New York Yankees

Column | Joe Girardi here to win games not affection

When Joe Girardi trotted out to the mound on Wednesday afternoon, he was met with a ball in his palm and a lack of respect.

Jaime Garcia was one out away from qualifying for a win over the Tampa Bay Rays when the Yankee manager came out to relieve him. To his credit, Garcia was throwing one of his best games since being traded to New York. After having his last start skipped, the southpaw was protecting a 3-1 lead with two out in fifth inning before a Lucas Duda single inspired Girardi to call on Chad Green, one of the game’s nastiest relievers this season.

Garcia, visibly upset, avoided eye contact with Girardi and walked off the mound muttering to himself. Moments later, Girardi addressed the decision with a still not-too-happy Garcia in the dugout.

“There’s some emotions going on, but I don’t think I’ve ever been pleased when a manager takes me out of a game,” Garcia told reporters after. “The important thing was for the team to win and for us to get to October.”

Wise of Garcia to include that last line, but he wasn’t the only one Girardi ticked off on Wednesday.

With a runner on first and two down in the eighth, the Yankees’ two-run lead still intact, Girardi yanked Dellin Betances in favor of Aroldis Chapman for a four-out save. It was a curious decision, but it was Girardi’s to make. Chapman ultimately got the job done.

Like Garcia, Betances was clearly not pleased with the decision — and he didn’t try to hide it.

“It definitely bothered me. I’m not going to say it didn’t bother me,” Betances told reporters. “Whatever he tells me as an explanation, I like my chances against anybody but it’s his choice. I don’t know there’s an explanation that I’m [going to] take. He felt like that was the best decision and we won the game. At the end of the day, that’s what matters.”

Like Garcia, Betances threw in that qualifier about the Yankees getting the win, noting, “that’s what matters.”

Here’s the thing, though. That’s all that matters.

Betances, Garcia and every other pitcher on the Yankees better get that through their heads. This is not the first time Girardi has taken heat for quick hooks in recent weeks — ask Jordan Montgomery and CC Sabathia — and it won’t be the last. New York hurlers may want to put their team first before showing up their manager, not after.

It’s very simple: The Yankees have a luxury of riches in their bullpen, as close to an infinite supply of weapons as one can have in baseball. If Girardi feels the guy currently on the mound won’t get the job done, that pitcher had best believe his day is about to end. Girardi has too many toys to play with to take that risk.

It doesn’t matter if the pitcher is a four-time All-Star like Betances, a trusted veteran like Sabathia, a rookie like Montgomery, or a pitcher like Garcia who hasn’t done a single thing to instill confidence in his manager.

Let’s be clear; it’s great to have a competitive fire, something Girardi noted. As Betances and Garcia said, no one wants to come out of the game. If they did, that would be an even greater concern.

But there is a fine line between that blaze leading to frustration and putting individual pride ahead of the team and the manager. It seems the Garcia and Betances fallout is over, but with just two weeks left in the season, this can’t happen again, not with the Yankees chasing a division upset.

Girardi’s priority is to reach the playoffs — overtaking the Red Sox if possible — not his pitchers’ feelings or personal achievements. He won’t stop using his bullpen accordingly.

“This is all about winning games now,” Girardi told reporters. “This is not about numbers or when you pitch. It’s when we need you, that’s when we need you, and do your job.”

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