After a surprising postseason run that fell one game short of the World Series, the New York Yankees announced today that manager Joe Girardi will not be back for the 2018 season. Girardi had just completed the final year of a four-year, $16 million contract. Despite the team’s success in 2017, there were questions within the organization as to the future of the only manager Yankees fans have known for the last decade. It is an end of an era, as Joe Girardi is not returning to the Yankees.
“With a heavy heart, I come to you because the Yankees have decided not to bring me back.”—statement from Joe Girardi #Yankees
— Sweeny Murti (@YankeesWFAN) October 26, 2017
Joe Girardi Legacy
And what a decade it was. Girardi went 910-710 over his ten seasons as manager, including six playoff appearances and a World Series title in his second season in 2009. The team never finished under .500, which is an accomplishment in and of itself given how often organizations cycle through turnover and rebuilding periods.
Being the leader of one of the premier organizations in all of sports in the world’s biggest markets also comes with dealing with the limelight. Girardi did everything he could and then some in handling young, talented franchise-building blocks like Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. He gave aging superstars and Yankee icons like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera their moments in the sun without creating major distractions in the clubhouse and trying to win ball games. And when there were major distractions, like Alex Rodriguez’s PED scandal and subsequent suspension in 2014, Girardi made sure to do his part in handling all the noise that came with it.
Girardi dealt w/aging icon in Jeter, PED circus w/A-Rod; part of thriving in NY is anticipating/squashing noise. He was outstanding at that.
— Brandon Tierney (@BrandonTierney) October 26, 2017
“Binder Joe” Criticism
Fans, sportswriters, and bloggers alike (myself included) all at some point or another heavily criticized Girardi during his tenure. The man that so often went by the book (in Girardi’s case, a literal binder) rather than instincts when it came to lineup/pitching changes and handling his bullpen irked and perplexed many, especially when it led to gut-wrenching losses, such as Game 2 of the Division Series this year against the Indians. Had the Yankees lost that series, Girardi likely would have met his fate then because of his challenge gaffe in Game 2. Yet it reportedly wasn’t the on-field decisions he made as much as deteriorating relationships with the front office (including GM Brian Cashman) and even some players in the clubhouse that sealed Girardi’s fate. Interestingly enough, sources told ESPN’s Buster Olney that it was Cashman’s recommendation to team owner Hal Steinbrenner that the team needed to change managers.
Was clear Girardi and front office were not kumbaya this yr. plus continuing concern that Girardi could never undo his tense nature
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) October 26, 2017
Sources: The recommendation of Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman to owner Hal Steinbrenner was to change managers.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 26, 2017
So where do the Yankees go from here? The first and most obvious internal candidate would be bench coach Rob Thomson, who is highly regarded within the clubhouse but has no managerial experience. First-base coach Tony Pena has managed before, but not since 2005 with the Royals. The Yankees could look outside the organization as well, with names like Kevin Long (former Yankees and Mets hitting coach) and Josh Paul (Yankees’ current catching coordinator) being mentioned. But you can’t help feeling that no matter who the Yankees hire, it will be hard to find someone with the track record both on the field and off the field handling the New York media than Joe Girardi.