One day after Chapman’s latest blown save cost the Yankees a series victory over the first-place Red Sox and put a damper over the team’s playoff pursuit, both manager Joe Girardi and third baseman Todd Frazier seemed to want to justify Chapman’s struggles on the mound.
Girardi denounced the idea of taking Chapman (13 IP, 9 BB, 3.46 ERA since the All-Star break) out of the closer role and rationalized the struggles of his fire-throwing lefty by citing other stars that had off years.
“He’s our closer,” Girardi said. “I have a ton of belief in him. I thought he threw the ball well last night. I know he blew the save, but I thought his stuff was as good as it’s been all year long. He made a mistake–that’s going to happen from time to time. But no–he’s our closer.”
“I think some guys–every year isn’t necessarily going to be as good as the year before,” Girardi continued. “These guys are asked to compete at a high level and in extreme tense and pressure situations, and sometimes things just aren’t going to go their way.”
Chapman, in the eyes of his manager, could be the same guy without the same results.
“I’m going to say this line and it’s a reminder to me of how difficult this game really is and what a fine line players walk: Joe Torre said he hit .360 one year and .260 the next and he was the same guy,” Girardi said. “I can bring up Dallas Keuchel. He was Cy Young one year, then struggled the next. Then he starts this year 9-0. It’s a tough game. Everyone is going to be humbled–it’s part of this game.”
Frazier, fresh off his first big hit in pinstripes vs. Boston, tipped his cap to Boston rookie Rafael Devers for hitting a big-time pitch off Chapman.
“He’s not going to win them all,” Frazier said. “He’s throwing 103 MPH. The kid put a really good swing on a really good pitch. It’s just one of those things. That’s baseball in a nutshell.”
When the Yankees paid Chapman $86M on a long-term contract to return to New York, it was hard to expect perfection. But Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and the front office likely expected better than a 3.48 ERA in August and questions about the closer role down the stretch of the season.
If the Yankees want to justify Chapman’s struggles in an effort to boost his confidence, the rhetoric makes sense. But if the franchise is alright with a dominant arm becoming hittable in the midst of a pennant race, it’s an alarming sign for the rest of a deal that extends through the 2021 season.