Joe Girardi probably already completed the most difficult task he would ever have to do in New York when he took over the helm of the New York Yankees from iconic manager, Joe Torre. However, this is New York, so the pressure and the expectations are always high.
In his first six seasons as manager of the Yankees, Girardi has done more than just hold his own. He has managed the Yankees to a Major League best 564-408 (.580) record. He has guided the Yankees to the postseason in four of those seasons, winning three division titles (’09, ’11, ’12), appearing in the American League Champions Series three times (’09, ’10, ’12), and capturing the team’s 27th World Series title in 2009.
Girardi has also placed himself in some pretty lofty company along the way. He is the fifth fastest Yankee manager to reach 500 wins. It took him just 844 games. The names ahead of him are Yankee managerial royalty. They include Casey Stengel (790), Joe McCarthy (796), Miller Huggins, and Joe Torre (both at 833). He is just the fourth Yankee Manager to win the World Series in his postseason debut, joining the likes of Ralph Houk, Bob Lemon, and Casey Stengel.
Despite all of those accolades, Joe Girardi’s best work to date may have come in a year when the Yankees failed to reach the postseason. 2013 would quickly prove to be the most daunting of Girardi’s tenure. Devastating injuries would take their toll almost immediately as the Yankees used a franchise record 56 players throughout the course of the season. Team Captain, Derek Jeter, would play in just seventeen games. Players like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson would all miss significant playing time and were replaced by names such as Lyle Overbay, David Adams, and Vernon Wells. Off the field, Girardi would have to weather the Biogenesis scandal and Commissioner Bud Selig’s witch hunt of Alex Rodriguez, which would become a daily topic of conversation in New York. He also had to handle the extremely emotional Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour, which probably wasn’t too much of a burden, but it was still a distraction to the daily preparations of a baseball team. Through it all Girardi led the Yankees to an unexpected (even to the rosiest of Yankees fan) record of 85-77. He kept his team in contention deep into September, long past what many believed would be an early expiration date.
It would be easy to have surmised, at the end of the season, that there would be no scenario in which the Yankees top brass would let their manager walk away. To Girardi’s credit, he spoke like a man who wanted to keep his position, but admitted that it would be something that his entire family would have to agree upon. Eventually, it was reported that the Yankees offered Girardi a very “lucrative” offer to stay in the Bronx. Soon after, word broke that the Cubs, who had just parted ways with Dale Sveum, were very interested in Girardi’s services and would match any offer that the Yankees were discussing. The Cubs, and any other team for that matter, couldn’t meet with Girardi until his contract with the Yankees expired at the end of the World Series and the Yankees had not given Girardi permission to talk to other teams. Other teams interested included the Nationals as well as the Reds.
The silence was becoming quite concerning to Yankees fans. Joe Girardi has close ties to the Chicago area. He grew up in nearby East Peoria. He was a Cubs fan as a boy, getting the chance to play for his hometown team when they drafted him in the fifth round of the 1986 amateur draft. Girardi also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University. Fans and pundits alike began to question whether or not Girardi was feeling the tug of possibly being able to go home. On the record, he stated that his ties to the Windy City were not as strong as they once might have been. Still, there was the silence. It was easy to believe that Girardi may not want to leave New York, but might want to wait for his contract to expire so that he could use the other offers as leverage for getting a better deal from the Yankees. Even worse, perhaps he was beginning to think that Chicago may have a better upside than continuing his career in the Bronx.
On Wednesday of this week, the Yankees announced that they had reached an agreement with their skipper on a four year/ $16 Million contract. The deal makes Girardi the second highest paid manager in the game, behind only Mike Scioscia of the LA Angels. The fourth year was his idea. The Yankees quickly agreed that giving him the stability he requested was far better than seeing their accomplished manager ride off for greener pastures.
In turns out Girardi never took the rumors of a Cubs deal all that seriously. New York, he said, is a special place. It’s true. Winning in the Bronx is unlike winning anywhere else. The words get thrown around a lot and may seem cliche, but there really is something to the mystique and aura that surround this organization.
Girardi and the Yankees will have a lot of work to do in the coming months to ensure that the Bombers live up to their own lofty standards. Priority number one will be re-signing their All-Star second baseman, Robinson Cano – a task Girardi said he will take very seriously. For the Yankees, they can now move on to their winter agenda with their manager in place to offer key insight into their plans moving forward.
If The Yankees and Girardi see this contract to it’s conclusion, he will have managed the Yankees for ten years. That means that the team will only have two managers in a 22 year span. That’s a long way from the days of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin. That kind of stability will be important for a Yankees team that seems to be going through a transitional period.