New York Yankee Legends: Tough love Joe Girardi, Mr. determination

New York Yankees, Yankees, Joe Girardi

The New York Yankees had Joe Girardi both as a player and a manager. Joe’s middle name is Elliot, but it should be determined. Joe Girardi was a pretty average player and a catcher with little hitting ability, and often as a catcher let runners run on him, but he was determined to get better. He was determined to call the best game he could in handling pitchers, and that he did.

He was determined to take a young inexperienced Florida Marlins club, a club with the lowest payroll in baseball, to heights it had not seen, and he did, almost to the wild card game and was named the Manager of the Year. He was determined to take the Yankees to another World Series, and he did that too. After not having his Yankee contract renewed, he was determined to get back as a manager; he did that, in 2020, he was named the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.  They ended the season third in the NL East; this year, they are number one.



Joe Girardi’s style was to be strict but not any more demanding of others than himself. Born on October 14, 1964, the fourth of five children, he grew up in Peoria, Illinois. His Dad Jerry was a salesman but did a variety of other jobs. His Mom Angela was full-time as a child psychologist. His mother and father died early in life, his father of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and his mother of ovarian cancer.

Joe credits his father with his determination and the many things he taught the young Joseph. At the age of 12, he would play with his older brothers and their friends; Joe liked playing shortstop but caught because no one else would do it. He later in life would credit his brothers for helping him improve his game. He would say when you play with those older than you, you are forced to get better.

Joe’s sports history

The young Girardi was multi-talented, playing basketball, football and baseball through high school. In 1983 he would enroll in Northwestern University. He played for the Northwestern Wildcats baseball team, where he was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a three-time Academic All-American. At the end of the 1986 semester, he would earn his bachelor’s degree in engineering. Girardi was a popular student at Northwestern; he was the first-ever freshman to be elected president of a fraternity at Northwestern.

The Chicago Cubs drafted him in 1986 and sent him to Single-A Peoria. He got off to a hot start hitting near .330. He ended the season batting .309 with Peoria, .280 with Carolina in 1987, and .272 with Double-A Pittsfield in 1988. In 1989 he would meet Don Zimmer, who was then the Cubs manager. He would make his major league debut on April 4th. He hit a single and scored the first run of the season for the Cubs. In his rookie year with the Cubs, Girardi batted .248 with a home run and 14 runs batted in (RBIs) in 59 games. In 1990, he played in 133 games, batting .270 with a home run and 38 RBIs. In 1991, he played in only 21 games, batting .191 with 6 RBIs. In 1992, he played in 91 games, batting .270 with a home run and 12 RBIs.

After the 92 season, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies. Joe loved playing at Mile High Stadium. In his first year with the Rockies in 1993, he played in 86 games, batting .290 with five triples, three home runs, and 31 RBIs. In 1994, he played in 93 games, batting .276 with four triples, four home runs, and 34 RBIs. In 1995, he played in 125 games batting .262 with a career-high 8 home runs and 55 RBIs. At the end of the season he would be traded to the New York Yankees.

Joe Girardi becomes a New York Yankee

Joe would become the New York Yankee’s catcher. On May 14, 1996, Girardi caught Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter. Girardi played in 124 games during the 1996 season, batting .294 with two home runs and 45 RBIs. During the World Series against the Braves, Girardi would hit a triple that helped the Yankees win that game, and ultimately the World Series. In 1997 Girardi would get a new backup catcher in the 25-year-old Jorge Posada; the pair would share the backstop position for the next 3 years when Posada would become the primary catcher. In 1999 his last year with the Yankees, Girardi would call his second perfect game, this one for David Cone. There are very few catchers that have ever caught two perfect games.

In 2000 Joe would be back with his debut team, the Chicago Cubs. He would be named to the All-Star team that year. But in 2002, he would be called upon to speak to the Cub crowd at Wrigley Field. The game that day was nationally televised between the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Cardinal pitcher was to be Darryl Kile, but Kile had been found dead at his home. Girardi approached the mic before stands filled with fans and announced “due to a tragedy in the Cardinal family” that there would be no game that day. He asked all fans to be respectful of the matter as they found out about it on their own and to pray. After the season, Joe would play in 16 games with the Cardinals. With his hitting declining, he would retire as a player after the season. He would become a YES Network commentator in 2004.

