Via Bob Klapisch:
As the Yankees slip just out of the Red Sox’ radar range, Joe Girardi enters a critical phase of his managerial career. He must prove he’s secure enough to survive the Bombers’ recent turbulence without burnout — to himself and his key players.
Girardi already crossed that line with Alex Rodriguez, using his refurbished slugger in 38 consecutive games after he returned from hip surgery. General manager Brian Cashman denies he had to intercede on A-Rod’s behalf, insisting the decision to rest Rodriguez was a medical recommendation, not a corporate rebuke. Still.
Girardi has a history of putting his foot on the gas. In 2006, the year he was voted National League Manager of the Year with the Marlins, Girardi heavily taxed his young rotation. Three of the five starters — Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez — all suffered injuries the following season. And another, Dontrelle Willis, has never been the same.
Girardi’s demeanor doesn’t go unnoticed in the clubhouse. “Tight” is how one veteran described his manager without rancor. Of course, tight can be another form of intensity that complements Girardi’s obvious intelligence. And to be fair, he’s represented the organization in a commendable way — as opposed to say, Ozzie Guillen, who embarrasses the White Sox on a near-daily basis.
But there’s more to managing than simply bodysurfing a winning streak. Girardi looked crisp and in control when the Yankees were mauling the AL a month ago, launching all those crazy comebacks. But now they’re struggling — the Red Sox’ domination of the Bombers is nothing short of humiliating — and Girardi’s confidence has turned to a square-jawed form of desperation.
It’s because Girardi knows his managerial career will be over if he gets fired by the Yankees. The team is feeling the angst over ticket sales — they failed to sell out the Subway Series and are urgently reminding fans that seats are available for the Red Sox series in August.
Record reader Steve Gigante, a season-ticket holder who is being solicited by the team, wrote, “At the old stadium, they did not have to e-mail me every business day to ask me if I wanted to buy tickets to the Yankees vs. the Red Sox.”
That pressure trickles down to Cashman, then to Girardi and, ultimately, to the players. Some can handle it. Others, such as A-Rod, cannot. Girardi can’t be blamed for everything that goes wrong in the Yankees’ universe, but he’s being paid to get the most out of his players. How Girardi works that equation in the next few weeks will be worth watching.
Back in October of 2007, I recommended that the Yankees should hire Joe Girardi to lead their team. Then, last year, in May, and again in September, I questioned if I made a mistake, or not, with that recommendation.
Today, I still find myself wondering if Girardi is the right fit for a team full of mega-million dollar long-term contracts and complicated egos. Having not built up the equity that a skipper such as Joe Torre had on his resume, I’m not sure that Girardi has the required buy-in from some of his stars. (Again, I’m “not sure” – so, don’t mistake this for me saying this is a fact.)
In any event, I do feel that, with the right team, Joe Girardi can and will be a successful big league manager. It would not shock me, after he’s done with the Yankees, if Girardi went somewhere else and won a ring – like Lou Piniella did when he left New York and took over the Cincinnati Reds. But, it has to be a team where the players are young enough, or not established, where they feel like they have to, and want to, follow Joe’s word like it’s gospel.
What do you think? Is Joe Girardi now on trial in Yankeeland? Can he lead a team like New York? If not, will he never work again? If he does work again, can he do well elsewhere?