Report: Yankees manager Joe Girardi ripped into his team before Derek Jeter’s home finale

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Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday nothing short of perfect, as he ended it with a walk-off RBI single against the Orioles, but the night apparently began on a sour note.

According to Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, Yankees manager Joe Girardi ripped into his team in the clubhouse before Thursday’s game to express his disappointment about missing the playoffs for the second straight year. In what can best be described as awkward, Girardi reportedly took a break during his speech for the team to present some retirement gifts to Jeter.

According to clubhouse sources who were present for the critique, and backed up by interviews with more than a half-dozen players, most of whom spoke to ESPNNewYork.com off-the-record for fear of angering the manager, Girardi chided some players for being overweight, and others for not being “hungry” enough.

One source described Girardi as “angry,” and said he even took a brief timeout to allow the players, led by CC Sabathia, to present Jeter with the original painting of The New Yorker magazine’s Sept. 8 cover depicting the shortstop waving goodbye, and an expensive watch, before returning to Part Two of his tirade.

“It was a speech the likes of which I’ve never heard him give before,” said the source, who was in the room during the meeting. “It’s something he probably should have said back in spring training.”

Some are overweight while others aren’t hungry enough. Talk about your mixed messages. Anyway, Girardi confirmed that the incident took place, but he characterized it as a “team meeting” and said he was more “disappointed” than “angry.” However, he was clearly peeved that details of the meeting leaked out.

“I’ll tell you what really bothers me, and I’m not blaming you,” he said to the reporter who confronted him about the meeting. “It’s that you know. It’s not right that the meetings you have in the clubhouse get out of the clubhouse.”

The Yankees were officially eliminated from postseason contention on Wednesday night. You could certainly quibble with the timing of the speech, as it felt out of place with the overall tone of the night, but Girardi said that he wanted to address the team at Yankee Stadium and not on the road.

Jeff Samardzija thinks player options should be changed

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Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija recently reached 10 years of service time, an achievement he celebrated with his teammates. Samardzija was thinking about the big picture, though, realizing that is going to take players longer and longer to reach 10 years of service time now that front offices have become so adroit with service time manipulation.

Per Kerry Crowley of The Mercury News, Samardzija said, “I think we need to make sure as a union that we reassess our work time when it comes to days of service and options. We need to make sure one option can’t be 10 call-ups and call-downs where you can just use this guy as a swing guy and he never accumulates any time.”

A player who still has minor league options (they start with three) can be yo-yoed between the minors and majors as many times as his team deems necessary while only using one option. In this sense, the player has no control over his fortunes. Teams hadn’t really taken full advantage of this imbalance of power until recently as front offices became increasingly savvy. This has worked in tandem with the annual song-and-dance from GMs every year in which they make up phony excuses to keep their top prospects stashed in the minors until they secure an additional year of contractual control.

Samardzija said, “It’s easy to say we need you to go down to Triple-A and work on your glove or work on hitting left-handers. ‘Well you don’t ever start me against left-handers so how can I improve my numbers there?’ I definitely think it’s happening on both sides, I’d say it’s just as prevalent with pitching and position players.”

This kind of service time manipulation may not seem like a big deal, but it snowballs over time. A player can be held down and/or optioned to the minor leagues just enough to prevent him from accruing a full service year (172 days). Players become eligible for free agency after six service years. A team that opens a season with a 24-year-old and never options him will see him leave for free agency after his age-29 season. If that player is instead promoted in mid-April, when the player’s maximum service time for the season is 171 days, the team will have contractual control over his age-29 season as well. That player won’t become a free agent until he’s 30 years old. As free agency has shown us in recent years, front offices have grown quite skeptical of free agents in their 30’s, so this tiny bit of service time manipulation could cost players millions of dollars down the road. The spirit of this is not that much different than employers cutting a full-time employee’s hours so they no longer qualify for employer-based health insurance.

Samardzija is right to express concern over service time manipulation. It is heartening to see an increasingly labor-conscious group of players as well, as the members of the union seemingly grew complacent over the years which allowed ownership to take decisive victories with recent collective bargaining agreements. The current CBA expires on December 1, 2021. We should be hearing plenty more about the players’ concerns within the two-plus years remaining.