All Things Baseball

Manager of the Year is a Manager No More

Joe Girardi

Major League Baseball recently announced the winners of the Manager of the Year award. The AL honor (unsurprisingly) went to Tigers’ skipper Jim Leyland. The NL award was given to Joe Girardi, for bringing the supposedly hopeless Marlins close to a playoff berth. One of the great ironies of baseball this year is that Joe Girardi was fired by the Marlins after the end of the season. That’s right folks, the Florida Marlins fired this year’s Manager of the Year.

It’s a decision that seems to make no sense, if you consider what Girardi was able to accomplish. During the offseason, the Marlins held a firesale, trading everyone from Josh Beckett to Juan Pierre to Luis Castillo to Mike Lowell. Florida acquired prospects in each of these trades and guys like Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, and Mike Jacobs were the team’s heroes this season. How many of you had heard of each of those young players before the start of this season?

The Marlins named Joe Girardi manager during the 2005-06 offseason, hiring him to take care of the kids and to create a winning team despite the departure of virtually every capable veteran via trades or free agency. Girardi did all that and more. Now granted, the Marlins had some of top young stars in baseball, such as Hanley Ramirez (your NL Rookie of the Year), Miguel Cabrera (a .339 hitter and Silver Slugger), Dan Uggla (NL Outstanding Rookie), Anibal Sanchez (No-hitter), and Josh Johnson (terrific rookie year) among others, but a team with nearly zero veteran starpower doesn’t go 78-84 without some nifty work from the manager. The Marlins did slip a little toward the end of the year, but you’ve got to give the team and its manager a ton of credit. Joe Girardi certainly didn’t do poorly enough to get fired; in fact, I’d argue he did more than well enough to deserve a raise.

So why did the Marlins fire Joe Girardi?

There were a couple of reasons why the Marlins decided to give Joe Girardi his walking papers, and neither of them had anything to do with his on-field performance. The first one was that team owner Jeffrey Loria did not like Girardi from the get-go and seemed to hate him by the end of the season. The tension between manager and boss may have reached its breaking point in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 6th.

In that game, the Marlins had reliever Taylor Tankersley on the mound in the 7th inning. The home-plate umpire was Larry Vanover, and after Vanover made a couple of questionable calls, Girardi argued without leaving the dugout. Meanwhile, owner Jeffrey Loria, sitting just a few rows behind the dugout, yelled at Vanover. This prompted Girardi to turn around and yell back at Loria. Needless to say that was probably not a smart thing to do with your boss. Girardi was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, but he might have felt more nervous about the impending press conference and meeting with Loria. Girardi wasn’t fired on the spot as some analysts thought he would be, but he was definitely on very, very thin ice. The manager was upbeat after the meeting however, even saying that he planned to manage the Marlins for “a very long time”.

Obviously Girardi overlooked the power of his boss to fire him, and after numerous arguments culminating with the one during the August game against LA, he was a dead man walking. It just goes to show you that fighting with your superiors doesn’t lead to good results, no matter how well you’re doing at work.

But there was a second reason for Girardi’s ouster and that was that several executives and a couple of players accused him of having a communication problem. Clearly Jeffrey Loria agreed with them, because Girardi certainly wasn’t getting through to him. The ability to communicate well with players and the front office brass is just as important for a manager as the ability to guide a team to victory. The Marlins obviously thought that Girardi lacked this quality.

Does Joe Girardi really have communication issues?

The problem is that Girardi does not have communication disabilities and it’s unlikely he ever caused any of the communication breakdowns in the Marlins clubhouse. Need any evidence of that? Well, the Yankees’ YES Network just hired Girardi to be one of their broadcasters. If Girardi has a communication problem, do you think the Yankees would have hired him to a job that requires top-notch communication skills? It’s just another one of the ironies surrounding Joe Girardi this offseason.

Joe Girardi is just the 2nd manager ever to lose his job after winning the Manager of the Year Award. The only other skipper to lose his job after being honored with the award was Davey Johnson, who got pink-slipped by the Orioles in 1997 despite doing a solid job with the team. It just goes to show you that no manager’s job is safe even if the team is doing a great job.

We saw a manager get fired for off-the-field issues twice this offseason (the other time was Ken Macha of the A’s being dismissed despite leading the team to the ALCS) even though his team had a terrific year, and that means in today’s MLB, a skipper’s relationship with the team brass and with the players is more important than his ability to manage effectively.


2 Responses to “Manager of the Year is a Manager No More”

  1. […] dugout as Loria voiced his displeasure with an umpire’s calls from his front-row suite. This strained relationship led to Girardi’s removal, replaced by Fredi Gonzalez, who has proved to be more acquiescent […]

  2. […] was named manager of the year that year. But he reportedly didn’t get along with Loria, so the owner canned him. How did that turn […]

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