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There is no way anyone could replace what Joe Torre did for the Yankees. From day 1, he brought a winning mentality to a team that needed a resurgence, and they became the dominant team of the 1990's. Torre now becomes part of Yankee lore after being dismissed two seasons ago. Since then, fans have tried and tried to warm up to their new manager, Joe Girardi, with rocky results so far. Before joining the Yankees, Girardi had managed one season with the Florida Marlins, when he won Manager of the Year and was subsequently fired.
Girardi made headlines quickly when he moved Joba Chamberlain to the starting rotation, leaving a gaping hole in the bullpen where Joba used to be automatic. This has been a hit-and-miss decision so far. There are some starts where Joba looks like the next-coming of Roger Clemens, striking out batter after batter and becoming a fan favorite in the Bronx. Then again, sometimes Joba seems to get in his own way, losing total control of his pitches and not making it to the fifth inning. As his velocity dips, as does his effectiveness and confidence.
Then Chen-Ming Wang has been a thorn in the side of Girardi. How do you replace your former ace, who has mysteriously lost his stuff? Wang was, just a couple of years ago, considered the ace of the Yankees staff, and was slated as the #2 starter coming into this year behind CC Sabathia. So to have two of your starters be headscratchers like Joba and Wang, it threw a lot of pressure on CC, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettite.
All things considered, Girardi sure is earning his pinstripes right now for patching up this pitching staff. He has put Phil Hughes in the bullpen, something that wasn't a popular move at first, but there is no question that he has been a dominant 8th inning set-up pitcher, posting an ERA of under 1.00 so far. Similar results for fellow relievers Phil Coke, a lefty specialist, and Alfredo Aceves, who has emerged from obscurity to be a key inning-eater. All roads still lead to Mariano, who struggled in the beginning of the year with home runs, but has come back strong with classic Rivera stuff. This probably isn't what Girardi envsioned going into the season, but boy, has it been effective lately.
Joe Girardi deserves applause for getting the Yankees into first place right now. This has been a streaky team which has found a groove at the right time. He's accepted the silliness of this team (shaving cream pies), and is yanking talent from every player every night. Next up - he has to beat the Red Sox before the season ends to have confidence in winning in the playoffs. Right now, it appears as though the Sox have the Yankees number, and it's mental, a lot like when the Yankees were nicknamed "my daddy" from Pedro Martinez, before the Sox won the Series in 2004. Whether it's the Sox or the Yanks, you know that one will have to get through the other before the year ends, and it's time that NYY took their throne back on top of the American League East.
Give him credit, Yanks' fans. The new Joe has stuck to his guns, and we're in 1st place.