Hal Steinbrenner speaketh and so we listen.
Yesterday afternoon, prior to the Yanks’ last home game of the regular season, Hal Steinbrenner made a rare appearance in front of the media. As the Yanks’ beat writers grilled him on topics ranging from Hank and George to the team’s postseason hopes, Hal talked a little bit about Joe Girardi’s future.
As the Yankee writers are wont to do, talk eventually turned to Girardi’s job security. “Would Joe be fired if the Yanks do not capture a crown?” they asked. Hal answered diplomatically, “Joe has had a tremendous year this year. We all know that. He’s got the best record in baseball. As far as I’m concerned and the family’s concerned and the organization’s concerned, he’s the man for the job.”
Later in the day, Jon Heyman clarified the Yanks’ thinking. “Regardless of what happens in October,” Heyman wrote, “the Yankees don’t plan to extend Joe Girardi this winter. Team policy is to let every contract run to the end. And that includes Girardi, and even Derek Jeter, whose contract also expires after 2010.”
So Joe Girardi will head into 2010 as a lame-duck manager no matter what. Should the Yankees win the title, he’ll feel pretty good about his job security. Should they falter early in the playoffs, he’ll have to manage while looking over his shoulder all season. That can’t be a very comfortable feeling.
So far in his short Yankee tenure, nothing Girardi has done has led me to think he’s a bad fit for New York. Much as Joe Torre did, he knows how to handle a team of high-paid veterans and up-and-coming rookies. Despite a rocky start over injuries in 2009, he has shown an ability to handle a critical and fickle New York sports media. He has also shown a tendency to win games. His in-game strategy has led to a Major League-best 102 wins this year.
In the end, Girardi probably will get an extension. Hal seems to recognize that the playoffs are of a different beast than the regular season. The battle is getting there, and after that, the manager — as long as he doesn’t, say, bat A-Rod eighth — has less of an effect on the team than we would want. My money is on an eventual extension, but similar to Derek Jeter, Girardi won’t earn his until after a solid 2010 campaign. That’s just the way things work in the Yankee Universe.