Over the weekend, Bronx Pinstripes spoke with WFAN Radio’s Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti on the future of the organization following Joe Girardi’s dismissal as manager. The full Q&A can be found below.
Q: Did the Yankees’ dismissal of Joe Girardi surprise you in any way? Was the writing on the wall?
SM: Yeah, I was surprised. Just based on record, he’s done very well for a long period of time. Over the last couple of years, there were no obvious signs of discord between all the parties. I think in the end when you kind of slice it here, it looks like the idea of, ‘OK, his contract was up this year. It wasn’t up last year, it wasn’t up next year. It was up this year.’ And you have to decide, do you want to sign on for this relationship again for three or four years, and I think that was the answer. People are now making up this relationship between [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman and Girardi. He did sign him back two other times, you know. I don’t think it was this long, drawn-out thing. I think it was the idea of, ‘OK, you’re ready to move forward here, and do you want to make a change for the next three or four years or keep it going?’ And that’s what they decided.
Q: If Girardi was under contract for one more season, do you think the Yankees still would’ve made a move?
SM: No, that’s my point. I don’t think they would’ve let him go. I don’t think they would’ve fired him. I think the idea was, ‘OK, you have the ability to make a change right now. Do you want to do it?’ Everything you’re hearing right now, those are all factors that went into the decision, but I would be shocked if they made a move with time left on his contract. And listen, if his contract had been up last year, and you were talking about missing the playoffs a year after the Wild Card loss and then missing the playoffs for the third time in four years, this isn’t as big of an uproar — it’s hardly a ripple. You’re looking at changing the direction of the team with young stars on the rise. Then it’s just a new direction. So I think the timing of his contract, the fourth year that he got on this deal, really was what shaded this a lot differently.
Q: Was this move reminiscent to what occurred in 1995 with Buck Showalter relieved of his duties and Joe Torre brought in as the next manager?
SM: I don’t see it. I think that was George Steinbrenner being George Steinbrenner back then. I don’t think they’re similar at all. I think the decision factors here are a whole lot different. That was just George changing managers. I mean, he had the same manager [in Showalter] for four years. He was probably dying to do something. I don’t think the same decision factors lined up here. I mean, you know the story. Even after hiring Torre, [Steinbrenner] went back and tried to hire Showalter again. He went to his house and tried to hire him back. I can assure you Brian Cashman is not going to be driving to Joe Girardi’s house to re-hire him a month after he hires a new manager. I think it’s a completely different situation. I understand the reason. You’re going based off of a guy who made the playoffs and who at the time was considered a good manager of a team on the rise. I think the rest is coincidence.
Q: Did you ever feel at a point during the season that they maybe needed a different voice?
SM: I hadn’t considered that. I think all possibilities are open at the end of the season. Given where they were at the end of the August, you could’ve seen this team maybe missing the playoffs. But I never looked at any point during the season thinking they were going to fire him.
Q: Was Girardi ever treated unfairly solely because he wasn’t Joe Torre?
SM: I just wrote about this yesterday (story can be found here). I think we all treated [Girardi] unfairly in comparison to Joe Torre. I wrote that it was unfair because he didn’t act like Joe Torre, he didn’t manage like Joe Torre, he didn’t talk like Joe Torre, and he certainly didn’t win like Joe Torre. And most of the reasons those didn’t happen were completely out of his control, especially the winning part.
The personality is completely different. They’re two different people. Why should we have expected him to act like Joe Torre when he wasn’t Joe Torre? And another reason why I think he’s unfairly compared is that Joe Torre got to manage Hall-of-Fame players on their way up, and Joe Girardi got to manage them on their way down. That’s a big difference. Girardi had to handle a messy divorce. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, they were at times messy, and Joe Torre never had to deal with any of that. Joe Girardi’s the one that had to deal with Alex Rodriguez, all of that PED stuff, the end of his contract, and the ends of Jeter and Posada’s runs. That’s not easy to do.
Murti goes further in depth on this question in his story.
Q: Mark Teixeira said earlier in the week that Girardi sort of treats every game like it’s a Game 7. Maybe this year was a little too stressful for him based on the circumstances?
SM: There were times where I guess you could tell maybe Girardi didn’t know how to reel it back a little bit, but again, that’s his personality. You saw how emotional he got talking after some of these games. That’s him. His emotions are kind of boiling to the surface here. And that’s what he displays. Here’s the thing: If that personality trait turned players off, they didn’t stop playing for him. You had managers who had lost their teams. Well, I don’t think Joe Girardi was ever accused of losing his players, losing the clubhouse. They all played for him. They didn’t let that get away.
Again, I’m not here to tell you that Joe Girardi should still be the manager of the Yankees. That’s obviously not my call. Now that the decision has been made, everyone’s piling on and saying, ‘Well, there was this, there was that.’ OK, maybe there were some things. Obviously, there were because that’s why he’s not managing anymore. But it would be unfair to portray his ten-year run as having all these potholes in them as opposed to a guy who never had a losing record despite rosters that probably should’ve finished under .500 a couple of times.
Q: All doors may be open at this point, but should the Yankees aim for an in-house hire, or find a candidate from the outside?
