighted not once but twice when he drew the short end of the 6-man-rotation stick despite delivering consistently exceptional results on the field?  How do you handle your ostensible # 2 starter being among the worst 3 or 4 starters in the entire league without allowing him to either sink your ship or giving up on him too fast?  In hindsight, it appears Girardi handled them all perfectly.  Yes, primary credit should go to the players for how they ultimately performed (except AJ, who never came close to what was expected of him but who still somehow did not keep this team from clinching more than a week before the end of the season).  But in the non-stop media scrutiny that is New York, Girardi's job was pretty tough this year on all these fronts, and he did about as good a job as you can both shielding his players, and taking the steps required to keep them focused on the goal.

Second, Cashman has to get credit for landing Russell Martin, picking Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon out of the scrap-heap, and ensuring enough depth on this team to weather injuries, age, and slumps.  Eric Chavez played exceptionally well in the field and held his own at the plate during A-Rod's prolonged absences, despite the fact that a broken bone in his foot also landed him on the DL.  Guys like Nunez, Dickerson, Andruw Jones, and yes – even Cervelli – contributed at key times throughout the season.  And through it all, the Yankees may have found a legit top-3 starter from within their own system in Ivan Nova.

Third, the standouts have to be called out and acknowledged: Curtis Granderson carried this team offensively for months while contributing great defense and baserunning.  David Roberston is arguably the best set-up man in baseball right now, leading the league in strikeouts for relievers and staving off so many late-inning potential disasters that I honestly believe this team is scuffling for the wild card at best right now without him.  Derek Jeter went from thrilling his destractors through to the beginning of July to shutting them up with a second half of baseball that you can put up against any shortstop in the game.  CC and Mo were their usual excellent selves.  Nova upped his game and forced everyone to take notice of him.  Russell Martin filled a critical hole for this team with very solid defense and a competent bat (a hole incidentally that he is filling without much of a safely net now that Cervelli went down).  And perhaps most critically, Colon and Garcia turned what most expected to be temporary fill-in roles that would likely end in injury or embarassment into the biggest pleasant surprises of the season for this team.

Fourth, Yankee fans could hardly have been treated to a better mixture of milestone achievements by beloved veterans that are really once-in-a-lifetime for fans of any team – if that – (Jeter's 5-for-5 day crowned by a HR on his 3,000th hit – give me a break; Mariano's record-setting save; and even Jorge's winning 2-RBI single last night to remind us all of the many clutch hits he has had throughout his career) and exciting young talent (with Nova and Montero leading the way but even Nunez providing some real excitement).

Again, no time to go in depth here or to dig up the stats to back-up some of the statements above – perhaps others can – but suffice it to say this team has squeezed pretty much every ounce of potential that they had in the regular season.  We Yankee fans have simply been treated to a great show.

16 comments… add one

  • Congratulations, once again!

    Devine September 22, 2011, 9:54 am
  • In spite of my childish and incoherent ramblings…this has been a hell of a ride. I never thought this team would even win the division, let alone be a couple wins away from grabbing home field. Wow.
    I’m going to wipe the slate clean of expectations at this point. Anything can happen in the playoffs and with this offense and bullpen, if the starters can hold it together for 5 or 6 innings we really have a shot.
    I am stoked for next weekend.
    (picked a bad time to quit smoking again though!!!)

    krueg September 22, 2011, 10:29 am
  • Thanks Dev – I know it ain’t easy to congratulate others, let alone your team’s nemesis, when you’re witnessing a freakshow of bizarre proportions play out with your own team. Appreciate the sentiment.

    IronHorse (YF) September 22, 2011, 11:03 am
  • I gotta say I am nauseated by all the attention Posada got last night. The DH got a single (woo hoo!) with men in scoring position. Give the guy a medal. If it were Bernie Williams doing that we would just yawn because that is what is expected of a Yankee. Posada has been terrible all season and now he gets one key hit and he is seen as a new Mr October.

    Steve in Miami September 22, 2011, 11:41 am
  • As an admitted anti-Posada enthusiast, it was nice to see him contribute. I actually felt happy for him. It’s kinda like how you can hate your brother, but other people can’t hate him? He’s still a Yankee.

    krueg September 22, 2011, 12:01 pm
  • I didn’t mind the attention. And Posada has gotten some pretty key and clutch hits over the years (Game 7, 2003 ALCS leaps to mind). But yes, he has had a bad year and he did not handle it well. He has a ton of pride and he had real trouble checking that pride and accepting a much-diminished role. But I think everyone on the team was thrilled that it was he who came up big and I think he had to feel good about contributing, which I don’t begrudge him at all. In all I thought it was sort of a team-morale booster that it was him (on top of the main morale-boost of giving them the lead of course) and soI was happy to see it. But I shouldn’t have included that moment with Jeter and Mo’s historic career-achievements in the original post…

    IronHorse (YF) September 22, 2011, 12:24 pm
  • so, does Girardi get manager of the year? I’d think he’s in contention.

    Nick-YF September 22, 2011, 12:58 pm
  • To echo what I said in the other thread: congrats YFs. It blows my mind that Colon/Garcia/Nova have performed this well all season, but they have. With Sabathia at the head they’ve got a good chance this postseason, at least until the World Series.
    Any idea who will start for the Yankees tomorrow? I heard Hughes is out with back spasms.

    Atheose - SF September 22, 2011, 1:05 pm
  • Nick, I think Girardi gets MOY hands-down.
    By the way, the Angels are sneaking up in the WC race. They play Oakland and Texas to end the season, and are now selling tickets to the playoffs.
    http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=ana

    Atheose - SF September 22, 2011, 1:06 pm
  • Terrible karma, Angels.
    Y’all wouldn’t mind kicking Tampa Bay’s ass one more time today, would ya?
    Also, go Blue Jays. Show the Angels the door, AL East solidarity style.

    Devine September 22, 2011, 1:52 pm
  • “Any idea who will start for the Yankees tomorrow? I heard Hughes is out with back spasms.”
    As of right now: Garcia vs. Lester

    IronHorse (YF) September 22, 2011, 2:35 pm
  • I’ll be interested in seeing the effort against the Sox this weekend…
    I have to think we’ll have a AAA lineup tonight as I imagine everyone is pretty hungover today.
    Do you guys think they all went out and got crazy last night? Or is that all in my imagination?

    krueg September 22, 2011, 3:05 pm
  • > so, does Girardi get manager of the year?
    Ron Roenicke.

    attackgerbil September 22, 2011, 3:34 pm
  • Oh wait, I have to pick an AL guy?

    attackgerbil September 22, 2011, 3:42 pm
  • Then I’ll pick Ned Yost.

    attackgerbil September 22, 2011, 3:58 pm
  • I don’t think Joe will win it. Too many haters voting that will not give him credit because of the $$$…

    krueg September 22, 2011, 4:13 pm

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