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How Yankees' Path Would've Changed If They Chose Don Mattingly Over Joe Girardi

KANSAS CITY, MO - MAY 31:  Acting head coach Joe Girardi #52 and hitting coach Don Mattingly #23 of the New York Yankees watch from the dugout while playing the Kansas City Royals on May 31, 2005 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Royals defeated the yankees 5-3.  (Photo by Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images
Joe GiglioContributor IJune 18, 2013

Replacing the legendary Joe Torre was going to be an arduous task for the leaders of the Yankees organization before they chose to interview one of the most famous and beloved players in their franchise's history.

By selecting Joe Girardi over Don Mattingly (along with the unheralded Tony Pena), the Yankees made a decision that would have ramifications across the entire landscape of the sport.

With Don Mattingly making his first appearance in the Bronx since being passed over for the job prior to the 2008 season, his Los Angeles Dodgers, although continuing to scuffle in the NL West, will take center stage for the next two nights in New York.

Considering New York's success under Girardi, the current state of the Dodgers and how each former Yankee player has grown in their respective jobs, the Yankees, led by the recommendation of general manager Brian Cashman, made the right decision when choosing Girardi.

While Girardi's experience as the manager of the 2006 Florida Marlins ultimately gave him the leg up in the managerial competition, it's not hard to imagine more going into the decision, including the analytical and prepared nature Girardi brings to the managerial seat, something that was probably quite evident during his interview with the Yankee brass.

In the five-plus seasons since taking the helm, Girardi has guided the Yankees to the postseason four times, including three trips to the American League Championship Series and a World Series title in 2009.

Out west, Mattingly hasn't had close to the same success, but has also been saddled with a flawed roster.

For years, baseball writers and analysts have tried to quantify the differences between good, great and average skippers, but it's a very, very hard task. Obviously, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox were great managers, but separating the good from average is difficult.

Factoring in the roster, managing in New York, expectations from the jump and his cultural icon status with the Yankees fan base, New York's path would have likely been far less successful under Mattingly than it has been under Girardi.

Outside of the analytical perception that Girardi brings to the table, his willingness to adjust after a rigid and difficult opening season made him the manager he is today.

The 2008 Yankees weren't a very talented team, especially in the pitching department. Mattingly, Girardi or Torre would have likely missed the postseason, but it was Girardi who actually sat in the dugout for the distinction.

While many realized the pitching issues at the time, Girardi's rigid and stern nature seemed to wear on the clubhouse, including the young, enigmatic Robinson Cano.

After the season, Girardi adapted, becoming more open with the media and his players. When mixed with his advanced knowledge of the game, it turned him into an excellent manager.

Mattingly's personality is different, but an adjustment would have been expected during the early part of his tenure. It's hard to imagine Donnie Baseball excelling in the same fashion.

Aside from baseball acumen, experience and the willingness to adjust, the biggest reason the Girardi Era is more successful than the Mattingly experience would have been circles back to the support of Brian Cashman.

Although the Yankees general manager has been in the organization since taking an internship two decades ago, he had never hired a manager prior to the Torre aftermath. When Cashman was promoted to the general manager seat prior to the 1998 season, Torre was entrenched as a star in the dugout.

From the jump of the interview process, Cashman seemed to favor Girardi. If ownership overruled him to select Mattingly, job security could have become a real issue when struggles arose. Instead, Girardi has been virtually bulletproof due to the partnership he and Cashman have forged.

As the years go on, Mattingly may grow into the job, or, if things in Los Angeles deteriorate further, his next job. Perhaps he'll turn into a really good and successful manager down the line.

Right now, Girardi has already achieved those accolades.

The decision was correct in 2007. If Mattingly was the selection, the state of the Yankees would have a far different look today.



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