If you had said back in 1992 that the Yankees would employ just three managers over the next twenty-five years, you'd have been laughed at. No, laughter's not quite strong enough. If you'd said that after a decade-long stretch in which eight different men were hired as skipper in the Bronx–one of them on three separate occasions–you'd have been forcibly committed. But here we are.
If Joe Girardi finishes out the new four-year, $16 million contract he signed last week, which takes him through 2017, he, Joe Torre and Buck Showalter will remain the only members of a unique club of stability that will have lasted a quarter century. Joe Girardi–all-time great manager is not a concept that many of us have ever considered–but the binder's loyal servant, who will turn just 49 this week, is approaching some pretty rarefied territory.
Girardi's six seasons as Yankee skipper are already tied for seventh most in club history. If he completes his new deal, he'll be tied for sixth on that list, and in terms of consecutive years at the helm, he'll be fifth. Ralph Houk managed three seasons from 1961–63 then was brought back in 1966 for eight more while Billy Martin, over parts of ten seasons was hired and fired every three weeks or so. Girardi's 972 games managed are sixth, but it will be some time before he catches Houk for the next rung on the ladder.
At 564 victories, Girardi's currently sixth on the Yankee ledger. He'll need to average 95 wins over the next four years to catch Houk for fifth. His .580 won-loss percentage is eighth, .11 behind Martin and .17 beneath Hall-of-Famer Miller Huggins.
The Yankees have famously won 27 World Championships, but Girardi is one of only nine managers to enjoy parades down the Canyon of Heroes. Besides the obvious five - Torre, Martin, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and Huggins - Houk, Bob Lemon and Bucky Harris also earned rings in the Bronx. Girardi's 21 postseason victories are fourth behind Torre, Stengel and McCarthy, though that rank is rather skewed since baseball's added three rounds of playoffs.
Judging managers is a difficult thing to do. Maybe guys like Stengel and McCarthy were truly brilliant, or maybe managing rosters rich with Hall-of-Famers had something to do with their success. In an early episode of The Simpsons, Mr. Burns hires a group of MLB ringers to play for his nuclear power plant's softball team. In one scene, he tells Darryl Strawberry to hit a home run and when he does, Burns remarks to Smithers, "I told him to do that!" That seems like a strategy that would have worked well on Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. Torre reminded us - with his brutal overuse of middle relievers and blatant favoritism for "his guys" - that even winning managers have considerable flaws.
Love him or hate him, Joe Girardi's managerial tenure when it's said and done will have spanned a significant chunk of Yankee history. He won't win eight titles like McCarthy or seven like Stengel, he may not even match Torre's four. Still it's hard to say that he hasn't gotten about as much as he could out of teams, which haven't always resembled the all-star-packed Yankees of yesteryear. He kept injury-ravaged rosters in contention deep into September in 2008 and 2013 and made the playoffs all four years in-between, failing to win at least one postseason series just once.
Like Torre, Girardi has his warts and watching every game, they're plain to see. Chris Stewart says hi. Nevertheless, I can't really think of another head man currently in baseball who I'd rather have at the helm, now, or for the next four years.