Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 5/11/13

I know it is only May. And I know teams have only played about 30 games each. But in my mind, the AL Manager of the Year award has almost already been won. One man has separated himself from the pack that I do not think anyone else will be able to catch him. His name is Joe Girardi. Photo Credit: (Sipkin/ NY Daily News) The first question you might be asking after you read that name is, “how could a manager with a team that has a payroll at just about $200 million be the best manager?” Followed by a comment similar to “if I were managing a team with the talent the Yankees roster has I could be manager of the year too.” Any other year in the last 10-15 years, I probably would have agreed with you because I have watched the Yankees and I watch American League baseball and think that I could do what the managers do. I mean with the DH, how hard can it be, just go make a pitching change. But this year has been very different for Joe Girardi and for the Yankees. As I sit writing on May 10th, the Yankee lineup for tonight’s game is on the left. For comparison, take a look at the Yankee lineup from their game last year on May 10th, which is on the right. Yes, a few names are the same like Robinson Cano, Chris Stewart, and Jayson Nix who came off the bench in last year’s game, and Stewart and Nix only played because Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez were getting off/DH days. But other than that, everyone is either hurt or on another team or has been traded for/signed since this time last year. With this year’s team, some of the players weren’t even on the Yankee roster at the start of spring training! It seems like the only player not to get hurt for the Yankees this year has been Robinson Cano. Just take a look at this year’s lineup for a second (remember, it is on the left), it is filled out with Lyle Overbay and Chris Nelson, a journeyman light-hitting first baseman and a young third baseman who played in hitter friendly Denver. At DH, the Yankees have been using Travis Hafner, who they told not to even bother to bring a glove to spring training because they were only going to DH him so he could stay healthy for a full season again. They traded for Vernon Wells who was stuck as the 5th outfielder in Anaheim and had one of the least-tradeable contracts in the MLB (the Yankees will only pay $12 million of the $40+ million remaining). A player like Ichiro has become vital after being traded for at last year’s trade deadline. Photo Credit: (Matt Slocum/Associated Press) Not to say these players are not good players, but they are not who Yankee fans or Joe Girardi, as a Yankee manager, are used to. Think about all the injuries the Yankees have had this year. In January, Yankee fans learned that third baseman Alex Rodriguez would be out most of the year because of a hip injury that needed surgery. Then Curtis Granderson broke his wrist on the first pitch he saw in spring training. Next was Mark Teixeira who did something to his wrist with Team USA in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. And then Derek Jeter rebroke his ankle. With all these injuries before the season even started, the expectations were not very high for a team that had won 95 games and went to the ALCS last year. Then when the season started, Francisco Cervelli broke his hand after getting hit with a foul ball. And Ivan Nova injured his triceps after being ineffective. Then Kevin Youkilis injures his back, sits out, then plays, then has to go on the DL. And then Eduardo Nuñez gets injured, which still a mystery honestly, but he hasn’t played in about a week. Not to mention that David Robertson was injured and missed some time over the weekend. Joba Chamberlain is currently on the DL. And Mariano Rivera is still 43 years old and coming off a torn ACL so he cannot be used every day. Also in this stretch, news came that Derek Jeter would be out until at least the All-Star break, longer than expected. All these injuries mean that the Yankees have lost their starting first baseman (Teixeira), catcher (Cervelli), two starting shortstops (Jeter, Nuñez), two starting third basemen (Rodriguez, Youkilis), a starting outfielder (Granderson), starting pitcher (Nova), and 7th inning and 8th inning man (Chamberlain, Robertson). For many managers, losing all these players would have been enough to call it a day and simply play out the year. But Girardi has done an absolutely amazing job with the Yankees. Girardi seems to always push the right button this year. He has gotten maximum production out of guys like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay. Last week in Colorado, Girardi used Wells at third base to end a game because he pinch hit for his third baseman and the only other infielder on the active roster was Nuñez and he was not even available to play. Photo Credit: USA Today, AP Photo This year unlike any other, it seems like everything Girardi does turns out to be the right decision. I write this with no disrespect to any other manager in the league, John Farrell in Boston or Mike Scioscia in Anaheim (pending a huge turnaround) or even Ned Yost in Kansas City (if they keep their play up), but without a doubt I think Girardi needs to be the AL Manager of the Year. The Yankees have lost almost two-thirds of their projected starting opening day lineup and have still powered through. They have pieced it together with players that other teams did not want anymore like Lyle Overbay and Brennan Boesch (who were both cut the last day of spring training) or Chris Nelson (who was cut last week) or Vernon Wells (who was grossly overpaid in Anaheim). Once all these injuries unfolded, I was thinking, as long as the Yankees can stay at .500 or just under until some guys start to come back, they should be in good shape. Well they have done better than that. The Yankees are 20-13 and are tied for the 1st place in the AL East, in large part because of the magic Joe Girardi has used this year. -Goldberg

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