Results tagged ‘ Manager of the Year ’

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

DL bug finally reaches Yanks’ bullpen

The bullpen had been the one area of the Yankees’ roster unstained by injury in the first month of the season. That situation has changed.

The Yankees placed righthander Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 28, because of a right oblique strain. They called up righthander Preston Claiborne from Triple A Scranton where he had three saves in three opportunities with a 3.48 ERA and 10 strikeouts in eight relief appearances totaling 10 1/3 innings. To create room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated righthander Cody Eppley for assignment.

In addition, David Robertson is also ailing with soreness in the area behind his left knee. The righthander was not available for Friday night’s opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium against the Athletics.

Without Chamberlain and Robertson, Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have to maneuver his bullpen differently in the late innings. Even relying on matchups won’t help much considering that Claiborne, recent call-up Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren have limited experience. Girardi said he may have to rely on veteran Shawn Kelley more in late-inning spots.

Friday night marked the 1,000th managerial game over seven seasons for Girardi, who had a 574-425 (.575) overall record – 496-341 (.593) in 837 games in six seasons with the Yankees (2008-present) and 78-84 (.481) in one season with the Marlins (2006) when he was received the National League Manager of the Year Award from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Regardless of Friday night’s outcome, Girardi will have the best winning percentage among all managers with at least 1,000 games at the helm since Hall of Famer Earl Weaver compiled a 1,480-1,060 (.583) mark over a 17-year managerial career (1968-82 and ‘85-86), all with the Orioles. Among active managers, Girardi ranks second in winning percentage behind the Rockies’ Walt Weiss (17-11, .607), who is in his first season as a skipper, and ahead of the Nationals’ Davey Johnson (1,301-1,009, .563).

Friday night was also an anniversary for Robinson Cano, who made his major-league debut on this date eight years ago. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that Cano has more career hits (1,495) for the Yankees than any other player in franchise history through his first eight calendar years in the big leagues. Cano has played more games (1,241) with the Yanks than the other 12 position players on their active roster combined (1,074).

Baylor named to Colorado Sports Hall of Fame

Former Yankees outfielder and designated hitter Don Baylor, now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks, was not at the series finale Thursday night at Yankee Stadium because he was in Denver to be inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in a banquet at the Denver Marriott City Center.

Stan Williams, who pitched for the Yankees and served them as a pitching coach, was also part of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 along with Steve Atwater (football), Adam Foote (hockey), Don Cockroft (football) and Steve Jones (golf).

Baylor, 63, was named the first manager in Rockies history Oct. 27, 1992 and posted a 440-469 (.484) record over six seasons. In 1995, he earned National League Manager of the Year honors from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after leading Colorado to its first postseason berth in franchise history as the NL wild card.

Baylor spent three seasons (1983-85) with the Yankees during a 19-year career in the majors that included an American League Most Valuable Player performance in 1979 with the Angels.

Buck: No. 1 and No. 1,000 in the Bronx

Yankees fans of a certain age may remember where they were on the afternoon of April 7, 1992. I know it was 20 years ago, but think about it. I recall where I was that day, at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day the season after the Yankees lost 91 games and replaced their manager, Stump Merrill, with the previous year’s third base coach, a former minor-league designated hitter and manager by the name of William Nathaniel Showalter, known by family and friends as Nat and within baseball as Buck.

Not much was expected of the Yankees that season, and indeed they finished a mediocre 76-86. But they beat the Red Sox and Roger Clemens that day, 4-3, before a crowd of 56,572 with the final out recorded by Steve Farr on a foul pop by Jody Reed. It was Showalter’s first victory as a major-league manager and the beginning of a startling six-game winning streak. Not too many managers are 6-0 before they lose a game.

I was reminded of just how long ago that was Tuesday night when the same Buck Showalter was back in the Bronx at the helm of the Orioles and earned his 1,000th big-league victory, this time at the expense of the Yankees, 7-1. Particularly satisfying for Buck was that his pitcher, hard-luck Brian Matusz, ended a 12-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 11 months.

“I’m kind of embarrassed,” Buck said afterwards. “It’s all about the players. But I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t emotional. Not a day goes by in this game that doesn’t tug at your emotions.”

Showalter enjoyed winning seasons with the Yankees in 1993, ’94 and ’95, earning American League Manager of the Year honors in the middle season that might have landed them in the World Series had the event not been canceled by commissioner Bud Selig because of a strike. The Yankees did make the playoffs in 1995 but lost to the Mariners in a tightly-played Division Series, the first of its kind in the new alignment.

After turning down a two-year contract extension, Showalter left the Yankees and was succeeded by Joe Torre, who took the Yankees to 10 division crowns, six pennants and four World Series titles in 12 years. Showalter moved on to Arizona as the expansion Diamondbacks first manager and then to Texas where he earned a second AL Manager of the Year Award in 2004. In between job, he manned the desk on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight programs.

