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Waiting For Girardi

The Yankees, Cubs and Nationals are all waiting for Girardi to arrive, even if he hasn't even said he's coming. Sounds like existentialist theater to me.


Jed: Charming spot. Interesting prospects. Let's go.

Theo: We can't.

Jed: Why not?

Theo: We're waiting for Girardi.

Jed: Ah! Are you sure it was here?

Theo: What?

Jed: That we were to wait.

Theo: He said by Starbucks. Do you see any others?

Jed: There must be two dozen Starbucks in this neighborhood.

Theo: What is it?

Jed: I don't know. A pumpkin spice latte?

Theo: What are you insinuating? That we've come to the wrong place?

Jed: Girardi could have ordered a pumpkin spice latte.

Theo: Perhaps it's not the season.

Jed: He didn't say for sure he'd come.

Theo: And if he doesn't come?

Jed: We'll come back tomorrow.

Theo: And then the day after tomorrow.

Jed: Possibly

Theo: And so on.

(With a tip of the hat to Samuel Beckett)

It's no secret to anyone who the top name on the Cubs wish list for their new manager is. You know it, I know it and Joe Girardi knows it. But the current Yankees manager also happens to be the Yankees first choice to manage the team in 2014. The Yankees made Girardi an offer last week, reportedly for three years and between $12 and $15 million dollars. (That's total, not per year.)

There had been reports that Girardi would give the Yankees their answer yesterday. That didn't happen. Now the word is the Yankees will give Girardi as much time as he'd like to think over their offer. But Girardi no doubt reads the newspapers (or at least the newspaper websites) and he's heard that the Cubs are willing to beat any offer the Yankees make.

The only problem is that the Cubs can't make that offer, because Girardi is still under contract with the Yankees through the end of the month. Both the Cubs and the Nationals have reportedly asked for permission to talk to Girardi and both have been denied. The Yankees don't want to get into a bidding war over their manager and they want Girardi to make his decision before he's allowed to talk to the Cubs or Nationals. So both teams have to communicate with Girardi through the media or through back channels.

That Girardi hasn't responded to the Yankees offer yet indicates to me that he's torn and frustrated. I think that Girardi would like to make his decision with all the facts in front of him. That's what every good manager wants to do every day in their jobs. But the Yankees want to make sure that doesn't happen. Girardi no doubt wants to listen to what the Cubs (and quite possibly the Nationals) have to say before deciding. The Yankees won't let that happen, at least not before November 1. And to insure it doesn't happen, I imagine the Yankees will tell Girardi that they will pull their offer well before the end of the month. They'll give him all the time he wants, as long as that time doesn't come with negotiations with other teams.

Jay Jaffe wrote this article outlining the pros and cons of each of the three jobs. He also mentions that the Reds might get involved in the sweepstakes if Girardi does decide he's not returning to New York.

It's funny, because as a manager, Girardi isn't much like the other rumored candidates for the job. For one, he has no connections with either Boston or San Diego. He's not hostile to the new metrics and statistical analysis, but he's not heavy into sabermetrics like the other rumored candidates.(On the sabermetric to gut spectrum, with Billy Beane being a ten and Dusty Baker a one, I'd rate Girardi a 6 or 6.5) He has very little experience in New York working with young players, although he did work with several young, talented players in his one year managing the Marlins. Everyone says that Girardi's greatest strength as a manager is his ability to lead a team.

But what he does do is win. Both in 2013 and in 2006 with the Marlins, Girardi got an amazing record out of some teams that were, overall, pretty unimpressive. He won a World Series in 2009 with the Yankees and took the Yankees to the playoffs in four out of his six seasons there.

Girardi would also be a big name that would help energize the fanbase quickly. He would sell tickets that no other manager could.

The other rumored candidates for the job are quite different. A.J. Hinch and Manny Acta are both young managers with experience running other clubs. Both are considered quite statistically-literate and are considered great baseball minds. Neither one of them won anything in their previous stops.

Acta has the most experience of the two, and he consistently impressed people in baseball with his smart decision making. He worked with developing young players. But he sure couldn't win. His .418 winning percentage as a manager is the third-worst in baseball history for someone who has managed as many games as he has. Was that a result of the poor players he had or because he's not a very good manager? I couldn't tell you. I'm not sure anyone else could either.

In any case, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus did a good profile of Acta when he was fired by Cleveland last year. He admits he has trouble squaring his belief in Acta's first-rate baseball mind and decision-making ability with the fact that Acta has never had a winning season in six seasons as a manager.

Hinch is everything you ever wanted in Manny Acta, only less. He's also considered a superior baseball mind who failed to win as a manager, although he only has slightly over a year in Arizona as the Diamondbacks manager, rather than the six Acta has had with both the Nationals and the Indians. He doesn't have as much experience working with young players as Acta does. He also doesn't have as many losing seasons as Acta. You can excuse his bad year in Arizona by noting that he never had the support of ownership, although he did have the strong support of his GM and the two went down together. The Diamondbacks got a lot better under Kirk Gibson's management. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not.

If you want to get a sense of Hinch, Baseball Prospectus did a Q & A with him while he was managing the Diamondbacks in 2010 and in 2011, after he was fired and had started working in the Padres front office, he did a chat with BP readers.

The other two candidates that I've seen mentioned are Sandy Alomar Jr. and Rick Renteria. Again, both are considered good, sabermetrically-savvy minds. Both are considered up-and-coming hot managerial candidates. But neither one has ever managed before and Epstein and Hoyer have indicated that they'd like someone with experience managing this time around.

But Girardi remains the first, second and third choice. The Cubs are willing to wait as long as it takes to get him. In the next hour, Girardi could agree to the Yankees contract offer or he could reject it and ask to be allowed to talk with other teams. While Girardi could certainly accept the Nats job, I don't think anyone outside of racing Teddy Roosevelt thinks there's much of a chance he ends up in Washington.

But meanwhile, we have to wait. And wait. And wait.