COMMENTARY | It's the Yankee way.
From Buck Showalter's final year in 1995, when the New York Yankees made it back to the postseason for the first time in 14 years, to Joe Torre's run of 12 straight playoff appearances and four World Series titles, to Joe Girardi's championship team in 2009 and three playoff appearances after that, the Yankees have been one of the most successful franchises in any sport over the past two decades.
Derek Jeter. Mariano Rivera. Two of the greatest champions ever. The Yankees win. And say all you want about the money that the franchise has spent over the years, the Yankees have won by doing things the right way. They've done it with talent, with professionalism, and with leadership.
From 1996 through 2007, there was no better manager in baseball than Joe Torre. He may have had some of the best players and the highest payroll, but it was his presence, his calming influence, the way he managed the men in his clubhouse, that mattered most. Torre will never be forgotten, and, perhaps, never replaced.
But the man who came after him, Joe Girardi, is forging his own place in Yankee history. He may not be Torre, and he may never be, but Girardi is the perfect man to be managing this team right now.
In 2008, Girardi struggled adjusting to life as the Yankees' manager and his future here wasn't so certain. In 2009, he won the World Series and all that talk went away. He then was viewed as a steady presence in the dugout, protecting the Yankee way at all costs.
Even when you consider he won a championship and took the team to the playoffs four straight seasons, 2013, when the Yankees did not make the postseason, may have been Girardi's best managing job ever, better than the championship season and better than when he was named the National League Manager of the Year with the Florida Marlins in 2006.
Numerous injuries to key contributors decimated the Yankees' lineup in 2013. The replacements had flashes, but some faded away. There was great uncertainty. Still is. And there was the realization late in the season that there would be no playoff baseball this year.
Through it all, the one constant was Girardi. He never flinched, never showed any outward sign of panic. He mixed and matched the lineup, kept the clubhouse together, kept people believing. This is Joe Girardi the manager. In his own way doing what Torre did for all those years.
With the Chicago Cubs, the Washington Nationals, the Cincinnati Reds, and the Seattle Mariners looking for managers, Girardi had options. We know the Cubs wanted him. Why wouldn't the Nationals and Reds? In 2008, there were questions about his ability to manage a roster. Today, he's considered one of the best managers in the game.
That's why the Yankees rewarded Girardi this week with a new four-year contract worth $16 million. It's the best money the Yankees will spend this offseason. Robinson Cano might leave for more money and more years somewhere else. Some team may look past his injury-plagued season and sign Curtis Granderson to a long-term deal. If those guys go it would leave huge holes in the lineup. I'd argue that those holes can be filled. If Girardi left, the hole in the dugout would have been harder to fill.
This is not some ordinary job. This is New York and these are the Yankees we're talking about. The organization has now entered a period of great uncertainty. With Rivera and Pettitte gone and Jeter getting close, Girardi will remain. He'll be the Yankees' link to the past.
More than Cano or anyone else, he'll also be the bridge to the future.
Charles Costello has followed the Yankees for 30 years. He was a beat reporter assigned to cover the team during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
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