Showalter may have missed out on the Yankees’ glory years, but this was a glorious night for him and his team, which is 15-9 and challenging for the top spot in the AL East.

“The significance is more about this being a game we wanted to win and get close to doing something this year that will be great for our fans in Baltimore, a great baseball town,” he said. “I am appreciative that Mr. [George] Steinbrenner gave me my first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. I’ll never forget that.”

Beyond a titanic home run by Curtis Granderson, it was not much of a night for the Yankees, who got another lackluster start from Phil Hughes, who pitched into the sixth but gave up four runs, so his ERA came down only slightly, from 7.88 to 7.48, with his record falling to 1-4.

Twins bring good news to Stadium

Regular readers will be familiar with my fondness for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, although the welcome mat I place for him at Yankee Stadium over the years hasn’t been matched by the Yankees. The Stadiums old and new have been horror houses to the affable skipper whom I have known since I covered him on the Mets in the early 1980s.

One of my responsibilities as secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is to contact the winners of the annual awards as well as those elected to the Hall of Fame, and it was an absolute pleasure to break the news to Gardy last November that he had finally won the American League Manager of the Year Award after having finished second five times. I asked him where he had put the trophy.

“I haven’t seen it yet,” Gardenhire said. “I’ll get my first look when we go back home after this series.”

Truth be told, the Manager of the Year trophies are not given out at the New York Baseball Writers Dinner with the other awards, Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year. Yes, the official presentations are made there, and the managers speak from the dais, but a token gift is handed to them. The shape of the trophy, which is impressive, is such that for some reason it does not travel well, so the BBWAA likes to send the trophy to what will be its final destination. In Gardenhire’s case, it was sent to Target Field in Minneapolis.

Trophies shipped to both Joe Torre when he won for the first time with the Yankees in 1996 and Joe Girardi when he won the National League award with the Marlins in 2006 cracked during transport, and each had to be replaced. Gardenire might have expected a damaged trophy if the writers have given it to him at Yankee Stadium.

Gardy’s record here is nothing short of horrible – 4-25 during the regular season and 2-5 in the AL Division Series. Awards voting is done prior to the start of post-season play, so the Yanks’ sweep of the Twins was not a road block for Gardenhire.

Writers took into account that Gardenhire did not have one of his former MVP players, first baseman Justin Morneau, for the second half of the season. Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 at Toronto and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. Morneau’s situation still bears monitoring, and Gardenhire applauds Major League Baseball for establishing a new disabled list rule regarding players with concussions.

A player sustaining a concussion may not be placed on a seven-day DL, which would allow a team to replace him without putting the onus for the injured play to suck up what has proved a serious condition so as not to let down his teammates. If the player needs to remain on the DL for the full 15 days, the period can begin retroactively.

“It’s an important step for baseball,” Gardy said. “We didn’t know much about concussions in the old days. I was knocked out twice in my career and played the next day. In one case, I kept on playing in the game that I was knocked out.”

Gardenhire recalled that while playing shortstop for the Tidewater Tides, then the Mets’ Triple A affiliate, against the Columbus Clippers, then the Yankees’ top farm, he was struck in the head with a pitch and lost consciousness.

“When I came to,” he said, “they asked me if I wanted to keep playing. ‘Sure,’ I said. No one wants to come out of the lineup. So I kept on playing. Of course, I don’t remember anything about the rest of the game. A rule like this goes a long way to understanding this condition.”

Also in Minnesota’s traveling party is the newest Hall of Famer, Bert Blyleven, the 287-game winner as a pitcher and the long-time television analyst for the Twins. Bert told me he is enjoying his “Blyleven in ‘11” year and brings good news about another Twins Hall of Famer.

Harmon Killebrew, the former slugger who is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Target Field Friday for the Twins’ home opener against Oakland.

The New York Chapter of the BBWAA honored Killebrew with its Casey Stengel “You Can Look It Up” Award in recognition of his outstanding 1961 season that was overshadowed by the Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record. He was unable to attend the dinner, and Gardenhire accepted in his place. The writers have an open invitation for Killebrew to attend the dinner next January, and we’re rooting for him to be able to make it.

Keep post-season out of awards mix

It has been suggested by some columnists that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America should allow its voters for the Manager of the Year Awards to include post-season play. Just as is the case with the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards in the BBWAA jurisdiction, voting is done prior to the start of post-season play and includes only the accomplishments during the regular season.

Some writers argue that while players, pitchers and rookies are eligible for separate awards related to post-season play, managers are not. Also, they add, steering a team throughout the post-season is a function worthy of being included in an honor that recognizes managerial skill.

In my view, the problem with that is that you would no longer need an election, would you? The heck with polling writers, just hand out the trophies to the two guys whose teams reached the World Series every year. I am sure there are some people who though the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the Rangers’ Ron Washington were more deserving than the managers who won, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire and the Padres’ Buddy Black.

