Joe Girardi could very well end up like Bryce Harper, making good money from a team that wasn’t his first choice. If, that is, the Cubs are indeed Girardi’s first choice and he ends up being passed over for a rookie manager. The former Marlins and Yankees skipper has actually been a candidate with the Cubs twice before, in 2006 and ’13, and is assumed to be again even though he’s not been officially named as such.
The Peoria native, Northwestern alum, and former Cub has very obvious ties to the organization and has plenty of experience from 1,782 games as a manager. His reputation as a bit of a hard-ass is something some Cubs fans would like to see in Chicago, but his noted clashes with previous front offices and a purported lack of interest in analytics don’t seem to make him a good fit with the Epstoyer regime.
After distancing himself from that old-school image over the two seasons since the Yankees chose not to renew his contract, Girardi is ready to get back in the saddle after removing himself from consideration for multiple jobs last season. The timing here indicates that he’s had his eye on Joe Maddon’s gig, but he claimed Wednesday it was just a matter of wanting to get back in the game.
“When you look at managing in Major League Baseball, there are only so many jobs,” Girardi shared with 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh Show. “So obviously anything that comes across your desk, you’re going to be interested in. There’s obviously 10 teams in the playoffs, so those jobs probably aren’t open.
“You start to look at the other jobs available, and obviously I have a lot of ties to Chicago. Any job out there is going to interest me, because I would like to manage again.”
Asked about the Cubs in particular, Girardi refused to say whether he had an interview lined up and kept his comments generic so as to avoid showing any outright interest. In other words, he played things just a little bit cooler than David Ross did shortly after the Cubs announced that Maddon would not return next season.
“There are a lot of pieces in place there,” Girardi said. “And that’s always a good thing. And they talk about retooling, and I think the Cubs in a lot of ways have the ability to do that. Some markets don’t have the ability to do that, but the Cubs have the ability to do that… They’ll look for every piece that fits their roster better than a piece now and do whatever they can.”
The Cubs are far from the only job available at this point, with at least five other teams (Giants, Padres, Royals, Angels, Pirates) needing new managers for 2020. The Phillies could very well look to move on from Gabe Kapler, then you’ve got another team or three that could change direction. In other words, it behooves Girardi to get his name out there in order to be considered for multiple openings.
But let’s be honest, it sure seems like he’s got one particular spot in mind. The Cubs, however, appear to be focused in a different direction when it comes to Maddon’s replacement. None of the three publicly identified candidates (Ross, Mark Loretta, Will Venable) have previous managerial experience, not does at least one other reported candidate (Raúl Ibañez). Throw in a report from early 2018 that they’d also identified Mark DeRosa and Aaron Boone as potential Maddon successors and a pattern emerges.
No, not that the Cubs are trying to go cheap after paying Maddon $28 million over five years. And not because they want a puppet whose strings they can pull. It’s more about finding someone who’s able to foster open communication both inside the clubhouse and with the front office. Maddon was masterful when it came to relationships, but it appeared all too clear at times that he was not on the same page as the execs.
Girardi joked on air about being called “Binder Joe” because he carried around a binder filled with metrics. Thing is, it was never his lack of trust in stats that saw him replaced by Boone in New York. The problem was that Girardi was too stubborn about using his own numbers and ignoring the information being given to him from the front office. Even though he achieved great success with the Yankees, being headstrong had them moving in a different direction.
Huh, that all sounds oddly familiar. While it’s entirely possible for someone to change their ways, particularly given the perspective of time and hindsight, but the Cubs may not be willing to take that chance. And if they indeed felt Maddon was too much of a maverick, they might want to avoid going back to that well with their next manager.
Based on what we know of his profile, Girardi does not seem to fit the profile for what the Cubs are seeking in a new leader.