Here was the world of analytics for the New York Yankees on Thursday, when they effectively fired Joe Girardi, whether his contract had expired or not: The numbers got Girardi in the end. The Astros won four games in the American League Championship Series and Girardi's Yankees won three. The Astros scored 11 runs in the last two games of that series and the Yankees scored one. And what happened on top of all that on Thursday was that Yankee general manager Brian Cashman officially put a lie to the notion that the Yankees overachieved this season by making it as close to the World Series as they did. Clearly Cashman convinced his owner, Hal Steinbrenner, that they did not.
Cashman made it abundantly clear when he made deals at the Trade Deadline for Sonny Gray and David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier and Jaime Garcia that he was not content with the 2017 Yankees making it back to the playoffs as a Wild Card. And when the Yankees came from 0-2 down in the ALCS against the Indians -- after Girardi infamously did not challenge a call that said Lonnie Chisenhall got hit by a pitch right before a grand slam that turned an 8-3 beatdown into what ultimately became an extra-inning loss for the Yankees -- and won that series, it looked like Cashman was right.
Then the Yankees were ahead of the Astros three games to two in the ALCS, were that close to the Yankees' first World Series since 2009, the only one they have won in this century. That was before the thing went back to Houston and the Astros did what they did to them in Games 6 and 7. Of course, it is worth wondering what happens to Girardi if the Yankees do make it to the World Series, if that would have saved him.
Or maybe the only way to save his job was to win it all. Once, over a half-century ago, Yogi Berra lost Game 7 of the 1964 World Series to the Cardinals and got fired. Girardi, all this time later, gets fired after another Game 7. He didn't get tired of working for Cashman. It was the other way around.
So Girardi goes, despite never having a losing season in New York; after winning that one World Series, after losing in the ALCS three other times, and losing a Game 5 at home once to the Tigers in a Division Series, and losing an AL Wild Card Game to the Astros and Dallas Keuchel two years ago. Girardi made the playoffs six times in all.
But over his 10 years at the helm, and until the Yankees made their run this October, there was a myth busted up pretty good at Yankee Stadium, the one that says it is still World Series or bust for the Yankees. Under Girardi, the Yankees missed the playoffs entirely four times, got shut out in that AL Wild Card Game to the Astros, and lost a division series. Of course, he was so often managing aging stars often staggering to the finish line, and that includes Derek Jeter. But in the end, I don't believe Cashman only looked at this October. He looked at all of it. And decided to make a change.
This was part of his statement on Thursday about Girardi:
"As Hal Steinbrenner and I mentioned to Joe directly this week, he has been a tremendous Yankee on the field and away from it, as a player, coach and manager. He has a tireless work ethic, and put his heart into every game he managed over the last decade. He should take great pride in our accomplishments during his tenure, and I wish Joe and his family nothing but success and happiness in the future."
So the makeover of the Yankees that began at the Trade Deadline of 2016, when Cashman traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman and got a bunch of talented kids in return now includes the manager that Cashman handpicked over Don Mattingly a decade ago. And we are reminded once again that the most powerful men in baseball are general managers, and their army of young analytics people. If there was a way these general managers and heads of baseball ops could make the pitching changes from upstairs -- they couldn't do worse than Dave Roberts did in Game 2 of the World Series, when you half-expected Roberts to ask Sandy Koufax or Fernando to get him a couple of outs -- they would do it.
It was Cashman's stated intent the summer before last for the Yankees to get younger. Now, even though Girardi is just 53 years old, it will be more than somewhat of a surprise if the Yankees don't get younger at manager; if Cashman, who has only ever had Joe Torre (it didn't end well between the GM and that Joe, either) and Girardi work for him in the Yankee dugout, doesn't go looking for his own Roberts, or A.J. Hinch or Alex Cora, someone who will embrace the numbers even more than Girardi did, but who will better relate -- at least in Cashman's eyes -- to the kids already on the Yankees' big-league roster and the ones on the way.
Clearly, Cashman knows what a baseball lifer and good manager Girardi is. It will be another surprise if the Nationals don't interview Girardi before the close of business on Friday. Cashman just decided that it was time for a change after 10 years. Torre lasted 12 at the old Stadium. He won four World Series in that time and his Yankees appeared in two others and after all that winning, and all he did for the Yankees brand, they only offered to bring him back with incentives built into a one-year deal, at which point as great a manager as the Yankees ever had decided to walk away. Girardi followed an act, and a class act, like that, and won the Series two years later. It was the 27th in Yankee history. He has been wearing 28 on his back ever since. There were times when it seemed like as much of a target as a number.
"I've had 10 great years here," Joe Girardi said after Game 7 last Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. "I feel extremely blessed. God has been good to me. And we'll see what the future holds."
He found out on Thursday. It will be somebody else's job to get the Yankees to that 28th World Series, because getting to 28 turned out to be much harder than Girardi ever thought it would be. We all know so much about exit velocity now in baseball. All part of the modern numbers game. We all know about spin rates. Girardi makes his exit five days after he lost Game 7 to the Astros. After making it that far into October. Brave new world in baseball. What it does is make your head spin.