Big Props for Joe Girardi

He has won a World Series title and has made the playoffs four straight seasons.  He has won 522 games in five and a half seasons as the manager of the New York Yankees.  This season, his team is on pace to win 86 games, his lowest victory total as a New York manager.  There is also one other fact we should mention about Joe Girardi.

This season represents his finest managing job.

Now, there are a slew of Yankee fans that would disagree.  They have never liked Girardi ever since he became the skipper in 2008 after the beloved Joe Torre departed.  There are others that would point to the fact the Yanks’ payroll is the highest in baseball so that automatically disqualifies him from any managerial award.

Joe Girardi is one of baseball's best managers even if his fan base doesn't admit it.  Image:  espn.com

Joe Girardi is one of baseball’s best managers even if his fan base doesn’t admit it. Image: espn.com

Nonsense.

Many of these same critics had the Yankees falling off the face of the Earth in Spring Training.  This was before Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira came back from injury only to be put back on the disabled list.  Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter haven’t played a game yet.  Kevin Youkilis, signed to take the place for Rodriguez is out possibly for the season.  C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have been mediocre and Phil Hughes can’t seem to do anything right.  Yet, for all of their troubles, this Yankee team is 43-39, only 6 games out of first place.  Most, if not all of the credit belongs to Girardi.  You don’t see him get too rattled and even though you may not agree with his decisions, I have supreme confidence that his reasoning is sound and more often than not will make the right call.  You have to believe Sabathia will be better in the second half and Jeter will provide a boost just by his presence alone.  I also think Rodriguez will have a pretty good half for the team that loves to hate him. But even if none of that comes to pass and given his record of success Girardi shouldn’t be the one taking the heat.

If you don’t believe Joe Girardi is doing an outstanding job as the manager of the Yankees this season, then you probably just don’t like him or the team.  Maybe you will be convinced when they end up being one of the five teams in the American League playoffs.

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I have a family member (and loyal reader) named Bob who is one tremendous baseball historian.  I love getting his e-mails on the game be it an Orioles contest he just attended or reminiscing about a player from decades ago.  He sent me an e-mail on Sunday about former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Stan Lopata who passed away recently.  I wanted to share it with you and give you an idea of the knowledge of love the game this guy has.

Wash Post has small obit on the passing of Phillie Whiz Kid (1950) catcher Stan Lopata, sometimes called Stash. He was a big lumbering hulk and had some good years with Phillies, espec 1956 with 32 HR, still a Philly catcher record. In 1950 NL pennant champ year , Lopata and Andy Seminick were dividing catching for Phils.   1950 World Series loss to NY Yanks was cruel indeed. Jim Konstanty, 74 game relief pitcher and NL MVP surprisingly started Game 1 and barely lost 1-0 in the opener. With today’s ESPN & all the TV, Konstaty opening the WS without ever starting before, would be eye-popping. He lost to NYY clutch pitcher Vic Raschi, Then Robin Roberts lost in 10 inning 2-1 on Joe DiMag HR. Seminick hit an almost winning HR that just twisted foul at the last moment. Then Phils lost 3-2 and in the 4th game, Whitey Ford won his first WS game of a great career.   A Phila friend gave me an autographed ball of the 1950 Whiz Kids,Robin Roberts, Richie Asburn & the rest.

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Speaking about props, how about those Pittsburgh Pirates?  They own the best record in baseball at 51-30, this after their top three starters in Spring Training (at least on paper) were A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and Francisco Liriano.  Not a bad top three but not an ace to be found.  In addition, they traded All Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox before the season started.  Finally, their best player, Andrew McCutchen, has numbers that are off from the 2012 season.

So what’s going on?

To start with, the bullpen has been sensational.  Closer Jason Grilli has converted 27 of 28 save opportunities and was mentioned by Billy Ripken on MLB Tonight as the National League MVP.  He has 59 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings to the tune of a 1.72 ERA.  Setup man Mark Melancon has been equally as dominant posting a 0.89 ERA in 41 games.  Jeff Locke has been a huge surprise in the rotation going 7-1 with a 2.06 ERA.  On offense, McCutchen has been heating up but the big story for at least the past month has been third baseman Pedro Alvarez.  He slugged ten home runs in the month of June, giving him 20 for the season.  Highly-touted left fielder Starling Marte has been a nice table stter with a .288 batting average and has reached base almost 35% of the time.

The Pirates have started out well the last two seasons but have collapsed in late August in both those campaigns.  Don’t expect that to happen a third time.  This team is loaded and is a deadline deal away from being true World Series contenders.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

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