Joe Girardi reflective, but not ready to eulogize 2013 Yankees just yet
If you saw Joe Girardi's pre-game press conference, however, you'd probably have thought the elimination had already happened, because most of the questions gave the session almost the feel of a pre-eulogy for the Yankees' season.
It was one that Girardi himself wasn't ready for.
"I'm not to the point where I'm looking ahead beyond today," Girardi said. "I don't know what tomorrow or the next day holds, so I'm not really worried about the future or next year; my focus is to do the job this year and let's just find out what's going to happen."
If and when the Yankees' chances are officially snuffed out, then Girardi can use the final few days however he sees fit in terms of lineup decisions. That said, through 157 games at least, Girardi's performance on the bench has been, despite the Yankees' 82-75 record and near-elimination from postseason contention, one that should earn him at least some strong consideration for AL Manager of the Year.
Through the six months of the season, Girardi has had to navigate more than 120 different lineups featuring 56 different players, but said that if at all, he won't be "satisfied" with the incredible job he has done in that regard until well after the final pitch is thrown.
"I don't imagine it will (have a sense of satisfaction) for a while, just because that's who I am and I'm always of the belief that we could've done more," he said. "I know everyone has worked their tail off, but I'm never to the point where I believe it's okay not to have success. I believe in effort and hard work, and I believe those things pay off, and I think by saying (I'm satisfied) it's almost a complacent attitude, and that's not who I am."
The skipper couldn't give any examples of just what more could've been done - saying "you could always look back and say we could've squeezed more here or there, that's the way I'm programmed" - but he did have a definitive answer when asked if there was one moment or series he could look back on as a possible turning point.
"I think you could go back to a number of games that we won or lost and said 'that could've been different'," he said, "but we were riding pretty high after the Baltimore series in Baltimore, and then we proceeded to get swept in Boston and lose two out of three in Toronto; I guess if you were to say there was a swing, that was probably it."
Of course, injuries has a lot to do with that giant roster number. So far, 20 players have served 27 stints on the disabled list, with 14 different players spending some time on the 60-day DL - but despite all the turmoil, Girardi credited general manager Brian Cashman and the organization for helping him squeeze as much out of the 2013 Yankees as he has so far.
"I think our front office and ownership did the best they could … so yes, I'm satisfied, because they kept trying to improve our club every day," he said. "Think about it; when you lose a guy like (Mark Teixeira), a 35 (home run) and 100 (RBI) guy, those guys aren't just laying around. You lose a 40-home run guy, and an everyday shortstop, those guys aren't just laying around, and people aren't just going to give them to you, either."
And in that answer, Girardi said that at least from a personal standpoint, it was the middle guy in that triad - former 40-home run guy Curtis Granderson - whose injuries had perhaps the biggest effect on team psyche.
"I think maybe the one that people talk about from an emotion standpoint was when Curtis had his hand broken the second time," Girardi said. "You could just see the difficulty he was having and I think we all kind of felt it for him, because of the type of person that he is and what he's meant to this team. I think that was hard for all of us."
All that said, however, Girardi was still adamant that he wasn't ready to make all that eulogizing official.
"We still have a shot. It's really remote, obviously…but we still go about things the same way."