Feb
18

The Yankees’ other impending free agent

By
(Star-Ledger)

(Star-Ledger)

Spring Training is less than a week old, but we’ve already spent an awful lot of time talking about Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency. It’s going to be a major story from now right up until he signs his new contract, either with the Yankees or another team. We’ve also talked very briefly about Phil Hughes and Curtis Granderson, two important Yankees who will also become free agents next winter. Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan have been free agency afterthoughts so far, but they are important pieces of the bullpen.

Those five players do not represent the team’s only notable impending free agents, however. Joe Girardi is a lame duck manager at the moment, entering the final year of the three-year contract he signed during the 2010-2011 offseason. It will be his sixth season with the team and his success is undeniable: one World Championship, two other ALCS appearances, three division titles, four postseason berths and four 95+ win seasons. As expected, Girardi has said all the right things and handled his lame duck status well so far.

“My faith is that God is going to put me where he wants me,” he said last week. “That’s what I believe. I don’t worry about where I’m going to be next year. We’re probably going to get into this later, so I’ll say it, we talk about payroll – I’m not worried about next year’s payroll. I’m worried about the next 162 games and getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series. That’s my concern. That’s what I worry about. I think in the game of baseball you get a lot of practice only worrying about that day or that year as a player, as a coach, as a manager, because you never know what it’s going to be. When I signed, I was called up in 1989 and thought I’d be a Cub the rest of my life. Lo and behold, I was with three other teams, back with the Cubs. I was all over the place. So you get used to not worrying about next year, and I’m not worried about it.”

As I wrote in our Season Review, I don’t think Girardi had a great year in 2012, at least compared to his first four years on the job. He has his annoying tendencies — specifically ill-timed intentional walks and sacrifice bunts in the early-to-mid-innings — like every other manager, but he typically does a very good job running his bullpen and keeping his older players rested. There haven’t been any whispers of clubhouse problems — though the team does go out of the way to acquire good makeup players — over the last five years, so Girardi’s clubhouse skills should be considered a plus as well.

Now, that said, big league manager is one of those jobs with a relatively short shelf life. Unless the guy has immediate and unprecedented success like Joe Torre, the odds of him sticking around for 10+ years are tiny. Only eight managers have been with their current team longer than Girardi, and there are more than a few teams who have cycled through multiple managers over the last five seasons. Managers typically lose effectiveness when they’ve been around too long, mostly because their style becomes routine and players get a little too comfortable (i.e. Red Sox and Terry Francona). I don’t see any reason to think that’s happened with Girardi’s team yet.

The Yankees have a very wide range of possible outcomes this year, and how they finish will inevitably impact the decision whether to retain Girardi. Everything could click and they would win 95+ games or everyone could break down and they could finish in fourth place. Girardi would clearly be retained — or at least offered the opportunity to stay — should the former happen, but I don’t think the latter would automatically result in his dismissal. It depends why they finished in fourth, really. Did all the old guys who are injury risks get hurt, or did important players underperform? Only one of those can really be charged to the skipper, and even that isn’t cut and dry.

The last time the Yankees needed a manager, they only interviewed three candidates: Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena. Brian Cashman said afterwards they interviewed only those three because they were familiar with the Yankees and the market they play in, which is why no outside candidates were brought in. Outside of Pena, pitching coach Larry Rothschild (first manager in Devil Rays history), and I guess Mattingly (contract is up after this season), I don’t know who else the team could bring in to meet that “familiar with New York” criteria. Then again, they could always change course.

Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner hand-picked Girardi for the job following the 2007 season, so I have a hard time thinking they’ll replace him next winter for something less that an outright clubhouse mutiny. He’s a fine manager — I don’t think he’s top five or even top ten, but clearly better than average in terms of on-field decisions — and has done a better job of handling the media over the years. Girardi could always choose to leave on his own for another job, but he didn’t even let the Cubs make him an offer three years ago. If he didn’t walk away for his hometown team, I can’t imagine what it would take to lure him away. Girardi is already one of the two or three highest paid managers in the game, so that’s not an issue.

