HOUSTON — For the first time in a decade, the Yankees are in the market for a manager.
Joe Girardi, who was in the final year of his contract, will not return, the club announced Thursday morning. Girardi spent 10 years as manager, including this season, when the Yankees surprised many by advancing to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
“I want to thank Joe for his 10 years of hard work and service to this organization,” said general manager Brian Cashman, whose contract is up at the end of the month but is expected to sign a new one soon. “Everything this organization does is done with careful and thorough consideration, and we’ve decided to pursue alternatives for the managerial position.”
Cashman made the recommendation to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who signed off on it, according to a source.
“As Hal Steinbrenner and I mentioned to Joe directly this week, he has been a tremendous Yankee on the field and away from it, as a player, coach and manager,” Cashman’s statement said. “He has a tireless work ethic, and put his heart into every game he managed over the last decade. He should take great pride in our accomplishments during his tenure, and I wish Joe and his family nothing but success and happiness in the future.”
All indications pointed to Girardi wanting to return for an 11th season and beyond, but Cashman preferred to go in another direction with a team that seems poised to be a power in the American League for years to come.
“With a heavy heart, I come to you because the Yankees have decided not to bring me back,” Girardi, 53, said in a statement released by his agent Thursday. “I’d like to thank the Steinbrenner family for believing in me and giving me this wonderful opportunity.”
Sources have said Cashman’s relationship with Girardi, whom he hired to replace Joe Torre after the 2007 season, gradually worsened in recent years, largely because the GM worried that the manager’s ever-burning intensity wore on players over the long season.
There has been an industry shift in recent years of hiring managers who are known first and foremost as excellent communicators — with the two in the World Series, A.J. Hinch of the Astros and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers, as examples.
Then there were the recent hires by two teams to which the Yankees always pay close attention. The Mets and Red Sox selected managers with excellent reputations for establishing tight-knit relationships with players, something Girardi didn’t excel at. The Mets selected Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Alex Cora, the Astros’ bench coach, will join the Red Sox after the World Series.
But it would be unfair to paint Girardi as some kind of uncaring martinet.
“Thank you, Joe,” reliever David Robertson wrote on Twitter. “My career wouldn’t have been the same without you. It was a privilege.”
Players over the years have said that although Girardi’s personal touch was never a strength, there was little doubt about his commitment to them. Players appreciated that he never hesitated to back them on the field in disputes, whether with opposing players or umpires, and that he rarely, if ever, ripped a player in the media.
Additionally, Girardi, while seeing the value of the increasing reliance on analytics, occasionally balked at suggestions that came from “upstairs,” a reference to the Yankees’ analytics department, the largest in baseball.
Questions about whether Girardi would return next season intensified in the postseason. Girardi failed to ask for a video review of a hit-by-pitch call in a Game 2 loss to the Indians in the ALDS. Girardi owned up to the mistake a day later, telling reporters he “screwed up.” The Yankees won the next three games to stun the defending American League champion Indians, then took the Astros to seven games in the ALCS.
Girardi’s replacement already is being discussed internally. Cashman has said he believes in hiring a manager with whom he has some kind of relationship.
Bench coach Rob Thomson, who has spent 28 years in the organization, is sure to get an interview. Third-base coach Joe Espada, whose name came up in the Tigers’ discussions about their manager’s job that went to Ron Gardenhire, could be a long-shot candidate.
Other names sure to be mentioned include Jay Bell, the Florida State League manager of the year for his work with the Yankees’ high Class A Tampa team, and Al Pedrique, who earned back-to-back International League manager of the year honors with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Pedrique has managed many of the Yankees’ young stars, including Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez.
Girardi was a major-league catcher for 15 seasons, including four with the Yankees during their dynasty years from 1996-1999. He also played for the Cubs, Rockies and Cardinals. He was a good defensive player and batted .267 with 36 homers and 422 RBIs.
He retired after the 2003 season and was hired as the Marlins’ manager three years later. He went 78-84 in his lone season with the Marlins.
During his tenure, the Yankees reached the playoffs six times, winning the World Series in 2009. Girardi went 910-710 (.562), with his regular-season wins ranking sixth in franchise history. None of his Yankees teams had a losing record. The Yankees went 91-71 this year and reached the postseason as a wild card.
Joe Girardi finished his Yankees managerial career with the sixth-most wins among pinstriped skippers:
Manager W-L Pct.
Joe McCarthy 1,460-867 .627
Joe Torre 1,173-767 .605
Casey Stengel 1,149-696 .623
Miller Huggins 1,067-719 .597
Ralph Houk 944-806 .539
Joe Girardi 910-710.562
NO ORDINARY JOES
Joe Torre and his successor, Joe Girardi, called the shots in the Yankees’ dugout for the past 22 years. Comparing their records in the Bronx:
12 (1996-2007) SEASONS10 (2008-17)
10DIV. TITLES 3
6 WS APP.1
4WS TITLES 1