If Joe Girardi is anything, he is boringly efficient. While he might not inspire many players, he will, more often than not, deliver what they want the most out of a manager: a person who puts them in position to succeed.
On Valentine’s Day, Girardi will step to the mic to offer his State of the Yankees address for the 10th time. Generally, it's a 30-minute exercise during which he says little and giggles at his own wisecracks. In the end, his main goal will be fully intact: to provide nothing of real interest.
To borrow one of his pet phrases, “in a sense,” Girardi is undefeated, a perfect 9-0, in his State of the Yankees addresses.
Girardi’s style isn't entertaining, which might not be that important, but it counts for something when you aren’t making the playoffs anymore. In other words, if you want to be Bill Belichick in baseball spikes, you had better win.
Which is why there is a question mark hanging over the Yankees' 2017 season: Could this be Girardi’s last year at the helm?
Girardi, 52, is in the final season of a four-year, $16 million contract. It is conceivable that a year from now, when the State of the Yankees address is given, someone other than Girardi will be giving it.
There's no indication that ownership or the front office is unhappy with Girardi’s performance, despite the Yankees missing the playoffs three of the past four years with an annual payroll of more than $200 million. Owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman recognize that the Core Four and Alex Rodriguez aged on Girardi’s watch.
Girardi has a World Series title, which he won in his second year as the Yankees skipper in 2009. He has made the playoffs five times, though the Yankees have played in just one postseason game since 2012.
Win totals in the mid-80s the past four years aren't a complete failure, considering the Yankees’ roster and shaky run differential. The job of a manager is to squeeze the most wins out of a roster as possible, and it is hard to argue against Girardi, though he never seems to rate very highly in anonymous player polls.
In George Steinbrenner's heyday, he would have blamed Girardi for the Yankees’ demise. His son Hal is more practical and in many ways the antithesis of his father. The most high-profile firing Hal has made was that of hitting coach Kevin Long in 2014.
Hal Steinbrenner wants to fall beneath the luxury-tax threshold, or at least hover around it, before 2018, which would set up the Yankees with loads of cash and a reduced tax bill for the potential Bryce Harper/Manny Machado free-agent bonanza 20 months from now.
The Yankees hope their young talent, with some superstar additions, will help form their next uber-team. But what if there is more regression this year? Without the Core Four, A-Rod or even Mark Teixeira still around, there's far less championship nostalgia or just plain old distraction. And if Gary Sanchez isn't as prolific as he was in his rookie year, well, what if the Yankees are boring?
With an owner looking to avoid big spending for one more winter but still trying to sell tickets, will Girardi’s Achilles' heel be exposed? Will the Yankees feel the need to provide fans with a more entertaining manager if they aren’t going to reload their roster this winter?
At the same time, it's not inconceivable that Girardi walks away from the 162-game grind. His $4 million salary is a solid reason to return, but Girardi has made plenty of money already, including more than $21 million as a player.
Girardi surely loves to compete, though perhaps it takes a toll; he often appears to have lost a significant amount of weight as the season moves into its most intense months. He is passionate about the game, but the incessant white noise around it -- exponentially louder in the Bronx than in most MLB domains -- isn't his thing.
Girardi doesn't seem to enjoy his twice-a-day meetings with the media. You get the sense he's just checking off a box on his punch list. He is a numbers guy, not a words guy. He won't offer any Casey Stengel-like quips or Joe Torre stories, but he's there on time and gets a bit peeved if the media members are, on rare occasion, a moment late.
He does, however, appreciate the status the manager’s job gives him. On the counsel of Yankees PR man Jason Zillo, Girardi wore a T-shirt representing a charity prior to every home game and spoke to the media about each of them for a few minutes. He is also quick to spend time with a child in a wheelchair during batting practice. His heart seems to be in the right place.
It is hard to walk away from the Yankees' job, and not just because you usually don't get that option. So will Girardi want to come back? Will the Yankees want him? If and when the question is raised during Girardi’s State of the Yankees address, or at times throughout the season, he likely will brush it off the best way he knows how: by giving a nonanswer and downplaying the storyline.
At this point, the bet to take is that Girardi will return in 2018. But there is a bet to be made.
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