Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The most telling aspect of Joe Girardi's candidacy for Mets manager so far has probably been the enthusiasm of his former employers. If the Yankees did not feel a deep respect for Girardi, they would not be boosting him as wholeheartedly as they are.
It's not just Brian Cashman telling SNY's John Harper that he would "highly recommend" Girardi to anyone seeking a manager. It's the many other Yankees officials who, while focusing on their own team's postseason game planning, have taken time to compliment Girardi to reporters and wish him well in the Mets search.
Cashman and others have offered very strong references in private conversations with the Mets, according to people briefed on those conversations.
All of that goes in the "pro" bucket in an evaluation of Girardi, but let's not pretend that this is a simple choice for the Mets. Girardi seems to be the darling of the small portion of fans who have a Twitter account, and the front office itself has been doing diligence on him as far back as May.
But as a baseball person put it the other day when we mentioned that Yankees officials keep praising Girardi: "Oh yeah? Why'd they fire him then?"
Fair enough. Girardi is smart, perhaps even brilliant. He is proven. He is prepared, perhaps even overprepared. He knows how to manage a game, and specifically a bullpen. He has a big heart and a moral compass.
But he also has his detractors in the game, the people who see his intensity and need for control as, well, just too much. There is no question that the Yankees clubhouse burned out on him, and has preferred Aaron Boone -- and that this wasn't a late development in Giradi's tenure.
According to multiple sources with direct knowledge, Derek Jeter and many members of his generation never warmed to Girardi, either [of course, every rabbit hole here is complicated -- Jeter's antipathy could have been rooted in his close friend Jorge Posada's fractious relationship with Giradi.] Point is, Giradi's trouble with players wasn't just a Gary Sanchez issue.
Consider this text from a smart former Yankee that came in, unsolicited, after we reported on Girardi yesterday:
"I've always liked him, and hated the reason he got fired in New York. Listening to him do [the Rays-Astros series on FOX], he's got 'smartest guy in the room' syndrome. He never lets his color partner [A.J. Pierzynski or Jim Kaat] have the last word. Always has to go over the top of them, often with something not very enlightening.
"When he called for the [Willy] Adames stolen base and A.J. said he wouldn't send him, and Adames got thrown out by ten feet, he wouldn't let it go. Can't admit when he's wrong. A 'smartest guy in the room' manager is miserable for players and coaches. You feel like you're always being talked down to.
"That got [Jeff] Bannister, [Clint] Hurdle and [Andy] Green. They all talk the same. They lose the clubhouse and maybe some coaches being that way."
The Mets need a manager who is comfortable with his GM's regular presence in the clubhouse and manager's office. A person who can accept strong suggestions on the lineup from the analytics department. In short, a person who does not believe himself to be the smartest guy in the room, but a part of a collaborative management team.
Some Yankees officials liked working with Girardi, while others found it more challenging. Such is the complex nature of human interaction in any workplace. He's a good person who excels in some areas and struggles in others -- a description that represents the best most of us can aspire to be.
But both Girardi and the Mets would be wise to approach this decision slowly. Is Citi Field the right environment for him? Has he learned from his Yankee firing? Can he and Brodie Van Wagenen collaborate? Does Pete Alonso's fun-loving clubhouse really need a taskmaster?
The answers to these questions will determine if Girardi is the man for this particular job. It's not an easy call.