Obviously the Cano, Hughes, and Granderson free agencies are much more important than the manager’s, especially since their salaries will be impacted by the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold next year. The skipper’s salary is separate and, theoretically, not limited by any kind of payroll threshold. Maybe the Yankees won’t want to pay their manager top dollar anymore — “I don’t believe you need a top-five salaried manager to win,” sure sounds like something Hal Steinbrenner would mutter these days — but I’ll believe that when I see it. Barring something completely unexpected, Girardi seems like a safe bet to re-sign with the team this winter and lead them for another three years or so.

Categories : Coaching Staff

69 Comments»

  1. David says:

    I’ve never really been a huge fan of Girardi and I certainly don’t believe that I’ll start this season. That being said, I think the Yanks should let him walk just to change things up a bit. They might be stuck with an aging team for the time being, but they’re entering into a new age where they want to depend more on their farm system. I think that they should evaluate candidates in the minors as well as Pena, Rothschild, and Mattingly to take over next year.

  2. jjyank says:

    I probably like Girardi more than most. I think he maintains a solid clubhouse atmosphere and handles the bullpen workloads well, generally speaking. Sure, he makes plenty of questionable calls, but so does every manager.

    I’m of the opinion that a manager has a pretty minimal impact on the performance of the team over the course of a full season. Girardi is familiar with things, and the players are familiar with him. I’d like to retain him.

  3. bulasteve says:

    Just totally out of curiousity, would the whole salary of a player/manager count against the luxury tax?

  4. Mike HC says:

    Nice article. My sentiments on Girardi are more or less in line with Mike’s. I like him just fine, but don’t think he is outstanding or it would be huge loss to lose him. His “familiarity” with New York has not exactly stopped him from getting into a couple of unnecessary problems with reporters and fans though. He is no Joe Torre in my book though. Torre will always be my favorite manager.

    • jjyank says:

      Didn’t those problems happen after he found out his father was about to die though? He had some real deep personal shit going on then, I’m willing to give him a pass on those outbursts.

      • Mike HC says:

        Maybe, not sure. And I am willing to give him a pass too no matter what the circumstances (I say that like I have any say in the manner, ha). Nobody is immune to the type of pressure on him and surely deserves some leeway. Just pointing it out though

        • Mike HC says:

          *matter

        • jjyank says:

          Sure, it’s fair to point it out. If I recall, I think the thing with Joel Sherman happened after his father died, but before we found out that his father died. Or maybe it was the thing with the fan, I can’t remember for sure, but I am pretty sure at least one of those two things happened in that time frame.

      • Bob Buttons says:

        Yeah his dad passed on roughly a month or so after yelling at Sherman.

        http://riveraveblues.com/2012/.....int-75644/

        http://www.nydailynews.com/spo.....-1.1181031

        • jjyank says:

          Ah, thanks. That’s what I thought. Hard for me to fault him for that. I know if my father died I would absolutely lose it on someone at some point.

          • Mike HC says:

            Maybe the US should institute a “one free assualt” rule after the death of an immediate family member. (I know he just got in Sherman’s face, didn’t assault him).

            I’m with you, some of these reporters get more leeway than they deserve, not even taking into account Girardi’s state of mind.

            • jjyank says:

              That’d be sweet. Maybe they could make a law where as an option to a prison sentence, a convicted felon can opt to be subjected to an all out assault by a grieving person.

              • Mike HC says:

                hahah … yes. I will sign that petition.

              • Bob Buttons says:

                I think that the convicted felon would probably come back and get his/her revenge on the person, even if they weren’t able to overpower them at that moment.

                I mean they are guys who come back and kill the cops who put them away, right? (If not, YOU LIED AGAIN FAMILY GUY!)

                • jjyank says:

                  I think we can make it a pretty anonymous affair. The felon will never know my name, and I’ll wear a ski mask. Would they really want to come after me? They would be skipping out on years of jail time as compensation, it’s not like they get nothing in return :P

                  • Bob Buttons says:

                    In addition to ski mask, they are strapped to a chair and you throw water balloons/paintballs/rotten tomatoes at them, so there’s no way they can suddenly jump up and go berserk on you.

