If Joe Girardi is to be believed, he never saw his split with the Yankees coming. That, as much as anything, probably was the best indicator of why it happened. The disconnect between himself and the Yankees’ operation as a whole, from the front office down to the clubhouse, sealed his fate.
That’s what we took from Monday’s dueling media briefings between the former Yankees manager and general manager Brian Cashman, who told Girardi on Oct. 26 that his services no longer would be needed in the Bronx. No debate, no negotiation. Just pack up and leave.
Cashman, by both accounts, ended Girardi’s term in perfunctory fashion, so this was something the GM had been planning for a while, with an eye toward the manager’s walk year as the time to pull the trigger.
“It was quick and to the point,” Girardi said during Monday’s 30-minute exit interview on WFAN. As for being blindsided, he added, “Yeah. I thought I would be back. I thought it was just a matter of working out a contract. But I think Brian wants something different, and he’s going to go out and try to find that.”
After 10 years as manager, you’d think Girardi would have had a better handle on his job security and his relationship with the clubhouse, which was undergoing its first youth-infused transition since the turn of the century. Throughout the Yankees’ surprising 91-win season and inspired playoff run, Girardi imagined a scenario in which it was his decision whether or not to return, repeatedly bringing up his family as maybe casting the deciding vote.
But that wasn’t the case. Cashman described a Yankees managerial situation that was in need of an upgrade, or at least an update. The only requirement? It had to be someone not named Joe Girardi.
“I made that recommendation based on a number of experiences that I was able to validate — whether it was directly or indirectly — about the connectivity and the communication level with the players in that clubhouse,” Cashman said during Monday’s conference call.
In other words, Girardi’s voice wasn’t resonating among this next generation of Yankees, and Cashman’s comments go as far as to suggest the 2017 team succeeded despite their manager.
Regardless of how Girardi was evaluated, he still helped the Yankees get to Game 7 of the ALCS against the Astros, and the team that ended their season wound up winning the World Series.
So was Girardi one victory away from preventing his dismissal? Cashman, for obvious reasons, didn’t want to indulge that hypothetical during Monday’s autopsy. Girardi had no problem, though. “It’s very possible it would have been a different outcome for me,” he said.
Our take? Based on Cashman’s steely resolve, anything short of another drive through the Canyon of Heroes would have sealed Girardi’s fate. That’s how fractured his standing had become, both with the front office and the clubhouse.
Despite Cashman’s apparent dossier of anti-Joe material, Girardi insisted Monday that he had no lasting friction with any of the players and saw no evidence to the contrary.
“From a standpoint of having a relationship issue, there were none,” he said. “And if there was, I really don’t know about it. And I don’t think my head is that far in the sand.”
Either way, there were things Girardi evidently wasn’t seeing, and maybe that part had to do with the man in the mirror. Girardi acknowledged Monday that he tends to be “extremely focused” — some detractors have used the word “intense” — and he chalked that up to his personality, saying, “I’m not going to try to be someone else.” In Cashman-speak, that came off as the deal-breaker.
“The issue and the concerns were the ability to fully engage, communicate and connect with the playing personnel,” Cashman said. “That could be a hurdle that might be insurmountable as we come to this fork in the road.”
Girardi didn’t make any waves for the Yankees on the way out, saying he is “forever grateful” for the opportunity. He did, however, schedule his own radio interview in the middle of Cashman’s nearly hour-long media session, which didn’t seem like a coincidence.