By Jason Keidel
It turns out Robinson Cano isn’t the only one who is willing to show a little leg to the enemy.
The twin mating rituals of the two most important free agents the Yankees need to address this offseason includes someone who won’t throw, catch or hit a baseball in 2014.
Joe Girardi, the man who managed his muscular tail off this year, kept the emaciated Yankees in contention until they literally collapsed. And now he is a free man, no longer bound by the Bronx.
Girardi will not win Manager of the Year because the post he holds is seen as far more facile than other managerial jobs. Between the team’s cash and cache, Girardi’s performance was crushed under the weight of outsized expectations. The cynics assert that the Yankees are supposed to contend every year because they buy their way into the party.
But those who followed the 2013 Yankees realized Girardi waved a most potent wand this year, keeping a team decimated by injuries to countless key players and the mutating, volcanic sideshow that became of Alex Rodriguez, who played the last couple months despite being suspended for 211 games.
Between the drain of incessant, patchwork lineups, and the strain of managing in the media capital of the galaxy, Girardi arguably did his best job despite missing the playoffs for the second time since he became the boss in 2008.
It raises an interesting question: whom do the Bombers need more? Their resplendent second baseman or the man who kept his walking triage from collapsing until the very end?
Yankees fans hope that isn’t a question that needs to be answered, that both invaluable Yankees stay exactly where they are.
Perhaps Girardi, who said he needs to speak with this family — which is pretty much a euphemism for saying he’s going to make his superiors sweat — before he decides if he wants to return to the Bronx, just wants to flirt with a few strangers before landing back with the Steinbrenner boys.
As is the right of all free agents, Girardi may field offers from the Cubs and Nationals. The former hails from Girardi’s former home, Chicago, while the latter is lathered with young, malleable talent, exactly in Girardi’s wheelhouse. He is something of a control freak, so the idea of returning to calcified stars who will never change isn’t appealing unless you’re winning — something the Yankees haven’t done in earnest since 2009.
The Yankees have more vacancies and variables than they’ve had since pre-dynasty days. Will they break their solemn pledge to duck the $189 million salary cap? Or will the rancid taste of missing the playoffs irritate ownership into a spending spree? Will these decisions impact Girardi’s decision?
No matter the answers, I will extrapolate the answer from Sweeny Murti, who was interviewed by Richard Neer on Saturday.
When asked the likelihood of Girardi jumping ship to the good ship Wrigley, Sweeny aptly said that the Cubs job — a black hole in its own right — will be open four or five more times while Girardi is fit enough to manage, whereas the Yankees job is indeed a onetime affair, and not one to be dumped at the first bump in the road.
These aren’t the King George days, when Billy Martin and The Boss divorced and reconciled more often than Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Once G.I. Joe leaves, he won’t be asked to return.
There isn’t a managerial soul alive, employed or not, who wouldn’t take a call from the New York Yankees. And Girardi would be wise to make sure they don’t make that call.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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