                    Sounds like it could work.

          • Bob Buttons says:

            Indeed, especially with someone like Sherman who is known to be dick-ish at times.

  5. Jim Is Bored says:

    No wonder Girardi got the job, he was 50% of the search committee!

    I’m fine with him. I don’t think he’s a top 5 manager, I don’t think he’s a bottom 5 manager. He’ll make some weird decisions, and he’ll run a pretty good bullpen. I think we know what he is, and I’d rather stick with the evil we know than the evil we don’t, most of the time.

  6. Matt says:

    Clemenza: “Leave the binder, take the manager.”

  7. TomH says:

    I don’t think he’s top five or even top ten, but clearly better than average

    I wonder who the ten above him are.

    • Bob Buttons says:

      I’m gonna take a wild guess and say Maddon, Mattingly, and the rest is quite debatable, and I don’t watch enough games to know about other managers.

      I do have to say that I don’t like Scioscia because he’s too powerful within the org, plus he loves bunting and starting guys like Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson over guys like Mike Napoli and Hank Conger.

      • jjyank says:

        Not sure about Mattingly, but I think we can add Bochy and maybe Showalter. Though regarding Showalter, his awesomeness was heavily overstated by many last season.

        • mitch says:

          I would add Francona as well.

          • jjyank says:

            Sure. I’m not so sure it would be so easy to name 10 better than Girardi, though. And if we can’t do that, they should probably bring him back next year.

          • AndrewYF says:

            You mean the guy who was on the chair for one of the greatest collapses in baseball history, a guy who so completely lost his clubhouse that Bobby Valentine replaced him? That guy? Yeah, I’m going to put him safely behind a guy who hasn’t done that.

        • Bob Buttons says:

          Totally forgot Bochy existed, and I don’t like Showalter as a person since he was rather dick-ish toward the Yankees, his former employer (that history proved that they certainly did well hiring Torre), sure he might be a good manager, but people who badmouth their former employers unnecessarily gets a thumbs down in my book.

        • vicki says:

          always loved buck. and i still say he helped build the ferrari torre was handed the keys to.

      • mitch says:

        Why would you rate Mattingly so high? He really hasn’t accomplished very much.

        • Bob Buttons says:

          It’s more by comparison. There are people out there that seem to want to let Girardi go in favour of Mattingly, so it’s implied that people think Mattingly is a better manager. I personally don’t really care, and “Curse of Donnie Baseball” does make him a less appealing manager to me.

          • jjyank says:

            I think most of the people that prefer Mattingly are doing so out of love of him as a player, not so much a clear cut managerial superiority.

            • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

              Besides that, I highly doubt nearly anyone on this blog has seen enough Dodgers games to have a legitimate opinion on Mattingly’s managerial acumen and the few if any who have almost certainly aren’t qualified to judge him either.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

        Mattingly a top manager? haha

      • ClusterDuck says:

        Don’t get to see Dodger games. But I’m surprised to see somebody thinks Mattingly has become a top manager.

        I would list Leland, Maddon, Showalter as top managers in the AL.

        • Mike HC says:

          I think people are misunderstanding Bob Buttons when he mentioned Mattingly. Buttons wasn’t saying Mattingly was top 10, he was guessing that Mattingly could be included in that 10 managers better than Girardi that Mike mentioned. Although, based on the comments, even that seems unlikely.

          • Bob Buttons says:

            Right you are. Those two names are pretty much the only names I can think of off the top of my head (other than John Farrel and John Gibbons).

    • Mike Axisa says:

      In no particular order: Maddon, Francona, Bud Black, Showalter, Melvin, Bochy, Davey Johnson, Leyland. That’s eight, close enough.

  8. Dan says:

    If Girardi isn’t re-signed, who would be a good replacement candidate? There doesn’t seem to be too many options that would be better than him. I think Mattingly would be worse, he seems to overwork his bullpen (like Torre). Not sure if Pena would be better, but I would prefer Girardi to Pena since he is more of a known commodity and we don’t know what Pena would be like as a manager.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      I would see if Francona was interested. Pena probably deserves a shot, but I think Francona would be better (also think Girardi would be better than Pena). Not sure who else will be available. I’m really not up on who the next up and coming mangers would be.

