New York Yankees Put Their Faith in Joe Girardi
There was little drama to the negotiations that led to the three-year contract extension Joe Girardi reportedly agreed to with the Yankees on Thursday.
It kind of makes all the second-half speculation about Girardi's future seem a bit silly in retrospect. I'm not innocent—on more than one occasion I joked that Girardi did postgame interviews this summer while looking over blueprints of Wrigley Field's manager's office.
As it turned out, the rumors tying the manager to his hometown Cubs turned out to be a lot of loose-ended chatter. The Yankees wanted Girardi and Girardi wanted the Yankees. An agreement was inevitable.
I would say "collective shrug" is the best way to describe how the fanbase feels about Girardi's return. Whether it be a little post-Torre hangover or a personality so tightly-wound that Tony Pena is contractually obligated to do daily checks for a massive stroke, it's clear Girardi will never be the fan favorite his predecessor was.
Perhaps it's not fair to compare the two. Torre was the ultimate example of right guy, right place, right time. He took the job at a later stage in his life and fully embraced the spotlight—some would say he craved it—and he knew exactly how to handle both the media and George Steinbrenner.
On the strength of four World Series titles in five years, Torre became an icon in New York. He's on the Mount Rushmore of Yankee managers, his bulbous nose carved into stone alongside Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel and a two-thirds-in-the-bag Billy Martin.
Girardi and Torre are polar opposites in some ways. Where as Torre had to be poked with a stick just to see if he was alive on the bench, Girardi stands firmly at attention, always focused and alert. I don't know if I've ever seen him sitting down.
And while one of Torre's strengths was the easy-going nature in which he handled both streaks and slumps, every loss seems to destroy a little piece of Girardi. By the end of this season he looked like he had been in a POW camp for a decade.
The final three years of the Torre era started to seem like Groundhog Day, with 95-win teams going out quietly in the ALDS. Girardi's first three years have each been distinct.
Year One was all about transition, not just from the managerial sense, but in the bridge from the Giambi/Mussina Era to the Teixeira/Sabathia Era. The Yankees failed to make the postseason for the first time in 13 years in 2008, but Girardi escaped any real blame.
Year Two brought real expectations, and Girardi's job seemed to be in danger when a team buoyed by $400 million in free-agent acquisitions was struggling to stay above .500 in June. Luckily for Girardi, the Yankees snapped out of their early funk and started a roll that culminated with a World Series title.
Year Three returned the Yankees to the familiar post-dynasty ground of postseason failure, though I think most fans agree that just getting to Game 6 of the ALCS was a small achievement considering the gaping holes in the roster. Thanks Cash!
That the Yankees gave Girardi three years tells you a lot about the faith they have in him. This could be another difficult transition year, but barring a Spitzer-esque meltdown, the Yankees will put their trust in Girardi to guide them.
And while his in-game managing skills sometimes make you want to beat him over the head with his own beloved binder, there is a reassuring way to how he carries himself: Steady, disciplined and relentlessly focused. In a time where many aspects of the franchise are up in the air, there's something to be said for that.
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