In playoff pressure-cooker, AL East manager job security takes a hit

duquette-showalter-talking-sidebar.jpgIt was about this time last year, when Orioles manager Buck Showalter was the subject of heavy criticism for not using closer Zach Britton in the club’s AL wild card game loss at Toronto. But almost no one suggested Showalter’s job was on the line and it wasn’t. He is signed through 2018.

But two other AL East managers are the subject of rumors now and their job security seems less firm than it was even a week ago.

Not long after the New York Yankees lost Game 2 of the American League Division Series against Cleveland the stories began - Joe Girardi should be fired for a major blunder.

Girardi did make a major blunder when he failed to ask for a replay review that would have resulted in a third out of an inning. Instead two pitches later Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam and Cleveland went from 8-3 down to 8-7 on one swing. The Indians went on to a win and a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series. Now, two New York wins later, they’ll play Game 5 tonight.

Does Girardi suddenly have more job security two wins later? Are we too quick to suggest managers should be fired?

I think so. In this social media age, with instant criticism and where everyone has a “hot take” it seems, the pressure on managers is greater than ever. I digress here, but I wonder how Earl Weaver would have dealt with “the Twitter age.”

Girardi has done a solid job as Yankees manager. A team that saw its wild card game starter last just 1/3 of an inning is now a win away from the American League Championship Series.

Should one mistake - granted a very big mistake - sink him after averaging 91 wins over 10 years as Yankees manager? He’s been to the playoffs six times, winning one World Series.

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox lost again in the ALDS, 3-1 to Houston. This after Cleveland beat Boston 3-0 in the ALDS last year. Now some speculate that John Farrell could get fired as Boston skipper.

But the Red Sox scored just eight runs in their three playoff losses this year. Dustin Pedroia went 2-for-16, Xander Bogaerts 1-for-17, Jackie Bradley Jr. 3-for-15 and Mookie Betts 4-for-16.

In getting swept by the Indians last year, Boston scored seven runs in three games. Betts went 2-for-10, David Ortiz 1-for-9, Pedroia 2-for-12 and Bradley Jr. 1-for-10.

This lack of offense is the manager’s fault? By the way in their three losses this year, starters Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello pitched a combined 10 innings and gave up 13 runs. That was not Farrell’s fault.

In five years as Boston manager, Farrell has three AL East titles and a World Series title on his resume. And yes, also two last-place finishes. He is the only manager in team history to win back-to-back division championships. His Boston teams have averaged 86 wins.

Boston and New York. They are back on top in the AL East, finishing first and second this year in some combination for the first time since the 2009 season.

Now despite that, one or both could have new managers in the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, down the road: Can the Washington Nationals reverse the curse?: Are the Nationals truly cursed? They have dominated their division, winning four NL East titles since 2012, yet they have not won a single playoff series. Something always seem to go wrong and usually it leads to a big October failure.

The Nationals lost the NLDS in five games in 2012 and 2016. They have played seven one-run games in the postseason since 2014 and have gone 0-7. They lost Game 3 to the Cubs 2-1 on Monday as they fell behind 2-1 in their current series. Game four was rained out last night and then we found out Stephen Strasburg said he is under the weather and will not start tonight’s must-win Game 4 at Wrigley Field. It is always something with the Nationals in October.

The pressure must be pretty intense on those 25 players in the Washington clubhouse. They have their own history of playoff shortcomings and on top of that the other D.C. pro teams haven’t set the world on fire in the postseason for quite a while.

Then they lose Game 3 on a bloop. Then Strasburg said he can’t pitch Game 4 tonight. It must feel to their fanbase like “here we go again.” Something always goes wrong.

Yet are they are such a talented team. If they can just win one playoff series they might get on a roll and plow their way to a World Series title. They are good enough to do that.

But can they handle all the immense pressure to win two games in two days versus the defending champion Cubs? Can they put an end to their playoff demons? It will be fascinating to watch.

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