There is no team in sports, collegiate or professional, that is as recognized around the world as the New York Yankees—and with good reason. Of the 112 times the World Series has been played, they’ve been in the Fall Classic 40 times and have won it all 27 times.
Consequently, Yankee pinstripes is the uniform every baseball player dreams of wearing someday. What baseball player in his right mind wouldn’t want to wear the most recognizable uniform in the game? It doesn’t hurt that they have no problem over-paying for talent either—which makes the team a prime destination for the best players in baseball.
This in turn, makes the Yankees a dream job for managers. Or at least you would think that would be the case. What manager wouldn’t want the abundance of talent the Yankees seem to always have?
Talent is great but with the talent come expectations. Fail to live up to them and you risk getting fired.
But that’s what should happen, right? No one keeps a job when they fail to perform up to standard. So, theoretically, yes, a manager should be fired if the team doesn’t live up to expectations. But the Yankees, as an organization, have extremely high expectations. For instance, despite leading the team to 91 wins and getting within a game of the World Series, the team has decided not to bring back manager Joe Girardi.
Seems crazy, but for the Yankees, it is par for the course. As an organization, and this was especially true during the George Steinbrenner Era, they do not hesitate to drop a manager if they feel the team could or should do better.
It hasn’t mattered how well the team did during the season, just ask Casey Stenger, Yogi Berra and Dick Howser. Stengel was fired after the team lost the 1960 World Series, Berra was let go after the team lost the 1964 World Series, and Dick Howser was fired following the team’s loss in the 1980 ALCS.
Was it the right move?
After firing Stengel, the Yankees won the World Series the next two seasons. Following Berra’s dismissal, the team won 22 fewer games and failed to make the postseason for more than a decade. The year after Dick Howser was fired, they made it to the World Series but lost.
Was the success after Stengel and Howser’s dismissals because of the changes? Maybe, but the team could have been just as successful with the guys who were fired. At the same time, they might have done just as bad with Yogi Berra as they did without him.
Since taking over for the extremely successful Joe Torre back in 2008, Joe Girardi took the team to the World Series just once (2009). They won, but in ten years, it was his only appearance. He’s made it to the ALCS three times since the ’09 Series—including this season – but failed to advance.
Girardi succeeded in seeing the team through the end of the Torre Era. He managed to keep them competitive as they said goodbye to veterans long past their prime. This season should stand as proof that he succeeded in restocking the team with young talent and transitioned it from one era to a new one.
Yes, they lost in the ALCS again, but they are now primed to be in contention for years to come. So—why switch managers? Why let Girardi go and bring in someone who may have his own vision for how things should be done?
They were not expected to be a contender this season, but under Girardi’s guidance they were. The logical decision would have been to bring him back, tell him to keep doing whatever he’s doing, and if they don’t do any better next season, get rid of him then.
But, instead, they got rid of him now. Are they nuts?
In a way, yes. If it isn’t broke, why fix it? They were within a game of making it back to the World Series for the first time since 2009. With the collection of young talent on the roster, there is no reason to think they can’t get back to the same spot (if not further) next season.
So, why dump the manager?
From what news reports have said, it sounds like Joe Girardi wasn’t always the warmest guy around the clubhouse. It sounds like his relationship with the players wasn’t always the best. He’s worked on his bedside manner over the years, but it sounds like general manager Brian Cashman would prefer to have someone who doesn’t have to try so hard to relate to today’s young players.
He had the intensity and work ethic an owner dreams about his team’s manager having, but he didn’t do what matters most—win the World Series. Yes, he won one, but Joe Torre won four and played in six.
The apparent downside to letting Girardi go is the inherent risk of bringing in a new guy. What they are doing is working, so they don’t need him to make any drastic changes. The machine works pretty well already. If anything, they just need someone who can fine tune the machine and make it run better.
So, is it a colossal mistake letting Girardi go? Right now—no. He has not been bad for the team, but he hasn’t been great either. As we all know, as an organization, the Yankees are about greatness.