If Joe Girardi was manager of the St. Louis Cardinals things might be different, but he isn’t. He manages the Yankees – a team that is essentially a collection of sluggers that are designed to get on base an hit the big home run.
Derek Jeter does the small ball stuff and will lay down a bunt even when the sign isn’t on, but even Ichiro Suzuki, traded for for his speed, doesn’t really bunt. His former manager and current Yankees broadcaster Lou Piniella even confirmed as much last night when he said Ichiro hates sacrificing.
“That’s not really our approach,” Girardi told Chad Jennings of the Journal News. “We’re not the Bronx Bunters, and we really never have been. The one thing you can concentrate on is really good at-bats and making sure you grind out your at-bats. If you have to move a runner over, make sure you hit the ball to the other side or pull it or try to drive the ball. Take the extra base when you can. We’re not going to change our philosophy.”
This all stems from something hitting coach Kevin Long said after Tuesday night’s loss about changing things up. It’s just not realistic. The problem with this team is injuries and aging stars not playing up to their ability. But Raul Ibanez is not going to start laying down bunts now at age 40. And a team that strikes out as much as the Yankees can’t really play the hit-and-run with every at bat.
These guys are successful because they do things a certain way. Changing them at this point in their careers doesn’t guarantee more success and it doesn’t even guarantee as much success. Just look at Mark Teixeira. He tried going the other way agaisnt lefties more often starting in July last season through June of this season and his numbers dropped to a pathetic .229/.311/.396. As soon as he stopped trying to change the approach that made him successful he immediately went on a hot streak and carried the Yankees this past July.
“If you have a club that has a lot of speed and you have a lot of hit-and-run candidates, you might do that,” Girardi said. “That’s not something that we’re really built on. I’m not going to ask our guys to change who they are. You can’t do that. I can’t make our guys world-class sprinters all of a sudden. That’s not going to happen. We need to hit and we know that.”
It makes sense, the Yankees are losing and they aren’t playing small ball. So it’s easy to say that Girardi is a bad manager for not playing small ball, but in reality they aren’t built for that. And that’s OK. Heck, they just won the World Series in 2009 (remember that?) doing it this way.
Changing their approach is not going to get Teixeira back in the lineup and it isn’t going to keep Andruw Jones from sucking. Small ball is not the approach for the Yankees (although it wouldn’t kill them to steal a few more bases – I’m looking at you Curtis Granderson).
I miss Brett Gardner.