Tag Archives: Toronto Blue Jays

Is Joe Girardi Really the Second Best Manager in Baseball?

Yesterday, I saw a headline that Joe Girardi was to get a “very generous” contract offer from the New York Yankees. I thought to myself, that’s strange. I thought that the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs this year. That’s right, the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs this year. In fact, the Yankees had their fewest win total since 1992 and missed the playoffs for only the 2nd time in the last 19 season. Do you know who the manager was the last time the Yankees missed the playoffs? Joe Girardi.

Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I have nothing against Joe Girardi. From everything I’ve read about the guy (and seen), he seems really great. While my favourite team is the Toronto Blue Jays, that doesn’t mean that I have to dislike the managers of opposing teams.

As I was saying, Girardi and the Yankees missed the playoffs this year. They also missed the playoffs in 2008 (Girardi’s first year as a manager of the Yankees). As an aside, I guess it goes to show you just how successful Joe Torre was as the manager of the Yankees. He was the manager from 1996 through 2007 and the Yankees went to the playoffs every year. In Joe Girardi’s tenure as the manager of the Yankees, they’ve gone to the playoffs 4 times (out of 6 seasons) and won the World Series once.

Of particular note, are the last three years for Girardi. Why? Because he signed a new 3-year contract after the 2010 season. So, how’s Girardi fared over the last 3 years? In 2011, the Yankees won their division and made the playoffs, but lost to the Detroit Tigers in the division series. In 2012, the Yankees won their division (again) and made the playoffs. This time, they won the division series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, in the league championship series against the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees lost. In 2013, the Yankees finished tied for third in the division and didn’t make the playoffs.

Just for comparison’s sake, let’s take another American League manager over the last three years. Since the Yankees have lost to the Tigers two years in a row, let’s look at how they’ve performed behind the leadership of Jim Leyland. In 2011, the Tigers finished first in their division and made the playoffs. As I mentioned, they beat the Yankees in the league division series. During the league championship series, the Tigers lost to the Texas Rangers. In 2012, the Tigers finished first in their division. They beat the Oakland Athletics in the league division series and then beat the Yankees in the league championship series. However, they couldn’t beat the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. In 2013, the Tigers finished first in their division and are currently playing in the league division series against the Oakland Athletics. In Game 1, they won 3-2. Game 2 of the series is tonight. While the Tigers still have a ways to go before they return to the World Series, they’re a lot closer than Joe Girardi’s Yankees.

Jim Leyland has been making $2 million a year since he signed with the Tigers and has agreed to maintain that salary moving forward. During Girardi’s last contract, he was making $3 million a year. This new offer is said to make him the second highest paid manager in baseball. The current highest paid manager makes $5 million a year.

I realize that some folks will want to take into account different things like playing in a high-profile market like New York, but others would simply say it’s all about winning the World Series. In looking at all of this, the question then becomes: is Girardi really the second best manager in baseball?

Second-Guessing Managers and General Managers

About a week ago, I was watching the Toronto Blue Jays baseball game and there were some questionable decisions made by the manager. (Note: questionable in that they didn’t really make all that much sense to me or another group of fans of the Blue Jays.) Based on the game situation, many viewers of the game who are familiar with the Blue Jays would have anticipated that the manager would have substituted a certain pitcher. However, this didn’t happen. In fact, the manager substituted a player that was completely unexpected.

As someone who wants to see the Blue Jays succeed, it’s flabbergasting when things like this happen. I watched as fans on Twitter were absolutely dumbfounded by the decision. And that one decision *seemingly* affected decisions in the following game. For instance, because some pitchers can’t necessarily pitch on consecutive days, by using one pitcher on Tuesday, he can’t be used on Wednesday. Having played baseball for some time and having a relatively sophisticated understanding of the game (at least when compared to an average fan), I found it hard to determine the reasoning for the decisions made by the manager. Of course, I was assuming that the primary goal was to “win the game.” However, when you consider that this might not always be the only goal, then one can begin to consider different possibilities.

