In six years as Yankees manager, Joe Girardi has won a World Series once and missed the playoffs twice. He’s seen the death of George Steinbrenner and the retirement of Jorge Posada. He’s benched Alex Rodriguez, trusted A.J. Burnett, and orchestrated Mariano Rivera’s emotional farewell. He’s seen Derek Jeter struggle, bounce back, break his ankle and struggle to stay on the field.
But after signing a four-year deal that will keep him on the Yankees bench through 2017, Girardi’s greatest challenges might very well be ahead of him, whether he chooses to think of it that way or not.
“I don’t look at that,” Girardi said. “I have faith in our organization that they’re going to give us whatever we need and whatever they can to make this the best team that we can be, and to be a championship caliber club. I know there’s a lot of things to answer to this year, question marks that we have, but I have faith.”
Faith is big with Girardi. He’s a religious man, but he’s also a loyal and trusting man. He believes in his players, believes in his front office and believes in ownership. There was no doubting him when he said he fully expects to win another championship in these next four years. There ws also no doubting him when he said he was prepared for a challenge. He’d have to be.
Robinson Cano is a free agent. So is Curtis Granderson. So are three-fifths of the Yankees regular rotation. Jeter and Mark Teixeira are coming back from serious injuries, most of the outfield is aging and the bullpen is relatively untested. No one knows whether Rodriguez is going to play next season.
All of the faith and loyalty in the world can’t let a man ignore those facts.
“I think there is obviously a lot more work to do this offseason than there has been in the past, just because of retirement, free agency, players leaving and having to build certain areas of your club,” Girardi said. “Not knowing who your five starters are, not knowing who your bullpen is going to be, certain positions on the diamond not sure if they’re going to be there. I did look at that. That doesn’t scare me. That’s part of the game and that’s part of the challenge. As a competitor, I like challenges, so I look forward to them.”
The final year of Girardi’s new contract is also the final year of Rodriguez’s contract. If CC Sabathia’s vesting option kicks in, he’ll also be there in 2017, but that’s it. Those are the only current Yankees under contract through the length of Girardi’s new deal, and the Yankees front office has a stated goal of cutting payroll while preparing for those inevitable personnel changes.
Girardi is a man of faith and loyalty, he’s by-the-book, and by signing a new contract in this time of transition, he’s a source of real stability heading into a period of absolute uncertainty.
He might be perfectly suited for the job. It might also be a full four years before we know for certain.
Associated Press photo