(Long Island, NY) Nothing could take the sting away from losing a manager (and person) such as Joe Torre. His 12 years as the Yankees’ field boss will go down in team history, as it should. But the page has been turned and the organization has moved on by naming former Yankee catcher Joe Girardi as the 32nd manager in team history.
A press conference was held on Thursday at Yankee Stadium and Girardi posed for photographs with his number27 pinstriped jersey, choosing the digit to signify the next Yankees championship.
“It’s a tremendous time to have this opportunity,” Girardi told reporters at the press conference. “To be a part of the history here, and then to be a part of it in the new stadium, it’s really neat.”
This will be Girardi’s third tenure in the Bronx, counting his playing days and 2005, when he served as Torre’s bench coach and catching instructor. He was chosen after beating out Don Mattingly and Tony Pena for the much sought-after job, which comes with as much controversy as it does fanfare.
Although George Steinbrenner has taken a back seat of late, his two sons, Hank and Hal, have been up front running the organization, but both chose to sit out the introductory press conference. Brian Cashman represented the front office, and the general manager explained to the mass of reporters the decision process.
“I wanted someone that understood the complexity of the Yankee organization,” Cashman said. “We’re a very complex situation, whether you’re dealing with the media, the New York fan base, the expectations.
“Whoever hits the ground running, they’re not getting caught up to speed and having a learning curve added on,” he continued. “It wasn’t one thing that stands out. There were several things that stood out for me to help me gravitate to Joe Girardi.”
The Yankee tradition is something that Girardi hopes to carry on, and he will be fondly remembered for a third-inning triple off Greg Maddux in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series versus the Atlanta Braves. That night, the Bronx Bombers secured their first championship since 1978. A 15-year major league veteran, Girardi was also a member of the 1998 and 1999 World Series champion Yankees.
After a successful season working as Torre’s right-hand man, Girardi was hired to manage the young Florida Marlins and kept the team in the playoff hunt until the final month, winning the 2006 National League Manager of the Year award. Although he guided the Fish to a surprising 78-win campaign, he was fired due to differences with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
Waiting for the right opportunity, Girardi decided to sit back last season and not take the first opening that came up, even from his hometown (and former team) Chicago Cubs. He was hired by the YES network as a broadcaster and analyst, so he has a good idea of what the current Yankee roster can do.
“I was a part of about 35 games watching the Yankees,” said Girardi. “I think, as a club, there’s always areas you can improve. The New York Yankees have a chance to go to the World Series.”
And the ultimate goal in Yankee-land is to not only reach the Fall Classic, but to win that elusive championship number 27.