Thursday, July 27, 2017


Photo: Getty Images
Once upon a time a couple of months ago, if Jordan Montgomery had gone 6 ²/₃ innings and given up only two hits after just 85 pitches, you could almost buy Joe Girardi giving him the hook with two outs.  

Photo: Getty Images
Back then, after all, Montgomery was still the hunch play Joe plucked from spring training obscurity, and the team was still test-driving some of the new kids on the block, seemingly playing for the fun and future glory to come.

Problem is, Monty's not a hunch play anymore, the rest of the division tanked along with the Yankees' hot start and now the division is up for grabs. The team appears -- according to the vaunted  rumor mill, at least -- to be toying with the idea of blowing some important prospects on a starter to make a run at the postseason this year.

And that means Joe, suddenly, has all the excuse he needs to abandon the youth movement whenever it suits him instead of, you know, stretching the kid and others like him into  real live starters like the team may about to be buying with valuable prospects.

So when the medium-leverage situation came up Tuesday against the Reds, instead of leaving Monty in to continue on cruise control and perhaps raise his game and length a notch, Joe yanked him and went to his newly restocked pen.  The move worked great -- for one out by  Kahnle, who was the prize of the recent multi-player trade with the White Sox.

Photo: Getty Images
Then came the eighth inning and  the struggling Betances who nearly booted the game, walking two and coughing up a run-scoring double, requiring yet a third reliever -- Warren -- to come to HIS rescue.  When asked after the game his reason for pulling the cruising young Monty, Joe's response:

“That’s why we went and got these guys,’’ Girardi said of the Yankees’ bullpen, that saw Kahnle and David Robertson added in last week’s trade that also brought the Todd Frazier. “It’s a situation [where] if I leave [Montgomery] in and the guy hits a home run, I’m asked that. I just felt it was time.”

So Joe's logic behind not letting the kid try pitching a little deeper into the game or at least finish the seventh was simply that he had new toys to play with and couldn't resist the urge.

Never mind that the rook had thrown more pitches in five of his six prior starts. And never mind that a big reason the team needed those new toys for the bullpen in the first place was due to Joe's overuse of the bullpen.  This may seem like a small thing, but this is another example of why I hope the team doesn't waste prospects going all in this year.

Because one of the most critical upgrades needed to take this younger, leaner, more dynamic team to the next level can't be fulfilled by any trade this week, in my humble opinion.  It can only be accomplished by letting Joe's contract expire after the final game of the season and performing a proper search for the right skipper who can make decisive, bold moves for the right reasons and won't hide behind ridiculous excuses to justify panic moves that blow up in his face.

Photo: Getty Images
I was still seething about Joe's excuse for yanking Monty the next day (yes, I'm capable of seething even after a win when I think we're winning battles that can lose wars) when I saw CC say a curious thing  after Luis Severino wiped the floor with the Reds.

Asked if Severino was now officially the team's ace, the Yankees former ace  had to think about it a couple seconds, and then began  by qualifying his answer thusly:

"That's up to Joe," Sabathia said. "That term is thrown around so loosely these days. But, yeah, for what that term is, he is."

It's actually not up to a manager to decide who's the ace on a team.

Photo: New York Daily News
All anyone needs is decent eyesight and a good view of the batter's box to see who's triggering the most futile guess swings and sending the most anguished faces back to the opposing dugout to know who that guy is on a team.

But within this current Yankee clubhouse, where there's no longer anyone left with championship cache to counter Joe's limited record of achievement and expertise,  even an expert on the subject of being an ace like CC (who's been the definition of  one for three teams) is hesitant to speak frankly  about the role lest he be out of step with a scripted response his boss may be rehearsing for an upcoming presser.

That's no environment for young players to develop, grow and thrive in.  Joe's by-the-book managing and fly-by-night communicating are the antitheses of what this team needs to win, this year and going forward.  Brian has been making great deals the last 12 months that make sense for the future.

That's why I have confidence he's saving the biggest, best  move for last, and the final piece in this championship blueprint will be replacing an old catcher who can't see what all young pitchers eventually need to get the final out is old-fashioned work and not new toys from the bullpen.

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

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