Joe Girardi knows the history as well as you do. The man was 7-0 as the Yankees manager in postseason games against the Twins.
But he advises taking nothing for granted when the teams meet again starting Friday in an ALDS.
“I think they’re definitely deeper offensively,” said Girardi, who will work the other ALDS featuring the Astros and the wild-card winner for both Fox and MLB Network. “I’m not sure you would rate their pitching staff higher than the years that we faced them, probably fairly similar.
“But I do believe that this is an offense that can put up big numbers on you. When I managed against them it seemed like we were always facing [Joe] Mauer and [Justin] Morneau. It seemed like they hit first and second, then they hit third and fourth and then they hit fifth and sixth. They were the only two guys who were ever up.
“I think this lineup is deeper and more explosive, and that makes them dangerous.”
But most of the teams the Twins beat up on en route to a major league home run record – their 307 were one more than the Yankees’ 306 – do not have pitching staffs as good as the Yankees’.
“I think they’re going to match up as well as anyone against playoff pitching, but there’s a reason you get to the playoffs: because your pitching is better,” Girardi said. “The Yankees bullpen is going to be tough.
“So I think that if you’re going to try to rely on beating the Yankees bullpen, I think you’re going to have a hard time. So you’re going to have to get some early runs and try to hold the Yankees offense down.”
Girardi, who managed the Yankees from 2008 to 2017, said he believes one of his old stars, CC Sabathia, can be a factor out of the bullpen.
“I think he could get some tough lefthanders out, I really do,” he said. “If you had left/right/left I would not be afraid to use him, because of his slider and just his competitiveness.”
Asked about Sabathia’s career as he prepares to retire at the end of the season, Girardi said, “He was a pleasure to manage. When I think about CC, I think about a guy you always wanted to give the ball to when you needed a win, a guy that you knew you could always count on, who had a toughness in him, who had an unbelievable competitiveness in him and who was just one of the greatest teammates that I ever witnessed.
“I thought CC was the full package. When you sign a free agent obviously you want the skill to be there and you want them to be dominant players, but he was the full package because of the way he was in the clubhouse and the way he led and brought everyone together.”
While Girardi’s successor, Aaron Boone, is a leading candidate for American League Manager of the Year, there are other teams that have or will part ways with managers this offseason.
The Cubs, who play near where Girardi grew up, already have done so. Girardi said he will listen to any team that expresses potential interest.
“I think it’s an honor to get a call from anyone, I really do,” he said, “because the jobs, there are so few of them and they’re precious, so yeah, I think it’s an honor to get a call from any one of them.”
If the Mets part ways with Mickey Callaway, Girardi would be a logical option. Girardi did not discuss that job, but he did answer a general question about whether the Mets should be a playoff team in 2020.
“I think there are areas they will probably target in the offseason,” he said, “but when you look at the Mets, a lot of their issues came down to the bullpen. You don’t ever want to put blame on one group, because everyone contributes. There are times when you could have scored more runs, there are times when the starters could give up less runs.
“But I think [the bullpen] is more talented than how they pitched this year, so I think just by chance you would expect that to be better, and if it’s 50 percent better, I think they would have been a playoff team this year. I do.
“Now, can you get the same production out of some of the young kids that had good years? You don’t know, but I think it has the ability to be a playoff team if they play to their ability.”
In the meantime, Girardi has a playoff series to work. He will call the games in Houston on FS1 and join the MLB Network crew for Game 3 in Oakland or St. Petersburg, Florida. They will be his first playoff games in a TV booth.
“I’m sure I will get caught up in some of the emotions of the crowd and it will probably bring back some memories for me of how loud that building [in Houston] was when we played there in 2017 and what a great series that was,” he said. “I’ll get excited about it.”