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New York Yankees

Assessing the Joe Girardi era for the Yankees

New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi (28) during the seventh inning of the Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. New York defeated Cleveland 11-7. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

If you Google Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi’s name and click on “news,” you will see a number of articles wondering if Girardi is on the hot seat this year, wondering if he’s the right man for “this” job (more on that in a bit), or wondering if there’s pressure on him to win this season. It’s typical for the manager of the New York Yankees to have those kinds of articles written about him on a daily basis, and Girardi knew this when he took the job following the 2007 season.

Girardi is about to enter his 10th season as the Yankees’ manager and the team, as constructed at this very moment, is still somewhat of a work in progress with more questions than answers. GM Brian Cashman said this week that he’s “99.9 percent” done making moves, and that the Yankees will probably going into camp as is. So it seems as though Girardi has got his work cut out for him in 2017, which also happens to be the last year of his contract.

And that’s nothing new for the former catcher. He had a big hill to climb as soon as he started managing the club.

Girardi came on as manager after the Yankees had a rather tumultuous split with former skipper Joe Torre in late 2007. Following in Torre’s shoes wouldn’t be easy for anyone, but Girardi did the best he could. His first season saw the Yankees miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 1995; however, that wasn’t Girardi’s fault. The Yankees won 89 games in 2008, but Tampa Bay and Boston won 97 and 95, respectively. If the Yankees were in the American League Central that year, they would have tied for first place with the Chicago White Sox. The team also had guys like Darrell Rasner and Sidney Ponson in its starting rotation, so that alone could tell you that the 2008 team wasn’t going to be playoff bound.

After missing the playoffs, ownership went hog wild during the 2008-09 offseason, acquiring Nick Swisher, signing free agent pitchers A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia, and stealing free agent slugger Mark Teixeira from the Boston Red Sox at the last minute.

The 2009 season started off with Alex Rodriguez admitting he took steroids while he was with Texas during a press conference in Spring Training. He also went on to miss the first month of play after hip surgery. The team itself got off to a slow start. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t playing like a team with an exorbitant payroll.

The Yankees opened their bright and shiny new Stadium to a lot of pomp and circumstance on April 16, 2009, only to get beaten by the Cleveland Indians, 10-2. Things wouldn’t start clicking for Girardi’s Yankees until mid-May, when they rattled off a nine-game winning streak from May 13 until May 21. During that streak, they walked off three times in a row against the Minnesota Twins and it started to feel like the offseason spending spree was finally paying off.

The Yankees finally took over first place in the American League East on July 20, where they would remain until season’s end. They went on to win 103 games—the highest total during Girardi’s tenure—and headed into the playoffs with the best record in baseball. They swept the Minnesota Twins in the Division Series, beat the Los Angeles Angels in six to win the franchise’s 40th pennant, and they beat the defending-champion Philadelphia Phillies to capture the club’s 27th World Series Championship.

April 13, 2010: Los Angeles Angels Vs. New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium opening day - Yankees legends Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford shake Manager Joe Girardi's hand as he is presented with his World Series ring in a ceremony. (Anthony J. Causi/Icon Sportswire)

April 13, 2010: Los Angeles Angels Vs. New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium opening day – Yankees legends Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford shake Manager Joe Girardi’s hand as he is presented with his World Series ring in a ceremony. (Anthony J. Causi/Icon Sportswire)

Girardi, who wore 27 during 2008 and 2009, changed his uniform number to 28 in 2010 because the Yankees were in pursuit of their 28th championship. It’s now 2017; Girardi’s still wearing that number.

The Yankees during that time have made the American League Championship Series twice and lost (2010 and 2012); they’ve lost in the first round once (2011) and they made the Wild Card Game in 2015. They’ve also had three more seasons of not making the playoffs (2013, 2014 and 2016).

Not making the playoffs has been a product of Yankees’ ownership changing their philosophy and going from a team that would buy anything that moved to them suddenly deciding that they couldn’t spend more than the $189M luxury tax threshold. As a result, the front office made some questionable moves during their so-called frugal years, like letting Robinson Cano walk and then signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153M contract.

During that time, Girardi adapted to everything that ownership threw at him, and while there have been some ups and downs during his time as manager, he’s survived.

After the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2013, people speculated that if Girardi didn’t lead the 2014 squad to the playoffs, he’d be fired. Well, Girardi is about to hit a decade as Yankees manager, and even though New York hasn’t been able to bring home that elusive 28th championship, he has proven to be the one to handle the ups and downs of the job, and Yankee fans should consider themselves lucky to have someone as steady as him at the helm.

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