NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi stepped to the podium, put on his
new pinstriped jersey and showed off a most appropriate number --
As in, now it's his job to lead the New York Yankees to their
27th World Series championship.
"How many do they have?" the new manager said Thursday,
knowing full well the answer. In fact, that's precisely why he
picked the number.
Girardi's name and picture were displayed on the scoreboard at
Yankee Stadium for his introductory news conference. The team did
its best to make him feel welcome, with general manager Brian
Cashman presenting Girardi's wife, Kim, with a bouquet of roses.
"This is where we wanted to end up," Girardi said.
Girardi made it more of a family affair with a story about his
father, who he said has Alzheimer's.
Steadying himself, Girardi said his dad hadn't spoken for a
month. That is, until a caregiver showed his father a picture of
Girardi being chosen as the Yankees manager.
"Oh, yeah," Girardi said his dad responded.
Girardi got a three-year contract. He said he had spoken to Joe
Torre, who managed the Yankees to 12 straight postseason
appearances. He also spoke with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
"He was very congratulatory," Girardi said. "He said: 'It's
great to have you aboard.' "
After New York lost in the first round of the playoffs to
Cleveland, Torre rejected a one-year contract with a pay cut.
"Joe had always been a person I always looked up to,
respected," Girardi said. "We had a great conversation."
Girardi played, coached and broadcast for the team. He was the
bench coach before leaving for the Florida Marlins, where he was
the 2006 NL Manager of the Year.
Girardi said he'd spoken with former Yankees great Don
Mattingly, who was Torre's bench coach last year. Mattingly wanted
the manager's job and after finding out he hadn't been picked, he
said he was not interested in a coaching spot for next year.
"I would've loved to have had him," Girardi said.
Girardi played for the Yankees and won three World Series
championships as a hard-nosed catcher.
"The four greatest years of my career as a baseball player,"
The former Yankees broadcaster now gets the big office off the
clubhouse, hoping he's the last occupant before the ballpark closes
after next season.
This was the first introduction of a new Yankees manager at the
ballpark since Torre was presented on Nov. 2, 1995. The following
day the Daily News ran a backpage banner headline that became
famous: "CLUELESS JOE" followed in smaller type by: "TORRE HAS
NO IDEA WHAT HE'S GETTING INTO."
Torre went on to lead the Yankees to four World Series titles in
his first five seasons, joining Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and
Casey Stengel -- Hall of Famers all -- as the most successful
managers in team history.
Torre didn't win the World Series in the following seven
seasons. He chose to walk away when Steinbrenner and team
management did not offer a contract Torre found satisfactory.
Girardi received a $7.8 million, three-year contract, nearly
four times the $2.1 million, three-year deal the Marlins gave him
before the 2006 season for his first managing job. That agreement
called for annual salaries of $600,000, $700,000 and $800,000, but
Girardi was fired after one season when he clashed with management.
He led a young Florida team to a 78-84 record, keeping the
Marlins in contention. His Yankees contract includes a signing
bonus of $300,000 payable over three years, annual salaries of $2.5
million and the chance to earn performance bonuses.
Girardi pushed his Marlins hard. Will he have to alter his style
in a clubhouse filled with veterans used to Torre's laissez-faire
approach? And what about dealing with George Steinbrenner?
"I still think the Boss is the boss," he said. "I've always
enjoyed my times dealing with him."