Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Posted by el duque at 8:15 AM
The Yankees will have gone four years on Joe's contract... with nothing to show but crumbs of brie.
Girardi, now 52, signed the four-year deal in 2013, making him the second-highest paid manager in baseball behind the Angels Mike Scioscia. His greatest achievement: A home Wild Card game, where we were basically dead by the third inning.
Over Joe's 10-year managerial career - nine with NY, one in Miami - his winning percentage is .554. That's Wild Card. (Last year, Baltimore and Toronto tied for the WC at .549.) Of course, he does own a ring for 2009, when we won 103 games, thanks to an overwhelming outlay of money - George's last hurrah - which later became Hal's all-purpose excuse for five crapola seasons. So does Joe become Manager-for-Life?
Let's make a few things clear. Girardi is a great leader and a great man. Driving home early in the morning after the Yankees won the 2009 series, he pulled over to help a motorist in distress. For that moment alone, the guy goes into heaven, first-ballot. Over the years, the Yankees have avoided scandals and internal controversies, even though they had volatile characters - Sidney Ponson, anyone? - because of the respect Girardi commands. I believe he could beat the living shit out of any Yankee, except CC, with whom I don't think anybody would want to wrestle. And Joe stood with CC during an alcoholic breakdown, a powerful act of loyalty and compassion. Again - straight to heaven, first-ballot.
But does that make him Manager-for-Life? Because here's the deal: 2017 will define the Yankees for the next decade. Hal doesn't fire managers, so if Girardi does leave, his replacement will be here for a while. And if Joe stays, he'll probably turn into Walter Alston and run the team into his sixties. Would it be fair to demand that Joe wins in 2017, after the Yankee front office punted on short-term goals last July? Then again, how many Yankee managers in history - or managers for any teams - have gone 0-for-4 and kept their jobs?
Obviously, I have no answers. But here's a thought: Girardi - the former catcher - came to the Yankees with a reputation for skillfully handling pitchers. (That was Joe Torre's undoing.) But over the last two years, something seems to have happened to his touch - especially with bullpens. Last year, with arguably the best pen in baseball, he stuck to a tired, cast-iron blueprint for wins that never happened. Also, it's a running joke among Yankee fans that if a hitter goes 4-4 today, he'll sit tomorrow, because Joe saw something in his notoriously overused binders. They serve as an excuse for decisions that go bad.
I believe that to keep his job, regardless of where the 2017 Yankees finish, Joe needs something he hasn't had in two seasons: Confidence from the fans. He needs a perceived good year of decisions.
This will be the test. The Yankees will chase the Wild Card this year. Right now, they look to be a couple players short. Joe must hold everything together. Will he be the guy who pilots the team through the next decade, after whiffing on the last one? At least we know one thing: There's a motorist near White Plains who will always be on his side.