For instance, maybe the general manager (GM) told the manager that he needed to have a certain pitcher showcased in a game because a scout from a different team was going to be in attendance. Or, maybe the GM said that a certain player was about to be called up and another released, so he should use that player in the game. Heck, maybe there are personality issues (or “office politics“) at play that can’t be seen by fans who simply watch the game on TV. Think about the kinds of politics that happen at your office. These kinds of politics are bound to be at play on baseball teams, especially because the personalities might be a bit more extreme (it takes a certain kind of person to become a high-performance athlete). And, sports teams probably spend more time with each other than your typical office does.

My point in all of this is that it can be tough for a fan when a manager makes a move that seems completely counter to what one would think is the primary goal: winning the game.

On a related note, the NHL free agency period recently opened. Much to the chagrin of Toronto Maple Leafs‘ fans, the Leafs decided to let go of their best center, Mikhail Grabovski. Statistically speaking, that is, if you use advanced statistics, there’s no question that Grabovski was the best center on the Leafs. However, as has been noted with statistics, one can interpret the data to fit their opinion. Regardless, the decision by the GM of the Leafs, like the decision of the manager of the Blue Jays, left fans dumbfounded. These moves by the Leafs were even more frustrating because they had to do with personnel. With the explosion of fantasy sports, many fans have had the ability to pretend to be GMs. My guess is that because of this, some fans may think that they know better (and have tangential proof?) than the current GM of their favorite team.

All this is to say that when your favorite team does something that seems contra-indicated, consider that there might be something behind the scenes that you can’t know. I know, this will probably be of little comfort, but it might allow you to gain a more nuanced perspective of the business of sports.

Confessions of a Toronto Blue Jays Fan: So This is what it Feels Like to be a Yankees or Red Sox Fan

This past week has been momentous. Absolutely momentous. Okay, maybe I’m being a tad hyperbolic, but it’s been an exciting week for the Toronto Blue Jays (and their fans). This past week, the Toronto Blue Jays made the biggest trade in franchise history:

Going to the Miami Marlins

Coming to the Toronto Blue Jays

  • Josh Johnson (SP)
  • Mark Buehrle (SP)
  • José Reyes (SS)
  • Emilio Bonifacio (UT)
  • John Buck (C)
  • $4 million

This was a huge deal. Not only did a number of players change hands, but a number of marquee players. Reyes is a 4-time all-star and NL batting champion from 2011. Buehrle is a 4-time all-star. Johnson is a 2-time all-star. Buck is a 1-time all-star. Both Alvarez and Hechavarria are two prospects that were expected to lead the Blue Jays over the next decade. This trade will certainly solidify the Blue Jays’ prospects of making the playoffs in 2013.

Not only did the Blue Jays make a splash with this huge deal, they also signed a couple of players to fill a few holes. They signed Macier Izturis who can play all the infield positions and Melky Cabrera who was an all-star this year and the all-star MVP this year.

There are a ton of things going well for Toronto Blue Jays’ fans. Having been born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area, I’ve certainly followed the Blue Jays quite a bit, especially because growing up, baseball was my favorite sport. I loved the game, so naturally, I was interested in watching the professionals, too. I can remember back to 1992/1993 (when the Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series) — it was glorious. Those two teams were stacked with talent. In fact, leading up to the 1992 season, the Blue Jays made a very big trade to acquire to cornerstones of those championship teams. Many are comparing the trade I described above to that trade.

The number of deals (and the size of the deals, with regard to money), are not something that you usually see from the Blue Jays in the offseason. The Blue Jays usually have a very low-key offseason, picking up a few players here and there. I always remember the Blue Jays taking a more “Moneyball” approach. Part of this has to do with the size of the payroll. The only time I can remember the Jays spending a great deal of money in the offseason was during those two World Series years I described above.

There is no salary cap in baseball, so teams are allowed to spend as much as they want. As a result, you find the bigger marquee teams (like the Yankees and the Red Sox) able to spend more. (Though, there might be a chicken and egg problem here.) That’s why I’ve titled this post the way that I have. There haven’t been many times in Blue Jays’ history when they’ve spent this much in the offseason. As a result, I would imagine that this is what it feels like to be a Red Sox fan or a Yankees fan. Fans of these teams — I suspect — have become accustomed to their team spending a great deal of money in the offseason to keep them competitive.

~

Only time will tell if the success of the Reyes, Johnson, and Buehrle can equal the sucess of Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. I, and most of Canada, most certainly hope that it will.