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Joe Girardi sent some mixed signals to Gary Sanchez


That perception that former Yankees manager Joe Girardi was too hard on catcher Gary Sanchez and didn’t get along with him is thought to be a big reason why the Yankees chose not to bring Girardi back as manager. Today the New York Daily News has an interesting story about that.

It’s a John Harper column, actually. The news nugget in the story is worth thinking about. The framing of it by Harper, though, is kind of weird, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The nugget: Sanchez’s defense was not good when he was coming up through the minors. To deal with it, Yankees coaches put him through a lot of passed ball drills, setting a pitching machine to fire balls in the dirt. Sanchez reportedly improved some as a result, but he hated the drills. Early this year Sanchez complained about it and Girardi told him it was OK to lay off the drills. As a result his defense declined, leading to the late season drama in which Girardi called out Sanchez’s defense and people started talking about Austin Romine starting playoff games behind the plate and stuff.

That’s all straightforward. But Harper frames it like this:

. . . two sources say there is a misperception that management was unhappy with Joe Girardi for publicly scolding Sanchez in regard to his defense last season. Actually, they say, the issue was more that Girardi wasn’t tough enough on Sanchez behind closed doors, at least in terms of his practice habits, which may have led to the catcher regressing defensively, compared to his rookie season.

I get what his sources are getting at here, but the level of practice Girardi forced Sanchez to endure is not the end of the story, right? If what the story says is true, and Girardi first told Sanchez not to do passed ball drills, only to later publicly scold him for bad defense, the issue is still Girardi being too hard on Sanchez. Or, at the very least, being arbitrary and capricious with him. “Hey dude, don’t worry about the drills” followed up with public criticism about his defense. That’s still a case of throwing your player under the bus.

If it plays out differently — if Girardi says after one of Sanchez’s bad defensive games, “I take responsibility for this. Gary is doing his best out there. I’ve made a point for him to work on his bat more this year and to not get too burnt out with defensive drills” — you have to think that Sanchez’s relationship with Girardi is not a strained as it reportedly became. A manager’s job is to have his player’s back and Girardi didn’t have Sanchez’s back, either in helping him become the best catcher he can be due to the defensive work or in defending him in public.

It’s not super important in the grand scheme of things I don’t suppose — Girardi is gone — but I don’t think the takeaway here can simply be “Girardi was too soft on Sanchez and didn’t make him practice enough.” If anything he was unduly harsh, at least as far as how he was treated in public went. The takeaway should be “don’t jerk your players around and hang them out to dry after you set them up to fail.”

Aaron Boone should be free to do whatever he thinks is best with respect to Sanchez’s defensive drills. More, less, the same, whatever. The point is to get the most out of Sanchez that he can. What he should not do is what Girardi apparently did and send one of team’s most important players mixed signals in a way that embarrasses him publicly.

It will take more than a cursory apology for Josh Hader to put this behind him

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If you missed it, Brewers All-Star reliever Josh Hader landed in hot water the minute he stepped off the mound in Washington last night when multiple tweets he made in 2011-12* were uncovered containing some seriously gross, racist, misogynistic and homophobic language.

Almost as soon as it broke, Hader made a quick apology for the tweets, saying that he’s not the same person now than he was when he was 17 years-old. Major League Baseball is investigating the matter and Hader acknowledged that he must and that he will talk to his teammates about this, so the story is not over.

Some commenters and correspondents of mine, however, have said they believe it should be over. Indeed, they said it almost as soon as the news came to light. While a small handful of those folks likely take no issue with the language Hader used — there’s a lot of ugliness out there, particularly noticeable in the anonymous online world — others have simply, and it would appear genuinely, said that we should cut Hader slack for some bad choices he made when he was 17.

I will gladly cut Hader more slack for six and seven-year-old tweets he made as 17 year-old that he apologizes for genuinely than I would if he tweeted that stuff yesterday, but let’s not rush to “aww, he was just a kid” land seven hours and a night’s sleep after it all came to light. Indeed, there are many reasons why this is not a case for instant and automatic forgiveness.

This was not some kid breaking out a neighbor’s window with a slingshot. This was not someone saying “that’s gay” instead of “that’s dumb” in the way a lot of us have in the past. This was not someone using a word or phrase that only recently came to be accepted by most people as unacceptable or said something that, while not containing any awful individual words was insensitive, to use the parlance of the day. It was some seriously ugly language (go read it if you’d like), used consistently, repeatedly and confidently. It’s not from some hazy time in the past like the 1970s. It’s from 2011 and 2012. It’s language that he and everyone else knew, at the time, to be profoundly offensive to a massive number of people and which was unacceptable to use in a public forum. Not just now, with the hindsight of age and time, but then, even at the age he was. The tweets are a window into a really gross and disturbed person’s mind.

Hader should — and he will — be given the chance to apologize and to make amends. No one is suggesting he be banished to an island and he certainly won’t be, so don’t even make a suggestion that he is or will be any sort of victim of P.C. culture or whatever the hell else people cite in order to excuse their awful behavior or the awful behavior of others. At the same time, however, let us not let him off the hook with a cursory apology and a conclusory “I’m not like that anymore” statement to a beat writer five minutes after the controversy came to light.

For one thing, no one else would be given such an easy pass like that. No politician or musician or artist or job applicant or anyone else, famous or non-famous, would simply be able to cite being 17 as a get-out-of-decency-free card. We routinely try criminal defendants that age as adults. We make 17 year-olds of color conform their behavior to the most unreasonably high standards, set by others, in order to avoid being discriminated against or worse. For his part, Hader was an elite high school athlete who knew damn well that what he said and did in public was scrutinized in a fundamentally different way than what others said and did and nonetheless tweeted that garbage anyway. He did it either because his level of empathy and respect for women, blacks and homosexuals was defective and abhorrent or because he knew better and simply didn’t care.

I am not suggesting Hader not be given a chance to apologize and make amends for all of that. I am not suggesting that he not be able to continue to pitch late innings for the Milwaukee Brewers, become rich and famous and live his life happily and freely. I am merely saying that it is not too much to expect him now, less than 12 hours after all of this has come to light, to have to do some actual work to explain and atone for it. To not just say that he’s “a different person” now but to tell us how — apart from getting caught being obnoxious — he became a different person and what that really means. To expect him to explain this and to apologize to his teammates, and not just the two who happened to be in Washington with him last night. To explain and to apologize to his fans, many of whom are women and minorities, and to ask for their forgiveness and understanding.

I am not, to use a phrase someone threw at me last night, “on my high horse” about this. I am not holding Hader to some unreasonable, liberal/P.C/social justice warrior standard in which poor, victimized Josh Hader can simply not win. I am simply saying that this is far more serious than finding out some 80-year-old man jumped a subway turnstile back in 1954 and that the acceptance of responsibility, the apology and the work Hader has to do in light of this is not to issue some quick and cursory one offered to a national beat writer as he towels off after a postgame shower.

I realize our standards and expectations of certain public figures in this country have become impossibly low, but my God, they are not that low, nor should they be.

*There were some putative Hader tweets floating around Twitter of a more recent vintage, particularly one about Trayvon Martin from 2016, but there is reason to suspect at least that one is a Photoshop. Hader has locked his account, however, and it cannot be confirmed. It’s not really important, though, given that Hader has admitted to making multiple ugly tweets, to make such a determination at this moment, so we’ll leave the analysis of each and every individual tweet for another time.