Tremendous piece (as usual) by Howard Bryant of ESPN today, this one profiling Girardi. Covering the journey he has made to the Yanks managerial job, his detail oriented style, and filling in many of the blanks on his personal background.
“I always have a plan. For me, it’s easier to go through life when you have a plan, when things are planned out. It is probably, it’s a part of my upbringing,” Girardi said in his office one day. “Early in my career, I went back and forth about whether I wanted to work upstairs or in the field. When I started to get into my 30s, I began to realize that my real passion was on the field. I haven’t changed. I love the competition, the strategy, the players. I knew that I couldn’t play forever.”
In addition to Torre, Girardi views Don Baylor and Don Zimmer as two of his main managerial influences, but according to Torre, Girardi was the most detail-oriented player he had ever managed
Michael Kay often said that even during his days as a YES announcer, he would watch hours and hours of games on the upcoming opponents, scouting the players for strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. Just to broadcast a game. It says a lot about his work ethic and tells you something else about him. That he’s a scout at heart. All of those bits of info are things a manager can manipulate, so it also helps explain how he got so much out of a Marlin team with a 14 million dollar payroll, and how he squeezed 89 wins out of last year’s Yankee team, despite being decimated by injuries.
Florida turned into a disaster. Being a first-year manager with a $14 million payroll, starting the season 20 games under .500, rebounding to play .600 baseball and getting fired only to win the National League manager of the year award is a very difficult thing to do. Yet Girardi did just that. Larry Beinfest, president of baseball operations, did not return phone calls. Nor did team president David Samson and general manager Mike Hill. For his part, Girardi will not discuss the details of what happened with the Marlins.
Hard feelings exist, but the details remain submerged. Inside the organization, stories swirled that Girardi put up a wall between himself and the front office. The Marlins, a small-market team that despite two World Series championships has never gained a solid foothold in the South Florida market, sought Girardi and his Yankees cachet to be the ebullient, public face of the organization.
One quibble, that Bryant really should have clarified. Girardi had a very public falling out with the owner of the Marlins, Jeff Loria. He basically told him to STFU when Loria was riding an umpire from the front row of the stands. This is pretty typical behavior from Loria, who is widely known around Baseball as being a very difficult fellow to deal with. You can’t expect Beinfest or anyone else in the Marlin front office to take sides with Girardi on anything and expect to keep their job. He made the silence on the Marlin’s end seem more revealing than it is, or at least never examined what it might say about Loria, as well as Girardi.
THE PRISONER OF SUCCESS is not the one who succeeds but the person who follows him. Torre’s success transcended the job, at times overtook even George Steinbrenner as the public face of the organization. The result was similar to what Reggie Jackson produced in New York. Jackson — no matter that the myth is far more distant, far more attractive than the reality that his time often was as problematic as successful — became the standard no free-agent hitter has yet to live up to.
The “Torre Way” — his outward calm, easiness and comfort with the media — became the New York standard for how a manager should behave in that city. It was the Torre Way, to some degree, that buried Willie Randolph with the Mets. Girardi lives with a similar phenomenon.
Well put. This will not be resolved in his favor until he wins. Until then, all of his personal traits will be viewed as an obstacle to success, and if he wins those same traits will be the reason the team succeeded. Torre went from ‘Clueless Joe’ to ‘Saint Joe’ in about 5 minutes after the 1996 World Series.
There is a vulnerability with Torre. His prostate cancer was virtually a public affair, as were the health troubles of his brother, former big leaguer Frank Torre, during the 1996 title run. He does not shy from the abusive home of his childhood. Torre’s sister, a nun, aided victims during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He is unafraid to tell anecdotes, even some that do not flatter him.
Life has stolen some of Girardi’s sunshine as well, but it is that humanity he shields with his stern, clipped delivery. Associates say Girardi simply refuses to allow the public to see him appear at his weakest, such as while dealing with his father’s Alzheimer’s disease or losing his mother as a teenager. These are private affairs. Behind the wall, Cashman, Torre and Harkey all talked about the “huge heart” Girardi keeps from the world.
Wow. I didn’t know that about Girardi. Without getting into too much armchair psychology, it goes a long way to explaining his detail oriented nature.
To conclude the article, Reggie Jackson summed up Girardi’s situation nicely:
“I don’t think any of this will be a lingering problem for Joe. I honestly believe that,” Jackson said. “I don’t think he thinks the way the writers do. My attitude going into a season was, if it took .280 or .290 to win the batting title, then I had a shot to win the batting title. If it took 33 to 39 home runs to win the home run title, then I had a shot to win the home run title. I competed against myself. I think Jeter does the same thing.
“I think it is also true of Joe. I don’t think Joe is competing against Joe Torre. I think Joe is thinking about the things he does that can give him success, and he works on those. But what he understands, also, is that all this other stuff goes away if you win. Then he gets to become his own standard. That’s the reward.”