Communication is an essential component to healthy relationships, and Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman just didn’t see his ex-skipper make a strong effort to connect with players in the clubhouse.
In a nearly hour-long teleconference with reporters on Monday afternoon, Cashman publicly explained his rationale for relieving Joe Girardi of his managerial duties back on Oct. 26 — five days after the club’s Game 7 ALCS loss to the Astros in Houston.
According to Cashman, the disconnect between Girardi and his core of young players was the motivating factor for moving on from the 53-year-old manager, whose four-year contract with New York expired this offseason.
“I think over time, I’ve demonstrated I’m not afraid of making a very difficult choice,” said Cashman, whose own new deal to remain in the Yankees’ front office has been all but finalized. “I could recommend plug-and-play and move forward, or, as we try to be in an ever-evolving, progressive franchise, was it time for a new voice and a fresh voice? I made the recommendation based on over a number of years now, some experiences that I was able to validate — whether it was directly or indirectly — about the connectivity and the communication level of the players in the clubhouse.
“Obviously, you have seen a complete transition from where we were a year ago, which was a lot of top-heavy, veteran-orientated clubhouse to now a young, energetic group of talented personnel. Over time, I felt we were in the same situations shortly before when we had the veterans. Once that cleared out, we had the opportunity to re-engage and re-connect and maybe have channels open up a little easier. When I saw that wasn’t happening to the level I think was necessary moving forward, that’s when the recommendation came by myself to Hal Steinbrenner.”
Based on Cashman’s responses, the relationship with Girardi simply ran its course. And no, some of Girardi’s moot decisions — including his controversial gaffe with the replay system in ALDS Game 2 — didn’t influence the breakup. Cashman also mentioned that his relationship with Girardi didn’t fizzle out, despite several reports suggesting otherwise.
Simultaneously, as Cashman spoke with the media, Girardi was in the midst of an interview with Mike Francesa on WFAN Radio, opposing Cashman’s judgement that he failed to relate or bond with players.
“I think Brian was looking for something a little bit different. Evidently, I didn’t fit the mold and it was time to move on,” said Girardi, who completed his 10th season as Yankees’ manager in 2017. “There are some times that you have to make decisions about who plays, and I think guys get disappointed, but from a standpoint of having a relationship issue, there were none. And if there was, I really didn’t know about it.”
Although Girardi was disappointed by the news of his departure, he hasn’t held any grudges.
“I’m thankful — Brian took a chance on me,” Girardi said. “There were other people who wanted to be the manager, he took a chance on me so I’ll be forever grateful. He gave me 10 great years. I don’t have a problem with Brian. I’m thankful and I’ll always be thankful.”
At the moment, the Yankees’ process to find Girardi’s replacement is in its infant stages, and their list of candidates has yet to be formally arranged, according to Cashman.
“Will there be internal candidates? Yes,” Cashman said. “But there will be external candidates as well who will have legitimate shots. Whether I have a relationship with the candidates’ pool is not going to be the driving force behind the decision. The ultimate decision comes down to who best fits this present state the franchise is in as we move forward.”
Cashman also didn’t rule out the possibility of hiring someone with little or no experience in the role. And yes, that technically means Alex Rodriguez could receive an interview with the Yankee brass.
“You are going to have weigh a lot of different things. So somebody who hasn’t [managed], they are going to have to be exceptional in other aspects for you to take a chance like that, but there will be people that I interview that don’t have managerial experience in their background as well,” Cashman said. “It’s a very diverse list of people that I have interest in talking with.”
Although there’s still value in the traditional methods of scouting, baseball has evolved into a game that’s heavily reliant on advanced analytics, and the Yankees have stressed the importance of finding a new manager with exceptional knowledge on the subject. A few recent reports suggested that Girardi was not a proponent of this trend, but he denied it on-air with Francesa.