Girardi answers critics on day after
Yankees' manager peppered with questions about Manny
BOSTON -- What happened to Joe Girardi this weekend was a rite of passage, sort of a baptism without water. He made a decision, the decision went bad and the second-guessing that followed was nothing less than relentless.
It could be argued that Girardi's real first day on the job as Yankees manager was not Oct. 30, 2007, the date of his hiring. The real first day on the job was April 12, 2008, the date on which he made his first managerial decision that backfired.
Two things about this, one in each direction: The decision in question was somewhere between wrong and inconceivable. But these things happen. Girardi's response to the grilling about the decision included equanimity, dignity and patience. That offered a hopeful sign for his vocational future.
To briefly review: Saturday night, sixth inning, Yankees leading the Red Sox, 2-1, runners on second and third, two outs, Manny Ramirez up. Girardi goes to the mound and confers with Mike Mussina. Mussina says that he would rather pitch with caution to Ramirez than walk Ramirez and face the extraordinarily patient Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded.
Girardi decides not to walk Ramirez. Mussina makes an entirely hittable pitch to Ramirez. Ramirez doubles, two runs score, Red Sox eventually win, and Joe Girardi's honeymoon period as manager of the New York Yankees has ended.
Through Saturday night, Manny Ramirez had hit .364 against the Yankees in his career. But he had hit .456 against the Yankees since the beginning of 2006. He has 53 home runs and 156 RBIs against the Yankees. Beyond that, he is going to the Hall of Fame. With first base open, in this situation, the walk to him appears mandatory.
These were the Yankees, playing the Red Sox, so this controversy, rather than going away, actually seemed to expand as time passed. When Girardi met the media for his pregame session on Sunday, he was asked 24 questions related to this topic.
Is that number of questions excessive for one at-bat from the previous night? No. The reporters involved had every right and every reason to diligently explore this episode in an effort to find out what the new manager was about. In fact, you wish that the Washington, D.C. press corps was this rigorous in its questioning of politicians.
Girardi rejected all attempts to get him to second-guess himself. "I'm not going to second-guess what I did because I took the information that I had at the time and made a decision," he said. "And I thought it was the best decision at that time. I think you can look back on any decision you make in your life and hindsight is 20-20. I did it as a catcher, too, you do it with pitch selection."
Girardi, in fact, said that he still recalled a curveball that he called for from Mike Stanton that lost a game in Minnesota in the late 1990s.
"I will mull over things, that's my personality," Girardi said. When he was asked if he was "mulling over" the decision to pitch to Ramirez, he replied:
"That's something personal."
Some of the questioning was designed to discover whether Girardi was going to learn from this experience or manage differently as a result of it.
"Now I went through an experience and in life, I think you grow from every experience that you go through, whether they're good, bad or indifferent," Girardi said. "And you can take that knowledge from the experiences that you've had previously and you make decisions."
As to whether this episode was going to cause him to manage differently, Girardi smiled slightly and said: "I guess we can watch and find out ... I can take as much information as I can from a lot of different people. And you try to learn your whole life. And then you make the best decision that you can at that point."
But the Ramirez decision was gone, and a new day and a new game beckoned. He had not, he said, seen or heard any of the very pointed and in some cases highly personal criticism he had received for the decision.
"It's part of life, as a manager it's going to happen a lot," Girardi said. "You just have to move forward. Today's a new day. That's the beauty of baseball; every day's a new day."
At only one point did Girardi appear to lose patience with the extensive inquiry, and even then he did so with a smile.
"It's a new day, isn't it?" he said. "I've got a game to worry about today."
As it turned out, there was plenty to worry about once the game actually started. Young starter Phil Hughes could not find his command and the Yankees were down, 7-1, three innings into the game. A comeback fell short, and they finished with an 8-5 loss in a game that did not end until early Monday morning. The loss meant that the Yanks had lost to the Red Sox in the three-game series, as well.
There were no controversial managerial decisions to chew on, but based on what Girardi had said, losing would wear on him much more than an argument over one of his moves.
"Losing stinks; as a player, as a kid, I hate it," he said.
This is not the start of which a new Yankees manager dreams: 6-7, the captain out of the lineup, two catchers nicked up, and two straight losses to finish off a long weekend in Boston.
"We're not where we want to be, but it could be worse," Girardi said. "We're banged up."
In the category of "banged up," the manager himself took on some bruises this weekend. But in any managing job, particularly this one, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Joe Girardi gave every indication that he will handily survive this episode. Now it is simply a matter of relying on his own character and intelligence and, of course, walking Manny Ramirez the next time the situation arises.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.