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Keidel: Would The Yankees Be Better Under Girardi?

Jason Keidel
September 19, 2018 - 11:09 am
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The Yankees played the kind of blue-collar, comeback game that has been missing for most of the last six weeks, muscling their way past the Red Sox, 3-2, in the Bronx. The win was vital for their wild-card tussle with the Oakland, padding their lead to 2 1/2 games over the Athletics.

But it doesn't reverse one uncomfortable fact. The Red Sox, who have long lapped the Yanks in the standings, will likely celebrate AL East crown, on the Yankees' turf, either tonight or tomorrow. Maybe there isn't the same visceral hatred between the two teams and their respective fans - like there was, say, 15 years ago, when Aaron Boone belted one of the most memorable homers in MLB history off Tim Wakefield - but that doesn't mean the Yankees or their fans will enjoy watching their rivals dance their clubhouse. 

Boone's predecessor was part of this rivalry in bloody technicolor for many years. And when the Red Sox eventually slide on those goofy goggles and pop the bubbly and dance with the division crown, you wonder if Joe Girardi will be watching. 

You also wonder if the Yankees had to fire Girardi to get here. This is not a campaign to get G.I. Joe's job back. But are the Yankees any better with Boone in the dugout? 

Last year, the Yanks finished two games behind Boston in the division. This year, they could easily be ten-plus games back when the season ends. Granted these Yankees already have more wins (92-48) than they had all last season (91-71). But just as they had to beat the Twins in last year's wildcard game, they will have to elbow past the A's in this year's version.

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Unlike the NFL, where the head coach's throaty sermons are a crucial part of the club's success, the baseball manager is largely more stoic, his influence on his club more nuanced. While we have a clear totem pole of gridiron great coaches, we don't really have as firm a grip on the great manager, or why he wins, how much is talent versus tactics.

The knock on Girardi while he was being booted from the Bronx was that he couldn't coddle the young player, that his flip-phone style didn't connect with the smart-phone sensibilities of the Millennial. He was all about his binder, not his bonding. 

But didn't the Yankees have Girardi's back in a big way? When Girardi blew it in last year's ALDS, failing to review a play that would surely have been reversed and all but cost them a playoff game, didn't his players surge back and beat the favored Indians to reach the ALCS? Do we not remember Girardi's eyes bubbling with tears, in abject regret after admitting he blew the call, then in tearful gratitude after the team wiped the slate clean? 

Love is calling card of the Big Apple's two new MLB managers. Mickey Callaway had his surreal opening presser about loving his Mets so much they would have to love themselves on the diamond. And while Boone was more muted, he too came to manage a Big Apple club relying on affection way more than attrition. 

Boone is a fine chap who comes from undeniably fine baseball stock. The Boone family is also baseball history, with so many dads and sons littering their league with high-grade players. And there's been nothing in his maiden managerial season to suggest he's doing a bad job.  

But the 2017 Yankees came within one game of the World Series, and the 2018 team is clearly more talented. This year the Bombers added two young studs - Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar - who have been bona fide Rookie of the Year candidates. If that weren't promising enough, they added last year's NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. 

Does that sound like a team that should have entered last night's game 11 1/2 games out of first place? No doubt Boston (103-48) has had a magical season, and the Yankees have, for much of the summer, been the second-best team in baseball. They just haven't been as crisp or sharp since August 1. Some of that can be blamed on injury, some on a batting slump, some on starting pitching lapses. 

So after 150 games in the 2018 season, the Yanks are essentially in the same place they were after 150 games of the 2017 season. So you wonder if they had to hire Aaron Boone to get this result, if Girardi had to go, or if Girardi's more intense mien is exactly what they need as they enter this year's playoffs. 

Maybe the Yankees squeeze one more win out of October and reach the Fall Classic, and maybe Aaron Boone is the reason why. If the Yanks bomb under Boone next month, you have to wonder why he was hired or why Joe Girardi was fired.

Twitter: @JasonKeidel

 

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