Joe Girardi has plenty of time to second-guess himself.
He visited his office Friday for the first time since the Yankees' season ended Tuesday night. He has a hard time watching playoff games on TV, and as a sign helpfully pointed out as he came into the stadium Friday, he had 122 days until spring training. It's no wonder that his internal monologue can read like a police interrogation.
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Should he have played Jacoby Ellsbury instead of Brett Gardner in Tuesday night's 3-0 wild-card loss to the Astros? Was there anything he could have done to mitigate the Yankees' second-half decline? Should he have rested his players better?
"I did the best I could is the bottom line, and people thought I could've done better. I understand that," he said at his end-of-the-year wrap-up at Yankee Stadium. "You live with it . . . You always try to put a reason on certain things, try to understand."
But for all the questions that plague Girardi, he provided plenty of answers.
He played Gardner over Ellsbury because of a stronger body of work against lefthanded pitchers, and at that time, he thought Gardner would be his best bet against Dallas Keuchel. But Gardner struck out three times against Keuchel and wound up 0-for-4.
"Did it work out? No," Girardi said. "If I would've played Ells, would it have been better? Would it have been three runs better? I don't know."
After building an eight-game lead over the Blue Jays, the Yankees went 30-33 the rest of the regular season. Girardi wasn't quite sure about the reason for that but said he will have to strongly evaluate how and when he plays certain guys to avoid burning them out too soon. He also said that despite his rotation's flaws (an average of 5.7 innings per start and a 4.25 ERA), he is confident that this crew can be effective next year.
"I think you're going to see improvement out of our starting pitchers," he said, mostly because Michael Pineda will come into his own and because Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova will continue to heal from injury and surgery, respectively.
At this point, he said, CC Sabathia likely will be a starter. Sabathia announced Monday that he was checking himself into alcohol rehab, but he is expected to be back next season.
Girardi's biggest concern seemed to be how to manage a team with two guys who were born in the 1970s (Alex Rodriguez, 40, and Carlos Beltran, who will turn 39 in April) and players such as Gardner (32), Ellsbury (32) and Brian McCann (31), who showed signs of fatigue in the second half.
"It's something I'll think long and hard about in the winter," he said. "We do have a lot of players in their prime, what would be considered their prime years, but for whatever reason, some guys struggled for the second half . . . A lot of times, it's really hard when you're in a division fight, when you're trying to win a division, to sit a guy that was 12 for his last 26 and had four homers and 19 RBIs. It's really hard to sit that guy, so when you sit him, people say, what the heck are you doing? As an organization, we have to look at the optimal amount of time you need to rest for him to be the most productive."
Until then, he'll continue to look back and hope that hindsight can provide the insight he needs for next year. Girardi said the club is confident that the farm system can provide necessary talent, and with a number of big-name contracts, it will be difficult to make big changes next season anyway.
"Hindsight can be 20-20 in saying you could have done something different," he said. "But in saying that, we're not so sure that would've worked any better."