The Yankees and Red Sox both won on Sunday, meaning their managers kept their jobs for at least another day.
The two teams, both entering play Monday down 2-1 in their divisional series, are seemingly always in competition, whether for the AL East title during the season or free agents in the offseason (they also were reportedly in competition to acquire Todd Frazier in July; the Red Sox might be lucky the Yankees won that one).
This winter may be different — the Yankees and Red Sox may be in competition for new managers.
Both the Red Sox’s John Farrell and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi are being blamed for their teams’ deficits — the former unfairly, the latter fairly but with a heavy dose of piling on — and both seem to have as much chance to reach 2018 in their current positions as they do to reach the ALCS.
Farrell’s teams have won back-to-back division titles; Girardi’s won a World Series in his second year and more than 90 games five times in 10 years.
By next spring, the longest-tenured manager in the AL East might be Buck Showalter, whose teams have won one playoff series longer than the wild-card game in seven years. Showalter’s Orioles won 75 games this year, finished last in the AL East and had a pitching staff which ranked 14th in the AL and 27th in MLB.
Few are clamoring for Showalter’s job, if only because not enough people care to. When it comes to job security, apathy is sometimes a manager’s best defense.
The Red Sox lost the first two games to the Astros by 8-2 and 8-2, and Red Sox starters, one of the supposed strengths of the team, gave up seven runs in the first inning of the first three games. Short of not arriving until the second inning, there’s not much Farrell can do about that.
Beyond the Boxscore’s Henry Druschel said David Price, the Sox’s expensive free-agent-signee turned media critic turned reliever, should be starting. Druschel: “.. even a short start from David Price would’ve been incredibly useful to the floundering Red Sox.” Maybe. But four scoreless innings of relief in Game 3 certainly were useful, and Price has 6.2 scoreless innings of relief in the series (15.1 in all since returning from injury in September).
Of the 12 postseason games entering play Monday, only three starting pitchers (Kyle Hendricks, Stephen Strasburg and Trevor Bauer) have pitched as much as Price.
That certainly sounds like Farrell is mishandling the situation.
When the Red Sox signed Price, they were criticized for spending $217 million on a pitcher with a 5.03 postseason ERA. Now he’s supposed to be the Red Sox’s postseason savior?
The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy had it right before Game 3: “It has a lot to do with optics and obligatory pounds of flesh. The Red Sox know that folks haven’t grown to like this team. Back-to-back October collapses would require some heads to roll for a franchise that’s ever-focused on public perception and TV ratings. The Sox have already milked every ounce from the David Ortiz cash cow and they’re never announcing that they’ll stop playing “Sweet Caroline.” Firing the manager might get the talk shows off their backs for a few days.”
If Girardi is fired it won’t be for optics, but for failing to challenge Lonnie Chisenhall’s hit by pitch preceding Francisco Lindor’s Game 2 grand slam. Girardi said Saturday, “I scewed up,” because he had, though that didn’t win forgiveness Sunday with the New York crowd, which booed him (and here I thought that sort of thing only happened in Philadelphia).
If the crowd reaction was a referendum on Girardi — Ronald Torreyes, who was picked off second in the 11th, went relatively unscathed for a move that was just as boneheaded — he won’t be back.
That wouldn’t help the Yankees, for whom Girardi has been a superior manager. This hasn’t been his best season — the Yankees’ +198 run differential should have produced more than 91 wins, and probably an AL East title — but the Angels don’t bench Mike Trout the day after he goes 0-for-4.
And what’s the alternative? From Monday’s New York Times: “Donald Mattingly,” Rob Tipa of Queens said. … “Miami is going to clean house, and every Yankee fan wants him back. The planets are aligning.”
Mr. Tipa might want to clean his telescope. Mattingly won two playoff series and lost five in five years with the Dodgers, and failed to reach .500 in two years with the Marlins. If the planets are aligning, they may not be thinking of the Yankees.
If Girardi does go, it will be because of the talk-show mentality Shaughnessy alluded to. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand: “But while egregious, Girardi’s replay mistake gets the silver in Friday night’s manager mess-ups. The gold goes to lifting (CC) Sabathia, an easy first guess when it happened. Girardi was using some prepackaged postseason playbook that called for lifting Sabathia after 5⅓ innings, even though there was no reason. Sabathia had gone full Pettitte, and his line would have been even better if his defense, specifically third baseman Todd Frazier, hadn’t let him down. When Girardi took the ball from him, the Yankees were up five runs and Sabathia had only thrown 77 pitches. But get this? Sabathia had retired 12 of the past 13 Indians and was facing the 7-8-9 batters. But with one man on and one out, Girardi took the ball from the big lefty with the big heart.”
In New York, even the biting critcism has to be bigger. Where to begin? Marchand is arguably wrong more often in four graphs than Girardi was in four hours Friday night. Girardi relieved Sabathia because Chad Green is a better pitcher (a .454 OPS against to Sabathia’s .715, and has it been so long since the wild-card game that Mr. Marchand forgot how Green performed then?). And while Sabathia had retired 12 of 13, he walked the leadoff batter in the sixth and got Jay Bruce on a line out (the second out of the fifth was a hard-hit ground ball).
If Girardi doesn’t relieve Sabathia, and the Indians rally, he’s criticized for sticking with his starter when he has a bullpen as deep and good as he does.
And if Girardi challenges the hit by pitch, then Chisenhall is out, there’s no Lindor slam and the Yankees lead 8-3 with Green having ended the sixth inning with the same score he entered to. You can’t criticize Girardi for relieving Sabathia and for not reviewing the hit by pitch, when if he did the latter it would have justified the former.
Well, you can but it seems illogical. Much like the managing changes to come.
- Cubs vs. Nationals: The Nationals scored one run in the first 16 innings of the series before scoring five runs in a dramatic eighth inning of Game 2. The series is tied 1-1, but it sure feels like the Nats, who have Max Scherzer pitching in Game 3, are ahead.
- Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers: Of the 12 postseason games entering play Monday, the team which hit more homers in the game has lost three of them, two of those by the Diamondbacks. They’ve hit six homers — four off Clayton Kershaw — vs. the Dodgers, who’ve hit one, but trail two games to none and have been outscored 17-10. The Diamondbacks have played three playoff games and have yet to give up fewer than eight runs. Their pitching staff is depleted — Robbie Ray relieved on Wednesday and started on Saturday; Zack Godley, who might have been the Game 4 starter, had to go five innings in relief on Friday because Taijuan Walker gave up four in the first. The Diamondbacks finished 11 games behind the Dodgers, which is why they had to play the wild-card game. In this series, it’s serving its purpose.