Look back at the 2006 Marlins. That team overachieved, had some great young players that pretty much all panned out (most of whom will wind up having played over their heads for a year), and they had this self-absorbed manager who took all the headlines and every bit of the credit -- and, to be fair, was followed around by a dump truck full of sportswriters drooling over the new hotness in managerial prowess, all of them more than happy to shovel the credit toward Girardi.
"Shovel" being the key word there, since it is so often connected with what I think of Girardi's one-year reputation.
Here's a question: If Sam Perlozzo is largely not to blame for the shortcomings of the Baltimore Orioles, which some are rushing to point out, why does Joe Girardi get so much credit for the relative success of the 78-84 Marlins of 2006?
Perlozzo doesn't pitch it or catch it or hit it. Did Girardi? This is pure, unapologetic Yankee lore bullshit applied to another situation. I'm not hating the Yankees with this statement, they're obviously the greatest franchise in the history of Major League Baseball, with no close second. But it's a fact of life that the media can easily fall in love with all that "Yankee way" crap. Girardi's main contributions to the 2006 Marlins, in my opinion:
1. Overworking pitchers for no good reason, causing them short-term damage that could very easily become long-term.
2. Yelling at Jeff Loria. Look, most of us would love to tell Jeff Loria where he can shove it, but it's a stupid thing to do. And this coming from a manager that preaches professionalism?
3. They couldn't have beards, because the Yankees don't have beards. My God.
I hate the idea of Joe Girardi because he does not fit this team. This is a team full of veteran players that is not going to take to him the same way the young, overmatched Florida Marlins did. Girardi's spring training and Opening Day speeches must have written themselves. "Guys, no one thinks you can do this. I think we can do this! Yaaah! Let's go get 'em!" And that team played their asses off for him, something for which he does deserve credit.
But it was also a team full of players who were trying to stay in the big leagues. They were hungry, they weren't millionaires, and they weren't really guaranteed anything. The Orioles are a veteran team unlikely to respond to a 43-year old manager with very little experience who is going to walk into whatever his next job is with a lot of expectations on his shoulders, and a lot of other people waiting for him to fail. Face it, professional athletes are spoiled. They're grown men playing a child's game for a lot of money, and they pretty much get to dictate everything they do. It's not the greatest thing in the world, it's just a fact of life. Can you imagine Miguel Tejada getting excited because Joe Girardi slaps him on the back real hard? Or Aubrey Huff hootin' and hollerin' after a Girardi rally cry?
Tony Pena managed the Royals for a few years. He took over early in the 2002 season, then won 83 games out of nowhere in 2003 with a team that played above their actual abilities. They were a great story, they contended for a while and finished up a year they could be proud of. When no one thought they could do anything, they at least made a little noise. Tony Pena was going to be the guy that brought a dead franchise back to life. He couldn't have gotten more praise if he wanted it. He was named the 2003 American League Manager of the Year.
The Royals lost 104 games in 2004, then started 8-25 in 2005, when Pena was canned. Hasn't managed since. And Tony Pena is the impression I get of Joe Girardi, except I don't find Pena to be wholly unlikable, and he never seemed to me like he was only out to make himself a famous manager.
I'm not saying Girardi's bad if the situation is right for him, but I don't think this one fits, and I think the results would be a disaster. If he gets hired, I'll hope I'm wrong, the same as every other time this franchise does something I wouldn't do if I were in a position to make the call.
This is also one of those situations where the team has no leverage in talking to Girardi. They clearly need a manager, because Dave Trembley sure as hell ain't gonna manage this team the rest of the year. Nobody goes from bullpen coach to manager and sticks. Tom Trebelhorn isn't really available for the extra duties, and I don't think he's on anyone's list, anyway. Mazzone has no desire to manage, thank God. And Crowley is incompetent enough trying to help people hit better.
So the Orioles hired Andy MacPhail, who made a habit of losing in Chicago already, to talk to Joe Girardi... and Girardi has every single ounce of leverage? Yeah, this all seems like a super idea. Just super.
Of course change is necessary. But they fired Sam Perlozzo without a successor lined up. It seems like they simply caved to the pressure and did something they could have waited another week to do while they got something lined up. What the hell were they going to do for the next week, not get back into contention?
The whole thing just doesn't feel good, even though I agree in principle with what went down with Perlozzo.