He only won a single World Series in New York, but Joe Girardi doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what he did with the Yankees.
However, the next eight seasons were a roller coaster and 2009 would be the first and last championship Girardi, 55, the current Philadelphia Phillies’ manager, would win as Yankee manager.
But let’s set the record straight, despite winning only one championship, Girardi squeezed every ounce he could out of his Yankees teams.
In 2008, Joe Girardi’s first season as the Yankees’ manager, the Yankees failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1993, but the 2008 offseason brought starting pitchers C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, to the Bronx with first baseman Mark Teixeira for nearly a total of $420 million.
On paper, the 2010 Yankees might have been better than the 2009 team. They traded for center fielder Curtis Granderson and they brought Javier Vazquez back to the Bronx after he finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting in 2009, however, the Vazquez move didn’t work out for the Yankees. The Yankees were the American League Wild Card with 95 wins. They swept the Twins in the ALDS for a second-straight year, only to fall in six games to Cliff Lee and 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton’s Rangers in the ALCS.
In the series, the Yankees’ bats went silent. Alex Rodriguez had a .190 batting average, right fielder Nick Swisher hit .191, Brett Gardner, .179, and Texiera didn’t register a hit before getting injured in Game 4. Besides Andy Pettite and Sabathia, who won 20 games in 2010, the pitching imploded. 18-game winner Phil Hughes had an 11.42 ERA in two starts, while David Robertson and Boone Logan had ERA’s over 20 in three relief appearances each.
The 2011 Yankees were much of the same team Yankees with minor changes. Russell Martin came over from the Dodgers to start at catcher, while 39-year-old Jorge Posada moved to DH, rookie pitcher Ivan Nova broke out with a 16-4 record, and Rafael Soriano was added to the bullpen after an All-Star season with the Rays. But it was the same story as 2010, the big bats went cold, the pitching imploded, and the 97 regular-season wins resulted in an ALDS exit to Detriot.
No Girardi couldn’t bat cleanup nor could he pitch.
Injuries and bad luck were always a factor for Joe Girardi’s Yankees teams
In 2012 all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, however, the still Yankees edged-out Baltimore for a division title and then beat them in a five-game ALDS. Any hope of the AL pennant went out the window when Derek Jeter broke his ankle in the 12th inning of game one of the ALCS against the Tigers — the Yankees were eventually swept.
2013 and 2014 served as the farewell tours for Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. However, those celebrations overshadowed some mediocre and sometimes horrific baseball, along with a lot of off-field sagas.
Besides All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano and a trade deadline resurgence from outfielder Alfonso Soriano, Girardi was making lineup cards with the names like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds (batting cleanup) while sprinkling in Chris Stewart, Ziolo Almonte, Jayson Nix, and the Yankees’ most coveted free agent signing, Kevin Youkilis (seriously).
The 2013 Yankees’ headlines mostly didn’t have to do with their play. Alex Rodriguez was at the forefront of a Biogenesis PEDs scandal. MLB suspended Rodriguez for 211 games, but he played in 44 games while appealing his suspension. Now all the off-field distractions made their way on the field. Yet Girardi defended A-Rod and got his team ready to play at all costs. Remarkably, that Yankee team won 85 games.
In the winter of 2013, Brian Cashman tried to emulate what he did in the winter of 2008 by singing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Masahiro Tanaka for almost a collective $400 million. This was also to partially make up for the loss of Cano, who left New York for a 10-year, $240 million contract from Seattle.
2014 started excitingly when Tanaka was unbeatable, but a partially torn UCL derailed the second half of his season. Brian Roberts, Yangervis Solarte, and Kelly Johnson, who became the trade deadline acquisitions of Stephen Drew and Chase Headley couldn’t help keep the Yankees stay afloat in Jeter’s final season. But once again Girardi squeezed 84 wins out of mediocrity.
2015 was fun, the 2013 offseason signees had bounce-back years, A-Rod and Teixeira put together All-Star seasons for the last time, and Didi Gregorius replaced Jeter excellently. The 88-win Yankees faltered in September but still claimed the first wild card spot (they would lose to the Astros in the 2015 wild card game).
The Yankees’ 2015 offseason was headlined by trades for closer Aroldis Chapman and middle infielder Starlin Castro. But when the team couldn’t maintain their 2015 success, it was clear the Yankees had to rebuild. Cashman sold off Beltran, Chapman, Nova, and relief pitcher Andrew Miller to rebuild the farm system and get the “Baby Bombers” some playing time.
While Aaron Judge and Luis Severino struggled, it was a growing period. However, Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene in late 2016 with 20 home runs in 53 games, propelling the Yankees into the playoff conversation into late September. With the Yankees were entering a new era, Girardi’s job was in question after one playoff appearance in four years.
Girardi got a young team in a lost 2016 season within striking distance of the postseason. Could he do it for the entire 2017 season? Well, the 23-year-old Severino became an ace, Sanchez was solid when healthy, and Aaron Judge became, well you know, Aaron Judge. The Yankees won 91 games out of nowhere and were back in the wild card game, where they defeated the Twins.
The baby bomber excitement seemed over when the Yankees fell down 2-0 to the Indians in the ALDS. During Game 2, Girardi botched a replay decision not to challenge a hit-by-pitch. Yet, the Yankees came back by winning three straight to win the series. They would then take the 2017 Astros to seven games in the ALCS.
The Yankees’ bats went quiet in Games 6 and 7, and a few weeks later the Yankees and Girardi parted ways. But let’s be honest, it’s more fun for everyone to say the reason the Yankees didn’t win the 2017 American League crown is because of the Astros’ cheating scandal.
Either way, another Girardi team with little expectations made it within one game of the World Series (garbage cans or no garbage cans). He did the same thing with the 2013-2016 teams that had little business playing meaningful games in late September, and it’s not like Girardi was coming out of the bullpen or hitting in the middle of the order for the Yankees in the 2010-2012 postseason.
Lost in the shuffle of all this is that he did in-fact win that championship in 2009.
Yankee manager greats Casey Stengel and Joe Torre have their numbers retired in Monument Park, maybe somewhere down the road, Girardi will be next?