After a decade as manager of the Yankees, Joe Girardi moved into a new role Wednesday as a studio analyst for MLB Network. It would seem to be a coup for the baseball channel: somebody who might provide uniquely keen insights on what is sure to be one of baseball’s most observed teams this season.
What does Gary Sanchez need to do to become a better catcher?
How can Aaron Judge avoid a prolonged slump?
What is the biggest chore that lies ahead for the rookie manager Aaron Boone?
But if you are expecting an unrestrained, opinionated, here’s-what-I-really-think Girardi now that he has been jettisoned by the Yankees, don’t get your hopes up.
Girardi himself acknowledged that his critiques in front of the camera were unlikely to have hard edges to them. Pedro Martinez, a fellow MLB Network analyst, is known for his sharp tongue; Girardi is not.
“I’m not really into criticizing because I think players are giving their all and doing everything they can to be successful,” Girardi said on a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “I think we can never forget that on the other side someone’s being paid to either hit off a pitcher or get another hitter out, so there’s two sides involved. The matchups are what have always interested me the most, and that’s what I’d like to focus on.
That may simply be Girardi’s nature. In his 10 years as the Yankees’ manager, Girardi fastidiously protected his players from public criticism; one notable exception came last August when Girardi became exasperatedwith Sanchez’s defensive shortcomings. He also tried to be as bland as possible in his daily meetings with the news media.
But Girardi, 53, also has aspirations of managing again and should be a prime candidate somewhere next season. Thus, there seems little point in publicly laying bare the shortcomings of a player you might soon be managing.
“When you hire somebody like Joe with the amount of success that he’s had in the past, you know there’s a very real possibility that at some point he may get back on the field, and we’re fine with that,” said Rob McGlarry, the MLB Network president.
McGlarry said that what made Girardi attractive for his network was not only his success with the Yankees, whom he led to the 2009 World Series title, but also that he has recently been in the dugout.
Still, on the conference call a few hours before he was to make his on-air debut, Girardi delivered few insights.
Should the Yankees have made more of an effort to keep third baseman Todd Frazier, who signed a modest two-year, $17 million deal with the Mets, and land another starting pitcher?
“That really comes down to financials that the Yankees are having to pay attention to and I’m not involved in that anymore, so I can’t tell you exactly why they did or why they didn’t add a third baseman or a pitcher,” said Girardi, who praised the third-base prospect Miguel Andujar but said “time will tell” if he is ready this season.
What is the biggest challenge for Boone, who has not been a manager or coach at any level?
“That’s a tough question for me to answer too because I don’t know Aaron Boone that well and I don’t know how he’s going to handle everything,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot that comes with being the New York Yankees manager. But obviously he’s a bright man, and he’s played baseball for a long time and understands the game and has been around it a long time.”
What did he think of the Yankees assembling a younger coaching staff — four new hires are under 40 — than the one that worked for him?
“Again I’m not there and I don’t know why decisions were made,” he said.
How long did it take Girardi, who became a manager with the Florida Marlins in 2006 after a lengthy career as a catcher, to get comfortable making decisions on the fly during a game?
“You’re asking me to go all the way back to 2006 and that’s hard for me to do,” Girardi said. “I use this excuse with my wife, Kim, quite often: I had a lot of foul tips over the years, so I don’t really remember.”
Girardi did go on to recall that his first spring training game with the Marlins peppered him with several things that he was not prepared for, but he said he did not want to reveal what they were.
“The harder thing for me that you have to take the crash course in,” he added, “is learning your players and learning what makes them tick and what situations they’re uncomfortable in, and if it’s a young player, making sure that they have success and build on that success.”
The Yankees acquired the rights to RUSSELL WILSON, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, from the Texas Rangers for future considerations. Wilson, who played minor league baseball for the Colorado Rockies while he was in college, will work out with the Yankees during spring training. Wilson made similar appearances with the Rangers in 2014 and 2015, but has given no indication that he plans to pursue a baseball career.