Joe Girardi didn’t connect or communicate well enough with his players.
And that, more than anything else, with a young, impressionable core serving as the homegrown foundation of the Yankees moving forward, was what led to his ouster.
That was the biggest takeaway from Brian Cashman’s nearly hour-long conference call Monday.
It was the GM’s first public comments since recommending to Hal Steinbrenner that the Yankees make a managerial change after Girardi’s contract expired at season’s end.
“I think over time I’ve demonstrated I’m not afraid of making a very difficult choice,” said Cashman, whose own new deal has yet to be finalized, though that is considered a formality. “I could recommend plug-and-play and move forward, or, as we try to be in an ever-evolving, progressive franchise, was it time for a new voice and a fresh voice? I made the recommendation based on over a number of years now, some experiences that I was able to validate — whether it was directly or indirectly — about the connectivity and the communication level of the players in the clubhouse.”
Cashman declined to delve into specifics or answer any hypothetical questions, like whether Girardi would’ve been back if he guided the Bombers to the World Series. But while there have been several reports to the contrary, Cashman dismissed the idea that his relationship with Girardi had frayed over time.
Girardi disagreed with Cashman’s assessment of his inability to relate to his players. “I thought I’d be back, but Brian wanted someone different,” Girardi said on WFAN, citing texts and tweets from players. Girardi’s interview with Mike Francesa transpired simultaneously as Cashman’s call with reporters.
“There are some times that you have to make decisions about who plays, and I think guys get disappointed, but from a standpoint of having a relationship issue, there were none,” Girardi said. “And if there was, I really didn’t know about it.”
The organization took issue over the way Girardi handled Gary Sanchez, and the manager’s public criticism of the 24-year-old catcher’s defense. “For me it was always encouraging him, trying to make him better and telling him how important he is to our team,” Girardi said, noting the “sky is the limit” for Sanchez.
Girardi was also vocal over the front office’s decision to stick with Chris Carter at first base, whereas the manager wanted to go in a different direction.
Cashman, however, called Girardi “an exceptional manager.” “Brian took a chance on me,” said Girardi, who was hired by the Bombers in 2008. “There were guys who wanted someone else. He took a chance on me, so I’ll be forever grateful.”
Cashman said Girardi’s failure to challenge in Game 2 of the ALDS was not a factor in his decision to part ways with the 53-year-old skipper. The GM didn’t even know whether Steinbrenner would accept his recommendation to make a change. A few days later, however, the move became official.
“It was quick and to the point,” Girardi said. “Brian said they had decided they were going in a different direction.”
Girardi had been at the helm for the past decade, guiding the Bombers to a 910-710 regular-season record. He made the playoffs six times, and won the World Series in 2009. But despite guiding the team within a win of a berth in the 2017 Fall Classic, Cashman elected to go in another direction.
Girardi’s family was on-board with his decision to continue after the Bombers lost to Houston in Game 7 of the ALCS, but the Yankees didn’t want him back.
Cashman said there is no timetable for a replacement to be named. The search process is in its early stages, with a list of candidates being formulated.
“We know we’re on the clock,” said Cashman, who acknowledged there may not be a perfect candidate.
The Bombers are the only team currently without a manager. Cashman said a pre-existing relationship is not necessary, though it could certainly be beneficial.
It has been believed he wants someone in the “A.J. Hinch-Dave Roberts” mold — as in younger, relatable to players, analytically-inclined and open to fresh ideas while working in concert with the front office.
“It is an easy narrative to run to the opposite of what you already had,” Cashman said. “I think if someone was structured and demanding, then you want to go from an old-school, heavy-handed personality to a new-school, players manager. That’s not a narrative I’m falling into. We are looking for the best person possible that can assist in executing our strategy.”
The team plans to make each candidate available to the media before deciding on a hire. Interacting with reporters on a daily basis in New York is an important part of the job.
Cashman wouldn’t rule out anyone at this point, or run through any names, for that matter — whether internally or externally.
“Whoever the lead horse will be, hopefully they will be pretty obvious and they will win by 16 lengths, like Secretariat did,” Cashman said.
Girardi said he does plan on managing again, though he’ll likely return to the game in a broadcasting capacity before he returns to the dugout.
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