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Ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi discusses MLB rule changes, 2017 postseason
Major League Baseball

Ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi discusses MLB rule changes, 2017 postseason

Published Apr. 11, 2024 2:16 p.m. ET

MLB has undergone substantial rule changes recently, specifically hindering defensive shifts and installing a pitch clock.

Former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave rave reviews of those changes on the latest edition of "Kevin Harvick's Happy Hour" podcast. 

"From a player standpoint, it's probably like playing 20 less games from a time schedule — and that's substantial when you're playing 162 games a year, you're playing 30 or so in spring training," Girardi said. "You're reducing your time on your feet, and it's less wear and tear on your body. It might lengthen your career or help you be more successful in the months of August and September when you're really, really tired, and you've been through a rough season.

"As far as the injuries, the injuries were happening before the clock at an alarming rate for me, and I think it's partly because of the size of the players — the max effort that they're using. All the training that they're doing, trying to increase everything, their flexibility, their strength. … The arm is meant to be thrown like a softball, underhand. It's not meant to go overhand. That's not how our body was designed, and when you start putting the torque and the strength [into it], sometimes, to me, the body just can't handle it. It's why you see all the injuries."


Kevin Harvick, Joe Girardi on changes in NASCAR and MLB throughout their careers

"Thank God, though, we have wonderful surgeons that get players back on the field, and they come back sometimes bigger, better and stronger," Girardi continued, "but I think you're going to continue to see them. I think everyone's trying to get so much movement on the ball, the torque that they put on their pitches is going to cause some problems, and it's just something we're going to have to live with."

The injuries Girardi alluded to are in relation to the startling number of young pitchers who have suffered injuries and/or are having season-ending surgery; Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves, Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians, Framber Valdez of the Houston Astros, Josiah Gray of the Washington Nationals and Eury Perez of the Miami Marlins are among MLB's injured starting pitchers.

As for what changes could be next, commissioner Rob Manfred expressed that an automated strike zone is nearing installation at the big-league level in a recent appearance on "The Carton Show."

Girardi managed the Yankees from 2008-17, winning the World Series in 2009 and cracking the playoffs six times. He previously managed the Marlins in 2006 — winning National League Manager of the Year honors — and later managed the Philadelphia Phillies (2020-22).

In Girardi's final season managing the Yankees, they reached the American League Championship Series but lost to the Astros in seven games; the Yankees moved on from Girardi after the season. 

Roughly two years later, reports came to light that Houston had been decoding opposing pitchers' signs with a camera zoomed in on the catcher's fingers in live time in 2017, with someone banging a trash can loud enough for the Astros hitter to hear. The banging of the trash can indicated that a breaking pitch was likely on the way. Houston went on to win the World Series that season.

In the aftermath of MLB's investigation into the matter, Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for the 2020 season and the franchise lost its ensuing two first- and second-round draft picks. Astros players were granted immunity to tell their accounts of the matter.

Girardi reflected on the situation.

"I think it [has] been hard," he said. "It was a chance that maybe we had an opportunity to go to the World Series. We won the three games at home; we lost all four on the road. Stuff like that has been going on forever, maybe not at that level in using TVs and electronics, but when you're playing at such a competitive level, you understand that you have to protect everything, all your signs, all your information as much as possible because everyone's always looking for an edge. It's in every sport. We saw what happened in college football [with the Michigan Wolverines], and it's going to make the game better because they're going to start using the headsets that they use in the NFL. The speaker is going to be in the quarterback's ear, and they're going to be able to give the plays so that stuff can't happen. It just improves the game. 

"I think baseball has done a really good job with using PitchCom. During the whole course of a game, I always watched the runners on second when we were on defense, and I watched the coaches in the boxes to see if they were giving location, or they were giving the pitch. I'd be really happy that I didn't have to do that now. That would make my job easier."

Prior to managing, Girardi was a catcher for 15 seasons, most notably earning an All-Star Game nod in 2000 and winning three World Series with the Yankees.

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