Friday, October 29, 2010
Joe Girardi finalizes Yankees deal
By Wallace Matthews
The Yankees manager will remain the same in 2011, but the Yankees lineup may be different.
That was the news that came out of a conference call to officially announce what a Yankees publicist termed "the worst kept secret in history," the re-signing of Joe Girardi to manage the Yankees for three more years at $3 million per season plus incentives that could add another $500,000 a year if the Yankee win the World Series.
And it was true enough that the baseball world knew this was going to happen for most of the week and probably for most of the month, after the Chicago Cubs hired Mike Quade to fill their managerial vacancy, eliminating Girardi's most likely escape hatch.
The lineup shift, however, is something Yankees observers have been speculating on all season long, especially considering leadoff hitter Derek Jeter's growing propensity for hitting the ball on the ground this season, and his increasing tendency to hit into double plays.
Asked specifically about a possible lineup shift with Jeter in 2011, Girardi tried to keep his answer as generic as possible.
"I think we have to look at our whole lineup as we go into next season," Girardi said. "I don't think you only look at the leadoff spot. I think you look at every slot and how our club is made up. But I think the lineup is something that could maybe change a little bit next year."
Jeter, of course, is a free agent for the first time in a decade, and the negotiating of a new contract for him will be GM Brian Cashman's next order of business now that the manager is back in the fold.
Where to play and bat the 36-year-old Jeter, whose range in the field also seemed to shrink this season, will be Girardi's problem.
"I think you have to look at all the parts we have next year before you decide," Girardi said. "Who's going to DH most of the time? How do you split up your lefties? Things like that. The parts are going to be different in 2011 so we'll have to evaluate what you've got first before you make any decisions."
One of the decisions Girardi will have to make soon is a replacement for pitching coach Dave Eiland, who was let go by Cashman after the season for reasons he said were "private and personal."
Girardi was not consulted about the decision beforehand nor did he seem particularly in favor of it yesterday.
"When we left on [Saturday] I talked to all my coaches ... anticipating that everyone was going to be back," he said. "I don't think I've ever anticipated not having my whole coaching staff back. [But] Cash felt it was important that we make a change. So I said basically, 'OK. You gotta move on.'"
Girardi said that he and Cashman have started "brainstorming" about candidates but that no one had been approached yet. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey, who filled in for Eiland during Eiland's still unexplained month-long leave of absence from the club in June will be one of the internal candidates interviewed, as will Scott Aldred, the pitching coach of the Yankees Triple-A affiliate in Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
Girardi said rumors that he might be interested in returning to Chicago, where he grew up and played for seven of his 12 major-league seasons, had no real foundation.
"My focus the whole time was on our club," he said. "I didn't really think about leaving the Yankees. I enrolled my kids in school here. If I was going to leave I might have enrolled my kids somewhere else. My thought process always was I was going to be back."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.