Redemption, thy name is Joe Girardi
After his team's 5-2 win, Girardi spoke about the emotions of an up-and-down week
CLEVELAND -- "The emotions … the difference between Friday and today is about as big as you can get. I don't think that at any point in my career, I've felt worse than I did on Friday. For me, what those guys did for me, I'll never forget it."
Those are the words of Yankees manager Joe Girardi, uttered less than an hour after his team completed its improbable ALDS comeback with a 5-2 win over the Indians in Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The moment Girardi speaks of is, of course, his decision not to challenge Lonnie Chisenhall's hit-by-pitch call in the sixth inning of Game 2; you surely by now know the aftermath of that non-challenge, the criticism the skipper faced because of it and the way he indirectly acknowledged making a mistake to the media in his press conference prior to Game 3.
What you didn't know, however, is that he had another meeting prior to Game 3, where he tried to make peace with the team that he felt he had a big hand in putting in that 0-2 hole.
"I met with the club before we went into that game, and I told them I screwed up, plain and simple," Girardi said. "I mean, there's no running around it. And I thought -- you know, I make mistakes. I'm human. I wish I would have had another 15 seconds, but I didn't, and I'll learn from it."
Also in that meeting, Girardi laid out the task at hand, but made sure to remind the Yankees that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
"I talked about just winning one game, and how all year long, that I believed in them from the day we left Spring Training," Girardi said. "I told them that I believed in them now, and they've never quit, so let's continue to have each other's backs and win one game."
The room went silent for a moment, until the ice was broken by a man who didn't learn the Yankee Way until just three short months ago.
"Todd Frazier was the first guy that said something; he said 'let's go,' and that did stick out in my mind," Girardi said. "I'll never forget that, because, again, I was about as low as I could be on Friday. As I've expressed many times, it's the hurt for the other people that is so hard for me."
The Yankees did indeed go. Masahiro Tanaka and Greg Bird carried them in Game 3, Luis Severino pushed them through Game 4 and, come Wednesday, Didi Gregorius starred in the decisive Game 5.
Just another example of, as Aaron Judge said earlier this season, 25 men pulling the same rope and picking up their teammates' slack. This time, it was Girardi's slack that needed a pick up, and all 22 of the players he used in the series were right there to do it.
"It happened on Friday, so I carried the burden for five or six days, and it's hard," the skipper said. "If we lose on Sunday, it really hurts. If we lose on Monday, it really, really hurts. And if we would have lost (Game 5), it probably would have hurt even worse. But these guys had my back, and they fought and fought, and they beat a really, really good team."
With one pickup complete, the Yankees are on to the American League Championship Series. They'll face the Houston Astros, who won more than 100 games and went 5-2 against the Yankees this season, so the odds are long. Then again, Cleveland had the credentials, and even if most think the Yankees have already "beaten the odds" just to get to this point, the skipper doesn't.
"I don't look at it as beating the odds; I said from day one, when the season started, that I saw the talent and thought we could be really good and fight for our division, and we did that," Girardi said. "We believed; not everyone believed in us, but we believed in our players. Guys kept picking each other up, and I thought they kept growing and maturing as players. This whole team, what everyone has contributed has made the difference."
And, perhaps even Girardi has found a way to grow and mature.
"Now I might be throwing challenges out every play," he laughed.
Redemption, thy name is Joe Girardi.