Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seat could get warm fast for Girardi

Joe Girardi has never had it easy here.

That's to be expected when you're the manager of the New York Yankees, of course, but Girardi's path has been especially thorny. Consider the facts:

▪ When Girardi was named the Yankees' manager in late 2007, he had to beat out a beloved franchise superstar to get the job in Don Mattingly.
▪ He was replacing a hugely successful figure who had become an institution on the New York sports landscape in Joe Torre.
▪ Yankee ownership was turning over for the first time in decades as George Steinbrenner officially ceded power to sons Hal and Hank.
▪ General manager Brian Cashman was in the midst of molding a franchise philosophy shift, one that would rely heavily on unproven young prospects to march the club to a 13th consecutive postseason appearance.

Well, we all know what happened next. Torre and Mattingly headed off to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers eventually advanced to the NLCS. Back in the Bronx, Hal lurked in the shadows as Hank provided lots of bark and zero bite. On the field, the kids fizzled and injuries battered the lineup and rotation. Eighty-nine wins wasn't nearly enough to keep the Stadium from being dark in its final October.

Somewhat surprisingly, Girardi didn't catch much in the way of heat, not for the club's subpar play anyway. A contentious relationship developed between Girardi and the media as the season moved along, but the Yankee brass and fanbase remained largely behind the first-year skipper. It was understood that 2008 was somewhat of a "transition year", even if in Yankee Land a transition year included a $230 million payroll.

Girardi enters a new world in 2009, a season that will largely define his future in the organization. With a shiny new Stadium and corporate boxes to fill, the Yankees went borderline insane during free agency, investing $421 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira. The youth movement was shelved as the club decided 2009 was a season to go all-in.

In one wild spending spree, the expectations of this Yankees team changed dramatically. Never mind the fact that two of the best teams in baseball resided in the AL East or that the Yankees were still loaded with thirty-something players on the precipice of decline. The Yankees were now expected to return to the World Series after a five-year drought.

If they don't? Well, you can expect changes and it's certainly possible that Girardi could be the fall guy.

Not that we can feel too bad for ol' Joe. He could be managing the Kansas City Royals with Bob Hamelin batting cleanup. He has a coveted job and he's in a great position. Beyond that, Girardi played here and he knows full well the expectations that go along with the gig. But if he thought his job was tough before, he's in for a rude awakening.

The real pressure is just beginning.


Ron said...

The youth movement was shelved

How is this statement even remotely true? CC, Teixeira, and Swisher are all 28 years old. Joba (23) will be in the starting rotation and, if Andy doesn't come to his senses, so will Hughes (22).

Doesn't sound like they've abandoned the youth movement at all.

(BTW, the rest of the article is pretty good.)

DH said...

Maybe 'shelved' isn't the right word, but philosophy has definitely shifted back toward leaning on well-established players. The CC and AJ signings showed the team was no longer going to rely on Hughes (and to a lesser extent, Kennedy) to lead the rotation into the next decade.

Joba remains a constant in the organization's eyes, of course. Let's just help hoss can stay healthy.

thanks for reading ron,