You have probably read reports that Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of another round of playoffs by adding two more wild-card teams into the post-season mix. That’s just what we need; more November baseball with pitchers already overworked trying to keep their tongues off the mound.

All an additional round of playoffs would do is to continue to weaken the impact of the 162-game schedule, still the most demanding test in team sports. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from managers, coaches and players that the post-season is a “crap shoot.” Why base an award that is supposed to honor achievement over the course of a year on a crap shoot?

Managing a team involves more than just what takes place three hours a night during games. It is the day-to-day handling of two dozen-plus players over six months upon which a manager is judged. By adding post-season to the Manager of the Year Award mix, the eight managers whose teams reach post-season play, maybe 10 by 2012, will get a distinct advantage. Isn’t the field already small enough? There are 16 managers in the National League and 14 in the American League.

Again, why bother to have an election if post-season inclusion would likely lead to eliminating nearly three-quarters of the field?

Gardenhire, who won the award for the first time after five second-place finishes in the voting, directed the Twins to a 94-68 record and their sixth AL Central title in his nine seasons at the helm despite the loss to injury of closer Joe Nathan for the whole season and slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for half the schedule. Yet all that good work might have been discarded by voters after the Twins were swept in the Division Series by the Yankees.

Black’s victory in the NL by merely one point over the Reds’ Dusty Baker was a testament to the overachievement of the Padres, whom many thought at season’s start to be a last-place club. In his fourth season in San Diego, Black got the Padres within one game of the NL West title with the fourth best record in franchise history. But if the post-season had been included, mightn’t Cincinnati’s quick exit have hurt Baker so that the vote would not have been so close?

What takes place over a period of less than three weeks should not hold the same weight as what transpires over six months. A manager who does the best job in the post-season will get the best award there is – a championship ring. That is reward enough.

Pettitte beats mates to playoffs

Andy Pettitte will get a head start on his teammates in post-season play. The next stop following a bullpen session Monday in the continuance of his recovery from a strained left groin will be for the lefthander to make an injury-rehabilitation start Thursday for Double A Trenton in a playoff game against New Hampshire.

“I told them I’d go down there and ruin the poor kids’ season,” Andy said, poking fun at himself as if Trenton would not appreciate having him pitch for them.

Think of it from the viewpoint of the New Hampshire team. They fight all season to get into the playoffs, and their opposing starter in the first game is a veteran of 16 years in the major leagues with 240 career victories.

The plan is for Pettitte to throw 60 pitches Thursday and barring a setback for him to make at least one more start in the minors before rejoining the Yankees in mid-September.

Pettitte broke into the majors with the Yankees in 1995. His first manager was Buck Showalter, who was in the visitors’ dugout Monday at Yankee Stadium with the Orioles. It is another reclamation project for Showalter, who took over the Yankees in 1992 after they had three losing seasons and got them into the playoffs in his fourth year.

He was the first manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, who made it to the playoffs in their second year. During four seasons with the Texas Rangers, Buck was named American League Manager of the Year in 2004, 10 years after he had won the same award with the Yankees.

The Orioles have gotten a second wind under Showalter, who took a 19-13 record into Monday’s game and did the Yankees a favor over the weekend by taking two of three from the Rays at Camden Yards.

“This job is similar to the Yankees’ in a way because there is a great tradition with this organization,” Showalter said before the game. “Every day, I get to talk to people like Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan and Cal Ripken, who know what the Orioles brand means. It’s a challenging opportunity.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Austin Kearns’ hand injury is a bruised index finger, not a thumb as had been reported, and he is still not ready to play. That’s why the Yankees recalled outfielder Colin Curtis from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nick Swisher, who missed three games with left knee inflammation, returned to the lineup Monday.

Red Sox are conceding nothing

As the Yankees went into a four-game series against the hated Red Sox Friday night, I couldn’t help thinking about what Boston did in the 2004 post-season. Down 3-0 in the American League Championship Series, they followed their manager’s mantra of winning the next night’s game. Don’t think about anything else, Terry Francona told his players, but that night’s game.

The Red Sox did this, of course, for eight straight games, knocking off the Yankees and then sweeping the Cardinals in the World Series for their first championship since Babe Ruth was in their rotation. That always stayed with me about Francona, who is probably the best manager never to win a Manager of the Year Award. The stakes aren’t so high in this series, but dire consequences could set in if the Yankees push Boston around.

“We’re at a point of the season where every game is meaningful,” Francona said. “We have to embrace the challenge rather than whine about it.”

Boston is pretty beat up. The Red Sox have been without 2008 Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia for a month and just lost first baseman Kevin Youkilis, the team’s spine, for the rest of the season. The Sox came to Yankee Stadium in third place trailing the Yankees by six games. After Friday night’s 6-3 victory, Boston is five games behind the Yankees. Francona is back to one game after the next.

