When the New York Yankees chose to end their 10-year relationship with manager Joe Girardi, it appeared there were more questions than answers.
Was it the right move?
The former backstop was a certified overachiever during his tenure in the Bronx. Girardi won 910 games as the leader of the Yankees and never had fewer than 84 wins in a season, despite dealing with rosters consistently featuring players that were over the hill or journeymen injury replacements. He handled the retirements of all-time greats like Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez as well as he possibly could. He won a World Series in 2009. And he also turned a “rebuilding” season into a team that was one win away from returning to the Fall Classic.
By all accounts, the Yankees are back on the cusp of greatness. There are no guarantees in baseball — just look across town to Queens to see just how quickly a championship mindset fade away. But the organization ran with their youth movement and surrounded their top youngsters with high-quality veteran talent. As Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Greg Bird continue to develop into big league stars, they’ve had CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Todd Frazier, Didi Gregorius and Matt Holliday as mentors and support. Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office has built this franchise with a win-now mindset. As bullpens become a larger part of the game, the Yankees have one of the deepest units in baseball.
Girardi has had a hand in molding each player — no matter the age — during their time in pinstripes. It was believed that he would be the one to lead the roster back to the promised land.
Cashman and company wanted something different. Despite his shortcomings, Girardi is a great manager — he just isn’t the man for this job. Not anymore, at least.
By all accounts, the Yankees are looking for someone who is more media-friendly and can have a personal relationship with players. They’re looking towards younger options who are driven by analytics. Most importantly, they want a manager who lets the front office have a big say in on-field decisions, something with which Girardi had some issues.
It’s going to be hard to fill Girardi’s shoes, there’s no doubt about it — but someone will.
Who’s it going to be?
Former bench coach Rob Thompson appears locked to receive an interview.
He epitomizes the “Yankee Way” — he still follows The Boss’s rule of suits on plane trips despite the younger Steinbrenners scrapping it. He’s been in the organization since 1990 and, from third base coach to their Single-A affiliate to Vice President of Minor League Development, he’s done a bit of everything. He is also well-respected by his peers, as both Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira have lauded Thompson for his communication skills. But at the same time, he does represent the old guard. As the Yankees shy away from their old militaristic thought process of being clean shaven and no-nonsense attitudes while welcoming bat flips, fist pumping, youth and putting players above the pinstripes (re: Judge’s Chambers), Thompson may not be the greatest fit.
According to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, current Tampa Yankees (A) manager Jay Bell will be in consideration.
Bell’s name will bring back bad memories for Yankees fans, as he scored the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. But Bell’s relationship with prospects within the system and with Yankees management (“Cashman loves him,” according to the source) gives him an edge in the race. And while it may be an unusual if not unprecedented leap to go from behind the bench in the low-levels of the minors to leader of the pinstripes, Bell has Major League experience. He served as the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 and was the Cincinnati Reds’ bench coach in 2014 and 2015.
Speaking of sleeper candidates, Josh Paul falls under that category as well. Paul, the organization’s catching coordinator and manager of the Single-A Staten Island Yankees from 2008-2010, has been lauded for his ability to work with pitchers and catchers. The former backstop also has a strong relationship with Sanchez — something Girardi may not have had — and the youngster’s development is vital to the Yankees’ future success.
Al Pedrique is another name that will get a look as a managerial candidate. The former big league skipper currently serves as the organization’s Triple-A manager and has close relationships with a majority of the Baby Bombers. Pedrique may have won a lot of fans over during the YES Network’s Homegrown: The Path to Pinstripes television series, but his current role may be most important. He’s helped mold Judge, Sanchez, Bird and Severino. The Yankees should have a desire to keep him training the next crop of youngsters, like Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams.
Of course, there will be those out-of-left-field options, but they’ve been mentioned for good reason.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal mentioned Jerry Hairston Jr. as a potential candidate for the job, as his age, playing days and experience on television all tie into what the organization wants. Raul Ibanez — who was referred to by the New York Post — maintains a strong relationship with Cashman and has a desire to manage. New York Daily News scribe John Harper brought up David Cone, who is media savvy, is fond of analytics and is already beloved by Yankees fans.
There won’t be a shortage of options. And, as mentioned before, Girardi’s shoes will be tough to fill. But for the sake of the future of the Yankees, and to cement his own reputation as one of the best executives of this generation, Cashman must push the right buttons one more time to find his replacement.
Dan Federico is a co-founder of Bronx to Bushville.