Although Joe Girardi was a good manager for the New York Yankees during his decade on the job, it was time for him to go -- for his sake and, to a lesser extent, for the franchise’s.
After 10 years at the helm, Girardi is out in the Bronx. His four-year, $16 million contract has run out, and there will not be another one. He leaves behind a young, stacked roster that includes budding star Aaron Judge, a full farm system and very possibly a few championships rings.
A dynasty is perhaps on the horizon at Yankee Stadium, and Girardi could have done a good enough job to lead it. A manager makes a difference, but never forget, Joe Torre became a genius only after he connected with the Core Four.
Whoever is next for the Yankees already has the most important ingredient: a really talented, young roster.
The possibilities? Rob Thomson, the team’s bench coach, is well-respected inside and outside the organization. He would be the most likely internal candidate, though third-base coach Joe Espada has been impressive as well.
Externally, the candidates are not as obvious, but GM Brian Cashman values someone who will use advanced metrics, has a good rapport in the clubhouse and can handle the New York media.
This is probably a good move for Girardi; he's a man who always stresses family first, and he's leaving a job that has ground him down and kept him away from his loved ones for most of the year.
If he had stayed, with one title in his back pocket and more possible, he might have had a chance to be a Hall of Fame manager, like the man he replaced. Instead, Girardi's time at the helm will be looked upon as solid but not spectacular.
Girardi was never beloved like Torre was. Girardi might have had an all-time mess-up with his terrible decision not to ask for a replay review on a strikeout that was incorrectly called a hit batsman in Game 2 of the ALDS -- easily the lowest point of his managerial career. But more often than not, he made the right decisions (sorry, Twitter).
As for Girardi’s players, they seemed rather indifferent about him, despite the “win one for the skipper” narrative trumpeted by some after Girardi’s division series failure.
Girardi’s workmanlike approach to everything left him somewhat distant from the guys he led. He usually wouldn’t reveal the essence of his conversations with his players to the media, and his players never really acted as if he spoke to them that much. Maybe their contact was more frequent than a media member could glean, but it didn’t seem that way. With Girardi having no use for social media, the press, TV and radio were his conduit to fans, and his lack of openness left him largely unpopular toward the end of his tenure.
Girardi was a good company man, though toward the end, he and Cashman didn't always agree. During the season, there was a clash over the ineffective Chris Carter, whom the Yankees' analytics staff thought of more highly than Girardi did. Girardi finally won, but sources said Cashman and Girardi didn't get along as well as they had in years past. There were times when Cashman seemed unsatisfied with how Girardi handled the media, recently and most notably after Girardi didn’t immediately take full ownership after his ALDS Game 2 failure.
Although Girardi did have a $200 million roster for a decade, he had to lead the team through some tough situations. He made the playoffs six times, steering the end of the Yankees’ Core Four dynasty and navigating the chaos that was Alex Rodriguez.
Every time Girardi’s contract has been up, he has spoken about his family. There was a pull to go home and be with them. He has two daughters, one college-aged and one in middle school, and his son, Dante, is in high school and might be a future pro prospect.
Girardi often stayed after games to throw BP to his son. If he doesn’t pursue another job right now -- my guess is he won’t -- there will be plenty of time for him to tutor his son. This will be a welcome change for Girardi.
For so many years, the Yankees job seemed to wear on Girardi. He denied that he lost weight during the season, but he often looked different by August than he did in February.
Interestingly enough and perhaps tellingly, this year Girardi seemed a bit calmer, more at ease. Maybe he knew this was it for him. He might be harder to replace than it appears. But this was the right time for him to go.