  9. trr says:

    I’m OK with Girardi; as we know, managers are hired to be fired…having said that, I believe he will be the manager in 2014 and beyond

  10. I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

    Was the intentional walk in the first inning of CC’s first start? Or is it just perverted that way in my memory?

  11. Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

    If the Yankees don’t win, it will be much more because of the team Cashman and company have given him rather than anything he does or doesn’t do as manager.

    • Mike HC says:

      True. Not only does Cashman collect the talent, but he also tells Girardi the role they are going to play on the team. So Girardi basically sets the lineup and manages bullpen usage. And even bullpen usage could even be managed from the top, deciding which guys are available for certain games. Managers really don’t do much anyway, and it seems they do even less on the Yanks in particular.

      • Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

        Yep. Setting the lineup, managing the pen and keeping the clubhouse and team on an even keel seems to be the majority of their responsibilities.

        This isn’t the NFL where coaching makes a huge, huge difference.

  12. s says:

    Jorge Posada for bench coach so he can take over next year.

  13. LK says:

    If the Yankees want to go with a really progressive manager a la Maddon, I’d be down with replacing Girardi. Short of that, I don’t really see what the motivation would be to change. Girardi’s fine strategically and players seem to like him.

  14. mike civ says:

    I like Joe Girardi, but as far as just responding to who else knows the “Yankee Way” who would be available. I’d probably say Willie Randolph. I’m not saying i want him as manager, just following up your point. It’s hard to imagine somebody else as Yankee skipper right now, hopefully The yanks win it all this year and we wont have to worry about a change!

  15. Monterowasnotdinero says:

    If he has CC intentionally walk Pedroia in the first inning of the opening game fire him on the spot.

  16. Should I Fister or Pettitte? says:

    I like Girardi as the manager; however, I wouldn’t mind Mattingly in pinstripes again in 2014 — if you catch my drift.

  17. Poinsettia says:

    Girardi must go. He is so into promoting himself(how many managers have themselves announced at the top of the line up) and playing favorites. He has his “pets” which at times puts lesser players on the field (Gardner). And saying he is backed by Cashman is no endorsement that he is any good, since Cashma’s ability has been shown to be lacking.

  18. Robinson Tilapia says:

    I think Leyland and Davey Johnson are in a class by themselves.

    I’m honestly not convinced anyone beyond that isn’t completely interchangeable and manage well in the situations they’re in. Joel Maddon on the Yankees? Probably would look a lot like Joe Girardi.

    To that end, Girardi’s done nothing to merit losing his job. He’s won a championships. He’s made mistakes. I’m not particularly feeling the itch for anyone else.

  19. Robinson Tilapia says:

    Mattingly? He can come back in the booth, or at Old Timer’s Day. Otherwise, please…

  20. AndrewYF says:

    To me, one of the most important job a manager can do is to use his bullpen correctly. That includes properly giving rest (Girardi gets an A), giving guys enough of a chance throughout the season to shine (Girardi gets a B+), to using your best relievers in the most pivotal roles in the game (can’t think of any manager who would get better than a C here…Girardi gets a D+).

    Girardi is a top-5 manager of bullpens. Perhaps top 3. Obviously Maddon is cream of the crop here, and to me is the only no-doubt-about-it better manager in general. Most others can be put up for debate – even Showalter, who had a nice magic fairy season, but we need to see it again – because if the Orioles turn back into pumpkins (just like what happened with the D-Backs and Rangers) Showalter is once again a never-has-been.

    I still remember the day-in day-out nightmare of post-2003 playoffs Torre, so to me Girardi continues to be a breath of fresh air.

    • mikef says:

      as much as post 2003 Torre ( and even before with certain moves, to be honest) made me crazy, as we know 2004+ really had a different character about it in terms of FA acquisitions, trades and Alex’s arrival..not to mention Zimmer leaving and Torre assuming Demi-God status

  21. free speech says:

    Does the team have the horses that is all that matters…

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