Who Should the New York Yankees Hire to Replace Joe Girardi?
This is Joe Girardi's fifth season as Yankee manager. Before the arrival of Joe Torre, that would have been the longest continuous managerial reign under the Steinbrenner family. And had George had his complete faculties, chances are Girardi would not have survived his first year in New York. Remember, they failed to even make the playoffs that year.
Now, of course, Girardi redeemed himself with a World Series title in 2009, which would have bought him years of good will in most other markets. But the Yankees are not most other markets.
If the Yankees fail to turn things around this season, Girardi could find himself as the scapegoat. He doesn't have four World Series titles in five years and six pennants in his first eight years as Torre had.
I am not saying the Yankees should fire Girardi. The current state of the team is the responsibility of general manager Brian Cashman. But the possibility that he could be fired is undeniable.
And seeing that these are the Yankees, they are not going to simply promote an anonymous coach or someone without a high profile. The Yankees would need a person who could step into the role of Yankee manager with the respect of the players, media and an impatient fan base.
Here are some possibilities.
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"Sweet Lou" is currently a consultant for the Giants. That is not the job title he wants. The title he wants is "Hall of Fame Manager." He could have the resume as it is now.
But winning a World Series title with the Yankees would make him the third manager in history to win the World Series in both leagues. Sparky Anderson and Tony La Russa are the others. (Piniella managed the 1990 World Champion Reds.)
He knew winning a World Series with the Cubs would have sealed the deal for him, but some things are just impossible.
Piniella could return to the Yankee organization, where he won titles as a player but could not get into the postseason during his two and a half seasons as manager. He has the chops, the passion and the rings. And winning in the Bronx would be the icing on the cake of his wonderful managerial career.
And if it failed, it would certainly be fun to watch.
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Do not discount the possibility of Torre's return. He left the Dodgers job just as everything was hitting the fan regarding the McCourt family. There is no way he felt satisfied with a sub-.500 season in Los Angeles as the end of his managerial career.
A return to the Yankees could heal the wounds that started to get better when he returned for Mr. Steinbrenner's memorial. And what organization loves to bring home prodigal sons more than the Yankees?
Remember how Yogi, Reggie, Billy, Pettitte and Clemens all ended their Yankee tenure bitterly? They all came back. And Yankee fans love to cheer the return of their heroes.
How would Torre's return be any less likely than Phil Jackson coming back to the Lakers after the 2004 Finals?
Tony La Russa
Now, this would be the great marquee pick up for the Yankees. Sure, La Russa had the greatest finale for his career: Winning his totally unexpected third World Series title.
But how can a man with a mind as active as Tony La Russa be able to just walk away from the game without giving it another try? How many animal rescue centers can he go to?
Sure, the control freak La Russa would be a match made in hell with the New York media. But the Yankees could offer him more money than Chicago, Oakland or St. Louis could ever dream of. And there would be no manager more respected to come into the dugout.
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It is almost too obvious to name Francona. It almost seems inevitable.
Has he won before? Yes, indeed. Twice, in fact. And one of his champion teams happened to celebrate in the old Yankee Stadium after pulling off the most staggering defeat in Bronx Bombers history.
And guess what? He is mad at the Red Sox. He is bitter about how his curse-busting tenure ended. Could there be a more delicious middle finger to Larry Lucchino and company than returning to Fenway as the manager of the Yankees?
The Yankees have a history of bringing Red Sox over. Not just Babe Ruth, of course, but Luis Tiant, Johnny Damon, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and about four or five other members of the 2004 team.
But Francona becoming the manager of the Yankees, with his knowledge of a tough northeast media and the respect of the players? That seems like a perfect if cruel fit.
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If the 2004 ALCS was not the worst loss in recent Yankee history, then the 2001 World Series was. And the manager of that squad, Bob Brenly, is in the broadcast booth.
He never got another shot to manage after the Diamondbacks gutted the team and sent Brenly packing. He has the chops to be an announcer, but he also showed he could manage a champion under a lot of pressure.
Why no other team has ever hired him to manage is a mystery. But remember that Joe Torre returned to managing after announcing. And Torre did not already have a World Series ring when he took over the team.
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Pena was a candidate for the job before Girardi took over after the 2007 postseason. He has the advantage of already being part of the organization as Girardi's bench coach. He also has managerial experience.
Like Girardi, he won a Manager of the Year Award. Pena won his while piloting the 2003 Kansas City Royals into a surprising contender.
Pena would be the most seamless transition to replace Girardi and the most logical short-term solution for the team.
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As mentioned with Joe Torre, the Yankees love bringing back their heroes. Willie Randolph was a captain of the Yankees and a player for two champions and coach for four more.
He was also one Carlos Beltran swing away from leading the Mets to the World Series. Yes, he was also the manager of one of the great collapses in baseball history in 2007 and was cut loose by the Mets the next year. How did that work out for the Mets?
There is no question that he is respected by the fanbase and has experience with the organization. And perhaps it would be better for the Yankees that Randolph had his growing pains in Flushing rather than the Bronx. Plus, Randolph would give the team a connection to not only the Joe Torre years but also the Bronx Zoo championships.
Remember, Torre struggled managing the Mets before finding success with the Yankees.
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Admittedly, this is a long-shot candidate. But the fact that Chambliss is never a candidate for a managerial position is a mystery. He has success as a player, a coach and as a minor league manager in three different decades.
Yet he has never had a shot to manage a big league team. Perhaps being given the Yankees as a maiden managerial voyage is unreasonable. But the man who delivered for the Yankees with power as a player and as a member of Joe Torre's coaching staff certainly is no stranger to the Bronx.
Someone give him at least one shot!
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This is actually a serious suggestion. The idea of a player also being a manager might seem outlandish now, but it used to happen frequently.
Frank Chance, Fred Clarke, Mickey Cochrane, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Cronin and Frankie Frisch all led their teams to the World Series as player managers. Pete Rose was a player manager with the Reds towards the end of his career.
OK, that last example was not a positive one. But what are the chances of Jeter betting on games?
People already look to Jeter for leadership and to set the tone for the team. And, no doubt, whoever would replace Girardi would have to pass the "Will Jeter Like Him?" test.
And Jeter is not leaving the organization any time soon. Why not have the complete transition for the captain? He went from the eager rookie in 1996 to the player manager leading the team to new glory in 2012 and beyond.
He already has the New York media eating out of his hand. It is the next great challenge of his career. And now A-Rod would have to listen to him.
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As a former addict of Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN, I can attest that if there was one person who always knew what was best for the Yankees, it was Francesa. Just ask him. He will tell you that he is always correct.
He knew what trades were rotten and what they should have done instead. He knew what pitchers the Yankees were overusing and who should be benched.
And if anyone ever called him out on something he was wrong about, Francesa would just hang up on them. He was never wrong.
Well, if someone who is right day in and day out is on the Yankee payroll through the YES Network, then transfer him from Mike'd Up to the dugout. Think of how the Yankees could benefit from his wisdom and vision.
It would be worth making this move just to see the irony of Francesa complaining about the New York sports media.