SM: I think finding someone they believe is the right manager is the right choice, whether that’s in-house or not. It’s going to sound silly, but whoever [Cashman] chooses is going to be the right choice. He’s going to know that he’s picking the guy he wants. Now, whether all that adds up to a World Series, I don’t know. But again, I think it’s going to be unfair to say you’ve got to win three World Series in a row or four out of five because I just don’t think that’s possible anymore. I think a lot of luck has to be in your corner to make that happen again. So I don’t know how to measure the next guy by predicting a certain set of outcomes, but I think the Yankees believe they’re going to be in the World Series in one of the next two years, so I think that’s going to be where you manage the success of the next of manager.
Q: Is there a chance the Yankees clean house?
SM: I would think there’s room for some continuity. I think you have to be careful when you’re doing that. I do think they have people on staff who they like and would be willing to keep. And I think they’re being very fair to them by saying, ‘Listen, this process might take a little while. If you want to go look for a job, I’m not holding it back. Your contract is up. So go talk to somebody else. Contracts are up on Oct. 31. I’m not hiring a new manager before Oct. 31. So go talk to another team. Go see what your options are.’ So that’s the kind of thing that’s happening. I think it would be extreme [to clean house], but if these guys find other jobs, maybe that’s what it’s going to have to be. I don’t see a new manager coming in with his entirely new staff from different places and not having any continuity at all from the current staff.
Q: Who do you think is the best candidate for the job?
SM: I can’t say I have one in mind. I know [bench coach] Rob Thomson and [third base coach] Joe Espada have manager aspirations, and I think both are very well-prepared to be managers. I can’t see the future and tell you if they’ll be good managers. At some point, it becomes about the horses, not the jockeys. But I do believe that both of those guys know an awful lot about baseball, and they’re very good at teaching it and communicating it. So I think that helps in regard to them being considered candidates from the in-house staff. Otherwise, [Mets hitting coach] Kevin Long has come close to a couple of jobs, and he has the same attributes that I mentioned in those other guys, and he has some ties here.
Q: Should Al Pedrique, the Yankees’ Triple-A manager, be considered as a legitimate candidate?
SM: Absolutely. I thought about this last year, actually, after the successful season he had in Triple-A. And I said, ‘When is his name going to come up for a major league manager?’ There’s a lot of talk about Latin-American candidates, minority candidates and things like that and here’s Al Pedrique, who’s been doing a good job in Triple-A for two years in a row. If you’re going back from 2013-on, he’s been in the Yankee organization for five years. He’s had Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino across multiple levels in the minor league system. And he’s more recently had Gleyber Torres for a short period of time.
He definitely has his fingerprints on what the Yankees have done to get these guys to the big league level. And I have not heard a bad word about him from guys who have come up through the minors. They’ve raved about playing for Al Pedrique. I don’t know how the Yankees view him in his total preparedness for this job, but I don’t think it should be lost on anyone that he’s worked with all these players for multiple years and they all say great things about him.
Q: I have to ask. Just have to. There’s no chance with A-Rod, right?
SM: No. Could you imagine Brian Cashman signing A-Rod up as manager? There are a lot of reasons why that’s just not going to happen.
Q: What are your thoughts on baseball evolving into a game heavily reliant on analytics and advanced statistics? Seems like the Yankees are in search of a manager who relies on analytics.
SM: If you talk to people in the organization, they’ve been informed of and using these numbers for a long time, and they’ve implemented this stuff for a very long time. I guess it’s the flow of communication, maybe, that is more of an issue, and maybe a manager who isn’t dissecting all of it. You’d be dumb not to look at the information. The old point going back to Moneyball was that sometimes the eyes lie to you and you can’t solely rely on old-fashioned scouting. But you do have to take it into consideration.
Q: How much pressure is on Cashman to nail this decision?
SM: I think he feels the pressure to make sure the team is moving in the right direction. I think he feels the innate pressure. I don’t think he’s going to feel the pressure of this one decision because I think he feels it on all of them. He’s made trades and he’s made moves with players, believing all along that he was going to be right. A lot of things that he has wanted to do has gotten them to this point, gotten them to the point where you can envision the Yankees’ success again, to the measure of what the Yankees are supposed to be measured by. I don’t think he thinks he’s going to necessarily make it or break it on this one decision because there are too many other things happening. But I think he knows his chance to put his team in this next position for the next three or four years. And it’s important in that regard, just because he has to go out and trade for another starter or sign another starter or sign a free agent. All those decisions are just as meaningful. So I don’t think he separates one from the other. I do think he understands the gravity of his job.
Q: Is someone new really going to take this team to the next level, or would chances be equal with Joe?
SM: I guess there’s no way to really answer that because you don’t get to run it on parallel tracks. I said it before, it’s more about the horses than the jockeys, but certainly, there’s going to be a large amount of influence on whoever the manager is and where they go.
I think we know that the Yankees are under a certain amount of pressure now. One, they made it to Game 7 of the ALCS. Two, they have a boat-load of young talent that is the envy of a lot of people in this game, and if this group stays healthy, they have an opportunity to be good for a long time. Three, this bonanza free-agent class [in 2019] if even three-quarters of it make it to free agency, the Yankees are setting themselves up to make a run at some pretty big names. Let’s say the next manager gets a three-year contract. If he doesn’t win a World Series in those three years, something has gone traumatically wrong.