There’s an old Australian saying that comes in handy during those times in life when someone screws up: Pobody’s Nerfect.
New York Yankees fans would have been wise to remember those words prior to Game 3 of the ALDS, when the Yankee Stadium faithful rained boos on manager Joe Girardi as he was introduced during Sunday night’s pregame ceremonies.
Girardi received those jeers as a result of his monumental error during Game 2 in Cleveland, when he failed to challenge a hit-by-pitch that replays showed clearly struck the knob of Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat, turning that contest on its head, and beginning the Indians’ comeback.
“I kind of expected (to be booed). I’ve seen them boo players and managers that have a lot more status than I do,” Girardi said postgame.
All of the criticism Girardi received for not challenging that call was fair and warranted – but the issue should have died there, especially after he owned up to it and shouldered the blame publicly. That he was booed on his home field Sunday night, even if he may have known it was coming, was wrong and disrespectful on many levels.
Girardi turned the situation into a positive, and chalked it up to Yankees fans being “passionate” and “want(ing) to win.” That still doesn’t excuse it.
In that moment Sunday, Yankees fans seemed to forget what this 2017 season has been for their franchise: a surprise. This is not an organization or a fan base that is used to these kinds of years where success seems to come out of the blue, but old habits seem to die hard in the Bronx. This was a season of surprising joy, of a rebuild that turned into a winner well ahead of schedule.
And who was the man at the steering wheel for all of this? None other than Joe Girardi.
This is a man who truly understands what it means to be a Yankee, for whatever that’s worth. As a player, Girardi became a fan favorite in New York while winning three World Series titles in four years, a run that included his serving as the starting catcher on the 1996 championship club. He may have spent the majority of his playing days with the Cubs, but the most indelible images from his career came while wearing the “NY” on his chest.
After being fired by the Marlins in 2006 – a year that saw him get canned despite winning NL Manager of the Year – Girardi was a wanted man. He could have continued his managerial career with an AL East rival when the Baltimore Orioles offered him the position in June 2007, but he declined their offer. It’s highly likely that other teams had interest; clearly, however, Girardi only had eyes on returning to New York.
When Girardi did replace Joe Torre as Yankees manager in 2008 he chose to wear uniform No. 27, signifying that he was hired to win the Yankees’ 27th World Series title. It only took him two years to bring that 27th title to the Bronx and after, Girardi switched to wearing No. 28.
That’s the sign of a man who gets what Yankees baseball is all about.
That a man who seems to bleed pinstripes would get booed and heckled by his home fans over one egregious mistake is wrong. It disrespects all that Girardi’s done to help the Yankees stay afloat and contend during their transition from an aging, expensive unit into a young and talented squad that threatens to win multiple championships in the coming years.
Although it took him a day to do it, Girardi owned up to the error before Game 3. Yankees fans should do the same and reward their skipper with a loud ovation prior to Monday’s Game 4, which could be the final game of the year at Yankee Stadium – and possibly Girardi’s final game managing the Yankees, since his contract is about to expire.
What a fitting end that would be to one of the most remarkable and unexpected Yankees seasons.