25Q/25D: Who is Joe Girardi, Year 5?

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
8:45
AM ET

Jesse Johnson/US PresswireIf Joe Torre is the modern king of Yankee managers, Girardi is making a fine prince.
25 Questions, 25 Days: Day 21

Joe Girardi is one of those people who would be proficient at whatever he puts his mind to doing. In a workmanlike way, he examines problems and tries to find the most efficient ways to solve them.

The best example might be that Girardi was considered a very good TV baseball analyst, but his interviews as a manager are rice cracker bland. In Girardi’s world, it was advantageous to offer insight in the booth, not so much from the dugout.

His is the mind of an industrial engineer, which is what he majored in at Northwestern.

So entering Year 5 of the Girardi experience, you feel like you know what you are going to get from him, even if he never lets you know him that well.

Overall, here is the thing: He has figured out the problems that come with being the Yankees manager and he does a pretty darn good job of solving them.

If Joe Torre is the modern king of Yankee managers, Girardi is making a mighty fine prince. Torre’s success in his initial five seasons is almost unmatchable considering he won four titles, but Girardi’s record is not shabby.

In the regular season, Girardi, like Torre, is three-for-his-first four in 95-win seasons, though his one sub-95 winner included not making the playoffs. If Girardi’s 2012 Yankees were to win 103 games, he would match Torre’s 487 wins. Considering Torre won 114 in ’98, it is quite an accomplishment for Girardi to have an outside chance of catching the king.

While Torre was more of a treat to listen to in press conferences, Girardi handles his bullpen better. He does a good job of sticking to his formula to not overuse guys, which has resulted in a healthier and more effective bullpen.

Now, with a $200 million payroll, a manager is never going to receive too much credit. Manager of the Year awards generally go to a leader of a team that baseball writers didn’t think were going to be good in a given year. But then the manager makes them overachieve and receives the credit. True or not, that is how it works.

So Joe Maddon down in Tampa won the award last year, even though it may be time to acknowledge that the Rays' players may not be able to compete with the Yankees at the bank teller, but they can in any ballpark. This is to take nothing away from Maddon, whom we love as a manager. But it is to understand he, like Girardi, is not hitting or pitching. And Girardi probably could manage the Rays as well as Maddon does. In the AL, to me, Girardi -- with the starting staff he had -- was only second to Maddon in terms of managers.

What Girardi’s toughest problem to figure out going forward will likely be managing his aging stars. Jorge Posada was the hors d’ouvre last year and Giradi did OK, though, we still can’t understand why Girardi chose to embarrass Posada and bat him ninth on national TV on a Saturday night against the Red Sox. That seem uncalled for and almost vindictive to a player many claim Girardi doesn’t like.

His true test will be with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He got his initial Jeter primer in the first half of last year, when Jeter looked awful. Girardi stood behind him and led him off and Jeter rewarded him with a strong second half.

Although much is made about handling Jeter and A-Rod, Girardi will probably wait so long for them to decline that his decision will be obvious by the time he does it. He will really earn his money if he shows the toughness to make a decision when he knows it is the right move before it is the obvious one.

Girardi probably has already thought it all through and it is in his handy binder. After four years, we know this about Girardi -- he is prepared.

That’s my take, what do you think of Girardi as the Yankees’ manager?

Tomorrow: What is your ideal lineup?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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OTHER LEADERS
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