Joe Girardi's greatest triumph as a manager came at the Phillies' expense.
If you can't beat 'em ... hire 'em?
Girardi is the choice to be the Phillies’ next manager, the team announced Thursday. His short-term mission will be to help snap an eight-year playoff drought. Long-term, though, his job will be to lead the Phillies back to the World Series, where they haven’t been since 2009 when they lost to Girardi’s New York Yankees.
Here are five things to know about the 55th manager in franchise history.
He grew up dreaming of playing for the Cubs
Girardi, 55, was born in Peoria, Ill., 166 miles southwest of Chicago. His father took him to games at Wrigley Field. His favorite players: Ron Santo and Jose Cardenal, the latter because “We thought he looked like my aunt,” Girardi told the YES Network in 2011.
Ultimately, Girardi's dream came true. The Cubs selected him in the fifth round of the 1986 draft, and he made his big-league debut for them three years later. A catcher for 15 seasons in the majors, he played for the Cubs from 1989-92, then returned from 2000-02.
He studied engineering, which helped to frame his managerial style
If baseball hadn’t panned out for Girardi, it’s possible he would have become an engineer. He majored in industrial engineering at Northwestern University and was a three-time academic all-American. The subject involves “a lot of problem-solving and figuring out how systems can run better,” he told Business Insider in 2016.
“I love math,” Girardi said. “I used it in scouting reports, trying to figure out how to get hitters out, which pitchers to use, when you can do certain things, different matchups for our hitters against pitchers. So it’s really helped me in that sense.”
It stands to reason, then, that Girardi was well-versed in analytics at a time when data began to take over baseball. The Yankees were at the forefront of the analytics revolution, and their manager was open to using information to shape in-game strategy and personnel decisions. But Girardi also has the sensibilities of a former player and learned to blend emotion and gut feel with cold, hard numbers.
He won three World Series as a player with the Yankees
Girardi hit an RBI triple and was behind the plate for the final out in the clinching game of the 1996 World Series. He then served as the backup catcher behind Jorge Posada on the Yankees’ championship teams in 1998 and 1999.
But Girardi had two other signature moments as a player in New York. He caught Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter on May 14, 1996, and David Cone’s perfect game on July 19, 1999.
How many times did Cone shake off Girardi during that day at Yankee Stadium?
“There was actually one pitch the whole day that I shook him off,” Cone told the New York Post in July. “I actually threw a ball, so he was right, and I was wrong.”
His first managerial job lasted all of one season
Unless you live in South Florida, you probably forgot that Girardi managed the Marlins. He was a one-year wonder, getting fired despite being named National League manager of the year.
Girardi led the Marlins to a 78-84 record with a $20 million payroll, the lowest in baseball. But he often feuded with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, at one point even telling Loria to stop yelling at home-plate umpire Larry Vanover about the strike zone. Loria reportedly had to be talked out of firing Girardi the very next day.
It took one year for Girardi to land another managerial job, although he had plenty of offers. He turned down opportunities to manage the Nationals and Orioles because he preferred to spend more time with family before the Yankees came calling once they dismissed Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre after the 2007 season.
He’s known for his extreme focus and intensity
Girardi's father, Jerry, died after a long fight with Alzheimer's on the eve of the 2012 American League Division Series. But he kept the news from his players for four days — and intended to conceal it even longer until the funeral — before the Peoria (Ill.) Journal-Star published a story about it.
“I didn’t want the team to have to deal with it,” Girardi told reporters at the time.
How's that for focus?
Girardi brought discipline and structure to the Yankees, so much so that his unwavering intensity began to wear on players after 10 years at the helm that included three AL East titles and six postseason appearances. But for a Phillies franchise that hasn’t had so much as a winning season in eight years — and especially after two seasons with player-friendly Gabe Kapler — ownership said it’s exactly the mind-set that is required.