We all know, everyone on a team is important, especially the managers, the General Managers, the President, the people behind the scenes. These are the people that sign the Free Agents, trade for players, and basically keep the team from falling apart. As an avid Yankee fan I enjoy going on sites such as ESPNNewYork, YesNetwork.com, MLB.com, Yankees.com, etc. I enjoy reading the articles and reading about what’s going on. I also enjoy reading the comments that people leave on the discussion boards. Over the course of this year I have noticed that many people seem to dislike Joe Girardi and to a lesser extent Cashman. Now I will admit I have had my personal debates with Joe over certain things he does, but when you look back at the 2011 season, we could not have asked for more than what these two guys and the rest of the Yankee team did. After all, even though pretty much every baseball insider/reporter said the Red Sox would win the division (many also said the World Series) and we all know how that turned out. While some even went as far to say that the Yankees would not even make the postseason, the Yankees won the division, they had the best record in the American League by winning 97 games, and, unlike the Sox, they made the playoffs. So here is a breakdown of what Cashman and Girardi did this year to help this team overcome some criticism and ultimately prove people wrong.
Let’s start with Brian Cashman. Cashman has been with the Yankees now for 14 years. Thats quite a long time, especially in a city like New York City. In my opinion he has done a phenomenal job. He has gotten the Free Agents that the team needed when they needed them. He has built up our farm system and now it’s become one of the best farm systems in Baseball filled with future players and possible trade chips. He knows this team needs pitching and needs to get younger. So unless it was to try and get Cliff Lee, or Roy Halladay, or as some Yankee fans hope, Felix Hernandez, Brian has kept the top prospects Yankees, i.e. Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Warren Phelps, etc. Because he has built up the farm system we have had plenty of great players come up from it. Players like Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, and Robinson Cano. And there is still a ton of talent waiting to just come up to the majors and shine. He might not have gotten Cliff Lee last year but he has given us players like Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and Curtis Granderson. He has made some bad signings, some which he did not approve of, (i.e. Alex Rodriguez extension, Rafael Soriano) but that’s how baseball is. You win some, you lose some.
Now let’s take the 2011 season as an example. As I mentioned earlier, we missed out on Cliff Lee as he decided to go back to Philadelphia for less money, and the beloved Andy Pettitte decided to retire, but we still the won the division did we not? How you may ask? By being smart, and taking some risks. He took a HUGE risk that ultimately paid off by signing veterans Freddty Garcia and Bartolo Colon. In fact Freddy might even be back for one more year in 2012. The Yankees decided that Jorge Posada’s reign as a Yankee catcher was over, and that the young kiddie catchers were not quite ready to take on this responsibility, so he brought in former LA Dodger Russell Martin. In my opinion Russell was the best signing of the offseason because he brought with him great defense behind the plate and leadership behind the plate as well. Using Posada as a resource to learn more about the Yankee pitches, he helped bring this “patch-work” staff together, calling great games and really bonding with all out pitchers, especially AJ Burnett and his wild pitches.
Now Brian, along with the Yankee front office, built a new bullpen during the season. What do I mean by this? Well, before the season even began, the bullpen was supposed to be strength. With Mariano Rivera closing the games, Rafael is the setup man, Joba being the 7th inning guy, Robertson the 6th inning guy, and Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano. But that ideal bullpen never happened because of injuries. Pedro Feliciano got injured, possibly needing rotator cuff surgery, might not even pitch in 2012, Joba had Tommy John Surgery and will be back next year, and Rafael was out for about 2 months with elbow inflammation. But I believe everything happens for a reason. If these injuries hadn’t occurred we probably wouldn’t have seen how truly talented David Robertson is. Working his way to the setup man role, Robertson was a much deserved All-Star this year, and he was phenomenal. He came barely in 2nd for most strikeouts per inning in the AL, and also had a ERA of slightly over 1.00. Now it seems he is the heir to Mariano’s throne. Of course, the bullpen was still strength for the whole season despite these injuries. With the signings of Cory Wade, Luis Ayala, Raul Valdez, along with minor league kiddies getting “the call to the bullpen”, the Yankee bullpen was phenomenal, 1st in the American League in terms of ERA.
Now there were also a lot of injuries that occurred and that’s where out manager Joe Girarid comes in.
A very serious man, a numbers guy, who loves to mix and match by using his binder, Girardi has now been with the Yankees for 4 years, and will be with the team for at least another 2. Now this year the Yankees had a ton of injuries. We had Phil Hughes out for most of the year, Alex Rodriguez had knee surgery, Derek Jeter was out for a bit after getting his 3000 hit, Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Eric Chavez, I mean the list goes on and on. But that did not stop the Yankees, and it did not stop Joe.
With these injuries, Joe was able to give some of the younger kids a chance to really show what they were made off, and it worked out good. We got to see more of Eduardo Nunez and learn that he has a dynamic bat, but really needs work on his defense. We got to see Brandon Laird at 3rd for a bit, Jesus Montero and Austin Romine came up at the end of the year. Joe used his bench wisely, and made the best of what was given to him.
I was especially impressed by how Joe and the Yankees handled the bullpen. Like I mentioned already a lot of injuries, but with some smart and cheap pickups, it was the best in the American League.
So as you can see, both of these guys have done a great job for this team. Now its the offseason, one of my favorite times of the year. I’m excited to see what Cashman and the Yankees can pull off. Cashman already did something that I thought was very key, signing CC Sabathia to an extension and not having him opt out. This was huge. We need CC to lead our rotation, and there’s no question if he had opted out, it probably would have cost more to keep him. But the contract in my opinion is a win win for both parties.
So now with pitching still being the primary need, who will the Yankees get? Well I think they will go after Yu Darvish more than CJ Wilson, and possibly go after Mark Buerhle. It seems like they will resign Freddy Garcia which I think is good idea. He’s a good #5 guy to have, with good veteran presence for the younger kids such as Phil and Ivan. Personally, I also think the Yankees will try very hard to trade for a pitcher, possibly Gio Gonzalez? They also need to find a lefty reliever to help out Boone Logan.
So let’s see what happens. It should be an interesting offseason, and I’m looking forward for another great season, with these two guys leading the way.