The mold for a good manager is cut from many a cloth. For 12 seasons starting sixty years ago, the Yankees had a cantankerous old man at their helm. For 12 seasons starting in 1996, they had a master of calm leading the charge. In between, they had strategic geniuses, feisty former players, the calm wisdom of Yogi Berra and everyone in between heading the team.
This year, we have seen Joe Girardi grow into the mold. A few weeks ago, as the Yankees were struggling their way out of April, it seemed as though Girardi was on the hot seat. Now that the Yanks have gone 15-5 over their last 20 and find themselves in first place by themselves, everyone loves Joe.
Take, for example, this George A. King III column. Since King is relying on quotes and stories from the Yankees themselves, we can’t go too wrong with it. In it, he talks to Mark Teixeira about playing for Girardi. The Yanks’ first baseman seemingly loves Girardi.
“The good thing about Joe is that he is consistent. He expects a lot out of us but you look at him and you can’t tell if we won or lost,” Teixeira said. “Your leader needs to show confidence. The manager can’t be upset after every loss. He can’t be angry all the time.”
Later on, Teixeira added a bit of hyperbole. “Out of all the managers I have had, he is the best I have had by far,” he said to King.
Now, that’s high praise considering how Teixeira’s last two managers were Mike Scioscia and Bobby Cox, both highly respected in their own rights. Of course, Teixeira could just be saying what anyone would say of his or her employer. Of course, I love my boss! Who doesn’t?
In a way though, what Teixeira says about Girardi is something we Yankee fans saw in Joe Torre for 12 seasons. The Yankees would win, and the Yankees would lose. They would top all of baseball three years running, and lose in the first round of the playoffs three years running. When they would lose, though, Torre remained mostly unflappable. Some criticized it, but the players responded well to his stoicism.
The job in the Bronx isn’t Girardi’s first. He had a tumultuous one-year term in Miami heading the Marlins. However, he earned his stripes, so to speak, while serving as Torre’s bench coach, and perhaps he’s finding his way now as a similar type of manager.
In the end, it’s never easy to discern how much credit a manager deserves for a team’s success. Clearly, Joe Girardi’s team isn’t perfect. After all, he couldn’t trust another reliever last night and used Al Aceves to relieve Andy Pettitte in the 6th and then serve as the bridge and set-up man to Mariano Rivera. That’s not Girardi’s fault though; he plays the cards that are dealt to him.
When the dust settles in October, we’ll have a better sense of how Girardi handles a team with the potential go all the way. Right now, as the Yanks sit in first place at the end of May he looks good. Let’s see where the chips fall in four or five months.