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    Monday, October 02, 2023

    The Yankees' perfect manager? A robot with a soul

    Virtually everywhere in my recent travels has the following question been asked:

    "Who are the Yankees going to hire as the manager?"

    Flattering? Sure. But this just in: How would I know? I don't cover the team. I just curse at the television, manage all 162 games from my couch and read the New York papers like everyone else.

    Know what the real answer is, though?

    It doesn't matter.

    The organization just exposed itself through its reasons to fire Joe Girardi, who only averaged 91 wins per season over 10 years.

    The Yankees want a touchy-feely guy around his players who is simultaneously married to analytics. No strategical decision may be employed if it's not 1) approved by the front office and 2) based on the numerical support of compound fractions.

    In other words, the Yankees want, in the words of lifelong fan Fran DePeter of New London, "a robot with a soul."

    Fran shoots, Fran scores.

    A robot with a soul.

    Oxymoronic or just moronic?

    But this is what's become of baseball. Analytics have become Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Makes you wonder how Joe Torre and Don Zimmer did it all those years. But then, what did Zim know anyway from being around the game for 60 years? Surely not as much as some 30-year-old front office bean counter who can tap the keys of a calculator like Billy Joel can the piano.

    Joel Sherman, a baseball columnist at the New York Post, quoted one of Girardi's former players, saying, "Nobody hates him, everyone respects the work ethic, but there is no real connection. He wears his tension on his face after all these years of managing, and it is too long a season for that style all the time."

    Sherman wrote that Girardi "failed to cultivate strategies to ease up over the long season, whether it was dealing with analytical suggestions from above or a player with concerns about where he fit in the Yankees biosphere."

    What the Yankees want, he wrote, is someone who is "not just smart and energetic and in control of strategy — but having a personality that bonds all the various elements of an organization as one."

    Finally, he wrote this: "A baseball organization is now a multi-department behemoth, with each level trying to gain the slightest edges over the competition. (Houston's A.J.) Hinch and (Dodgers manager Dave) Roberts have helped create a clubhouse culture in which the players buy into the group effort and believe that a whole roster is vital to win over a grueling season and, therefore, playing time and lineup construction are designed strictly to win and for no other reason; suggestions are made to change swings or sleep patterns or diet to maximize performance, not to punish."

    Hence, to manage the New York Yankees, one must be Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Rosie from the Jetsons. Or did Rosie have too much personality? Maybe RoboCop is better.

    I mean, could baseball succeed any greater in completely devaluing the manager's job? The manager no longer has autonomy in strategical decisions, lest some egghead in the front office, trying to justify his existence, starts vomiting differential equations at him in protest. Work ethic doesn't count unless it comes with a softer side.

    "It's OK, bro. You are 2 for your last 28. Go home, have some chamomile tea and try yoga. Get 'em tomorrow."

    Someone, please. Make it stop.

    Think about the absurdity of this:

    John Farrell did just what no manager in the history of the Red Sox ever did: Win the American League East two straight years. There's not leadership in that? It's not significant that Farrell navigated the six-month tumult that is Boston baseball two straight years? And if the division is insignificant, why do they keep the American League East standings on Green Monster?

    Joe Girardi finished 910-710 in 10 years. That's 91 wins per year. He won a World Series and made the playoffs in six times. Did the Yankees, by the way, look miserable to anyone this season, what with their "thumbs down" stuff and mock press conferences after home runs? I mean, Girardi clearly wore them down terribly, right?

    This is a joke.

    Baseball is quickly becoming one.

    Remember this and write it down: Analytics are a tool, not gospel. They ought to be used with temperance, not compulsion. Clearly, that's not good enough for the Yankees anymore.

    Or anyone else in our "pastime" whose time, at least to me, is passing.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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