Joe Girardi hasn’t really had an easy job since taking over the managerial reins in Oct. of 2007. He had to face Joe Torre’s legacy, a raft full of injuries, the first non-Yankee October since 1994 and now the Alex Rodriguez mess.
On the flip side, though, 2009 is a manager’s dream. The Yanks landed three of the top four free agents this winter and head into the season with their best rotation since 2003 and one of the game’s best lineups as well. If all goes according to plan, Girardi’s toughest decisions this year will focus around the nine hole in the lineup and the center field spot. He may also have to determine who pitches the eighth.
At the same time, Girardi acutely feels the weight of expectations. Somehow, he has to right this PED-tainted ship his third baseman is on, and he has to manage against the on-field expectations his bosses, his fans and the media have. To that end, he knows that his job could be on the line if the Yanks head home after their Oct. 4 game in Tampa. Reports Ken Davidoff:
What interested me most was when Girardi agreed with a reporter’s question/assertion that he probably wouldn’t be invited back for 2010 if the Yankees failed to qualify for the postseason. That’s probably right, unless there’s a complete slew of injuries
“I don’t necessarily think about those things,” Girardi told the reporter who asked the question. “But as you stated the question, you’re probably right.” Then he laughed.
He can laugh at it, and he can joke about on Feb. 12. But Girardi is right. He was supposed to be the Next Great Yankee Manager, and while he did an admirable enough job last year, he has to do better this year. Better, of course, means a playoff berth.
It’s tough to manage in New York. With so much money spent on the on-field product, it’s not unreasonable for the those signing the paycheck to demand excellence every year. But when the fans hop on that bandwagon and the media follows suit, the pressure can be overwhelming. Girardi isn’t a rookie anymore. Now we get to see what he’s made of, and no one knows the pressure and potential success that awaits him more than Joe.