I hope Joe Girardi eventually leaves the Yankees as their manager. The reason I want this to happen is because I think he is a fine manager and would have a Hall of Fame resume if only he leaves the Yankees.
It is funny how we all associate Giardi with the Yankees. But he was an Illinois guy who was a Cub. He could have been one of the great Cub figures of all time had he won a World Series in Chicago.
He was an industrial engineer student from Northwestern, again with the Illinois connection, when he the Peoria native was drafted by the Cubs in 1986 draft. The only way he could have been more Chicago would be if he slept in a deep dish and had dialogue written by David Mamet.
Giardi made it to the majors in 1989. When the Cubs made the NLCS that season, Girardi and Rick Wrona split the starting duties in place of the injured Damon Berryhill. He played with the Cubs through 1992 when he joined the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993. He was a solid defensive catcher and decent hitter, once again seeing post season play with the Blake Street Bomber Rockies in 1995.
Then he became a REALLY unpopular Yankee. Remember that? Girardi was replacing popular Mike Stanley for the 1996 season and was looked upon as fans as a light hitting lightweight.
He won over some fans by catching Doc Gooden’s no hitter on May 14, 1996. Then in the World Series launched the triple against Greg Maddux in the clinching Game 6 that led the Yankees to their first title since 1978.
He remained with the Yankees for the 1998 and 1999 titles, mentoring young Jorge Posada and looking like a manager in waiting.
But he is an Illinois boy and when Posada took over the full time duties, Girardi returned to the Cubs and was named to the 2000 All Star Team. After a cameo with the 2003 Cardinals, he retired.
Did he get folded back into Cubs life? No. The Yankees came calling. He was a color commentator for YES and later a coach on Joe Torre’s staff.
He got his chance to manage in 2006. He took over a Marlins squad that was gutted shortly after his arrival. The team had a payroll of $15, less than several players on the Yankees. They finished with a losing record but were in Wild Card contention, improbably, through the end of the season. But Girardi clashed with Jeffrey Loria and despite winning Manager of the Year for the NL, was fired.
Then came the great crossroad. Joe Torre and the Yankees were losing patience with each other and another Division Series exit did not sit well with the front office. Lou Piniella’s name was floated about as a potential manager to replace Torre.
Meanwhile Dusty Baker and the Cubs management had had it and there was an opening to manage the Cubs.
The Washington Nationals also had a managerial spot open. Girardi found himself as the most valuable managerial commodity going into the 2007 season.
Which team did he manage in 2007?
NONE of course!
Torre agreed to one more go with the Yankees. Piniella went to the Cubs and Manny Acta went to Washington.
Girardi joined the YES broadcast booth and all 2007 looked like the manager in waiting in case Torre called it quits.
As it turned out the Yankees were another Division Series and out team in 2007 and Torre and the Yankees parted ways. The managerial job was going to go to either Don Mattingly, Torre’s bench coach, or Girardi. The Steinbrenner kids picked Girardi and Mattingly went off to LA where Torre replaced Grady Little.
In his first season with the Yankees, which would be the final one in the original Yankee Stadium lot, the unthinkable happened: The Yankees, whom everyone assumes buys every World Series, failed to make the playoffs. Injuries and disappointing pitching kept the Yankees behind the eventual pennant winning Rays and the 2007 World Champion Red Sox. Not a great start to his Yankee career as manager.
In 2009, fresh off a spending spree that brought in CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and AJ Burnett, the Yankees stumbled into the new stadium with a weak start. But soon they righted the ship and won the Division. By sweeping the Twins in the Division Series, the Yankees won their first post season series since being stunned by the Red Sox in 2004.
Then they beat their tormentors from 2002 and 2005, the Angels. Finally in the World Series, the Yankees overcame an early hole against the defending World Champion Phillies to win the 27th title in team history.
Girardi changed his uniform number to 28 as a reminder that he is in pursuit of title 28 for the 2010 season.
It is still his number.
The Yankees, as of this writing, have not been to the World Series since 2009. If they fail to win the pennant in 2017, 2018 or 2019, this will be the first decade since the 1910’s to not feature a Yankee team in the World Series.
Now that is not a reflection of Girardi’s ability as a manager. Sure he sometimes goes by the book too much and wears out his bullpen. Sure he seems a little prickly, especially when compared to the media savvy Joe Torre. But he also seems like a decent man who many times plays well with a bloated aging team.
The Yankees missed the post season in 2013, 2014 and 2016, playing in a single Wild Card Game in 2015 which the Astros blanked them. 4 times, a Yankee team led by Girardi played golf in October with a high payroll. But many times that was the fault of fat contracts and past their prime stars.
Now with a young cast and virtually nobody left from 2009 save for Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia, Girardi has the team in first place again.
And if they win with him, he will have ring number 2 plus his Manager of the Year award from Florida.
But here is the thing. He will never get credit for anything he gets done while managing the Yankees. People will point to the payroll and the years they missed the playoffs as blemishes on his resume.
If he took over a small market team, like how Terry Francona turned around the Indians, and wins there, suddenly his October resume padding in New York will enhance his Cooperstown case.
Instead he is with the Yankees where he stinks if he doesn’t win it and people point to payroll if he does.
At one point the job of Yankee manager was one of the least secure positions in the country. As it stands now, in the last 21 seasons, only 2 people have held that title: Joe Torre and Joe Girardi.
Girardi has the 5th longest managerial tenure in Yankee history, following Joe McCarthy, Joe Torre, Casey Stengel and Miller Huggins.
All four of those managers are in the Hall of Fame.
In order to join them, Girardi might have to leave New York.