Joe’s coaching and managerial career

Joe Girardi became Joe Torres bench coach in 2005, while still holding down some of his YES work in the “Kids on Deck” program. Girardi was a broadcaster for the third, fourth, and fifth games of the 2006 World Series on the Fox Network. During the offseason in 2005, Girardi would be named the new manager of the Florida Marlins. He had a young inexperienced team that had the lowest player salary in the majors.

He often had fights with owner Jeff Loria. In 2006 Girardi brought his hapless team almost to the Wild Card game and was named Manager of the Year, but he would be fired due to conflicts with Lori. After being considered as the manager for the Cubs and Nationals, he returned to the YES booth in 2007. Joe Torres winning ways would come to an end when Torre and the Yankees couldn’t agree to a contract. The Yankees considered Don Mattingly, Tony Pena and Girardi, they ultimately gave Joe the job, and he signed a 3-year contract.

In 2008 Joe would appear on the field with the number 27 on his back, signaling that he was bound and determined to get the New York Yankees to their 27th World Championship. In 2008 the Yankees would miss the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years, and fans would say they should never have gotten rid of Joe Torre. But the fact was they won 89 games with a flawed team that was poorly caught and ineffectively pitched. In 2009 the New York Yankees management brought on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira. In his second year, Joe Girardi would take the Yankees to their 27 World Series win defeating the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although the 2008 team through the 2010 team appreciated Girardi’s tough-love approach to managing, future teams would not be as accepting of it, and it would eventually lead to his contract not being renewed. In 2017 Girardi managed aggressively, and they won the AL East. With the new “Baby Bombers” Aaron Judge and Luis Severino leading the team in the battle for the East, Girardi would yank Severino in favor of reliever Chad Green and the Yankees would win 8-4 and advance to the ALDS.

In the ALDS against the Twins the New York Yankees would lose game one. In game two, Joe would mismanage horribly, yanking the starter CC Sabathia early in favor of Green. Green would load the bases, and Francisco Lindor would hit a grand slam for the Yankee loss. The Yankees would go on to win all of the elimination games and win the ALDS. The Astros would take the ALCS in seven games and, Joe’s time as the manager would be over. Several of the youngest players would express their disdain for Girardi, some saying it’s a long season; he wears you down.  Had the Astros not cheated in the 2017 ALCS,  Girardi may not have been fired, something we may never know.

Since Joe’s departure, there has been an ongoing conversation on social media about the approach Girardi took to managing and that of Aaron Boone. The basic difference is that Boone is everybody’s friend, where Joe was the tough love father to the players. In an interesting piece today, EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Nathan Solomon made a Girardi/Sanchez comparison:

“Ever since Joe Girardi was fired by the New York Yankees, Sanchez hasn’t been the same. His average since the beginning of 2018 is just .199 with a .741 OPS. One of the main reasons why Girardi was fired had to do with his relationship between him and the catcher before Sanchez’s struggles began. But now, looking in hindsight, it may not also be just a coincidence that Sanchez has struggled since Girardi’s departure.”

Joe the broadcaster and Phillies manager

After the season Girardi would again go into broadcasting with several outlets, including the MLB Network. From the time he left the Yankees at the end of this season, Joe Girardi’s name came up several times as managerial openings came up. After two years in broadcasting, Joe Girardi is now the newly hired manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe is still young (56), and it is too early to evaluate his managerial career. Joe is still loved by the Yankee faithful and several of the players. The Phillies will meet the Yankees at the Stadium on July 20th.

Personals

One thing that has never changed is that Joe carries his emotions on his sleeve. Things and events deeply touch him, never shy about showing his anger toward an umpire that he thought had made a bad call against the Yankees.  Tears ran down his face when he spoke about Yogi Berra’s death.  He visibly cried when both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera left the field for the last time.  Joe Girardi is a good man, a very good man.

In 1990, he married his lovely wife, Kim Innocenzi-Girardi. The couple is also blessed with three children that are all now adults, named Lena Yvonne, Serena, and Dante. He is leading a blissful and happy family life. Her husband understands her profession and gives her the freedom to do her work the way she wants. The couple is enjoying their life a lot at their home that Joe purchased when with the Yankees, in Purchase, New York. In summer 2019, Wilson Premier League Joe coached his son, that looks remarkably like him.

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