The Sox lineup had some unfamiliar faces, none more so than left fielder Ryan Kalish. The recent callup has been tearing it up, batting .471 entering the game. WCBS radio’s Suzyn Waldman made him the subject of her pre-game interview and went on at length about him over dinner with Lee Mazzilli, John Sterling and me. She mentioned that Kalish grew up in Red Bank, N.J., and had left six passes for friends and relatives. He said he was too embarrassed to ask for more.

Kalish struck out in his first two at-bats, but he gave his people in the sellout crowd of 49,555, the largest gate at the Stadium this year, a moment to remember with his first major-league home run, a two-run shot in the sixth off Javier Vazquez, who had a rough outing and lost for the first time in six starts since June 30.

Vazquez, who was skipped over in the rotation twice earlier in the season to avoid pitching against the Red Sox, gave up a first-inning home run to David Ortiz, which was trumped by Mark Teixeira’s two-run blow in the bottom of the first. It marked the fourth straight game in which the Yankees had a two-run homer in the opening frame, but they have lost three of those games.

A player who scored ahead of the homer hitter in each of those games was Derek Jeter, whose first-inning single tied him with the Babe on the career hit list with 2,873. Unlike Jeter, not all of Ruth’s hits were with the Yankees. Jeter had the most impressive at-bat of the game, with two out and nobody on in the ninth. He outdueled Red Sox closer Jonathan Paplebon for 12 pitches, including six straight fouls on two-strike pitches, before drawing a walk. It went for naught.

The Red Sox are playing for relevance, trying to get back into the AL East mix with the Yankees and Rays. The Yanks maintained their half-game lead in the division over Tampa, which lost at Toronto. Vazquez and his catcher helped the Red Sox in the second inning when Boston scored three unearned runs to regain the lead. One out after a leadoff double to Adrian Beltre, Cervelli dropped a popup by Mike Lowell, who sauntered up the line and was lucky the ball fell far enough away from Cervelli to get to first base safely.

Vazquez was on the verge of working out of trouble as he struck out Kalish, who swung at a ball around his ears for strike three. Vazquez then did the unthinkable, walking 9-hole hitter Jed Lowrie to load the bases. Jacoby Ellsbury walked as well, forcing in a run, before Marco Scutaro doubled in two more runs.

Okay, so it wasn’t like giving up that grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, but it was a chance to put the Red Sox away wasted.

The road not taken

The Orioles are in the market for a manager – again. Reports in Baltimore are that the Orioles are beginning to line up potential candidates for future interviews for the seat vacated by Dave Trembley’s firing that is now occupied by former third base coach Juan Samuel on an interim basis.

Already, some names have surfaced, such as former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine, now an analyst on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” and former Indians manager Eric Wedge, the 2007 American League Manager of the Year. Even Davey Johnson, who starred on two Orioles World Series champions and was Baltimore’s manager in 1996 and ’97, has been mentioned.

The latter one is hard to fathom, considering that Johnson had an acrimonious relationship with owner Pete Angelos, who did not bring Davey back for the 1998 season, the year after he had been named AL Manager of the Year.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Orioles were in a similar situation. In June 2007, general manager Andy MacPhail fired Sam Perlozzo and had another Italian-American in mind to take his place, by the name of Joe Girardi. Think of how different Girardi’s life would have been had he accepted that job? He might not have had the chance to manage the Yankees, a job he long coveted from afar.

Girardi wasn’t thinking about that then, however. He was an excellent candidate in MacPhail’s eyes. After all, Joe was the National League Manager of the Year in 2006, his first and what proved his last year with the Marlins. He and Florida team owner Jeffrey Loria were not always on the same page, so Girardi was not brought back for 2007. He was available to the Orioles, who reportedly were prepared to offer him a three-year contract. MacPhail knew Girardi well from their years together with the Cubs and though he was the guy to steer the Orioles from the depths of the AL East.

There were other issues in Girardi’s life at that time which led him to say thanks but no thanks to MacPhail. Joe still had a year’s guaranteed money coming to him from the Marlins, but the decision was based more on family matters

“My father was in the beginning of the end stages of Alzheimer’s,” Girardi told writers the other day. “We decided that we were going to spend the summer in Chicago with him and my wife’s family. Those were my plans going into that summer, and I just thought I need to see my dad because I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to talk to him.”

MacPhail promoted Trembley, a career minor leaguer, into the position. That October, the Yankees tabbed Girardi to succeed Joe Torre, for whom Girardi played with the Yankees from 1996-99 and served as bench coach in 2005. He has won a World Series and has a .598 winning percentage in two-plus seasons with the Yankees. Trembley had a .398 winning percentage in three-plus seasons with the Orioles.

How different, indeed.

 

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