Many names have bounced around as potential new managers for the 2014 Washington Nationals, with the impending retirement of current skipper Davey Johnson. There have been in house names mentioned, there have been former Washington coaches mentioned as potential candidates, as well as managers that were perceived as goners from their current teams.
But one name has not been mentioned nearly enough, and he actually may become available due to his current team’s contract negotiation policy. His name is Joe Girardi, and he currently manages the New York Yankees, a team many believed before the season would finish in last place in the suddenly competitive AL East. Girardi currently has his Yankees, who started the season with Lyle Overbay at first base, 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot. And regardless of where New York finishes, Girardi has himself as a frontrunner for AL manager of the year.
Girardi has shown he is a very good manager before. His first managing gig was with the Miami Marlins in 2006, the same year he won NL Manager of the Year and was then fired by the Marlins, which would have been a big surprise had it not been for the fact that is was the Marlins. Girardi’s Marlins finished 78-84, which was very impressive for both Girardi as a rookie manager along with the fact that the 2006 Marlins payroll was a resounding $14.5 million, $20 million less than the team above them and dead last in all of baseball in payroll. As we know, Girardi and owner Jeffrey Loria did not see eye to eye – another big shock – and Girardi was gone after the season.
The Yankees hired Girardi two years later, and after missing the playoffs in his first season, New York won the 2009 World Series while Girardi has averaged 96 wins over his five full seasons in New York. Girardi has an everlasting optimist’s attitude, never throws players under the bus, and his players seem to really like and respect him. Many say managing the Yankees is easy because of their large payroll and their ability to fill any hole needed at any time. This season would strongly disprove those naysayers, as well as the fact that George Steinbrenner is no longer with us on earth and no longer owns the team. His sons, who are businessmen first and lack the same manic needed to win, have run the Yankees quite differently, and with injuries to key players, Girardi has really had to show people his managing chops.
Girardi probably will win the Manager of the Year this season, though there could be some more deserving candidates. But the fact that these are not the Yankees of old and there have been injuries all over their roster, in addition to their most consistent pitcher being the 38 year-old Hiroki Kuroda, Girardi will without a doubt be the hottest free agent on the market this winter.
The Yankees do not negotiate contracts until after the season, which works out well for other teams, namely the Nationals. Their manager is retiring, they have a young team ready to win for years to come, and are financially in a markedly better position than the Yankees are. Girardi is going to want a lot of money to manage as well, especially based on the challenges he will face for years to come if he stays in New York. Alex Rodriguez is probably facing a season long suspension, whenever it comes down, and there is no guarantee Mark Teixeira isn’t going to be just as big of a question mark with his wrist problems. Curtis Granderson could be gone, and nobody knows what Derek Jeter is anymore.
Girardi has a pretty big decision to make, though it looks like a very easy decision. Girardi should take the Washington job; they are young, ready to win, and will spend money if they need to. However, Girardi does have three children, is settled in upstate New York, and has what many would consider a dream job, managing in New York. Girardi already has a World Series ring, so he can have his choice of jobs, and if he does become available, Washington should bend over backwards for him.