Believe it or not, Joe Girardi is already entering his eighth season as the manager of the New York Yankees. That's not to say that it doesn't feel like eight years since the Joe Torre era ended in the Bronx, because it does, it's more that Girardi is joining a special class of Yankee skippers. Of the six men to manage the Bombers at least eight seasons, all but one (Ralph Houk) is immortalized in Monument Park.
It's refreshing to see, actually. While he's been far from a bust during his time at the helm, it wouldn't be unusual for someone who's yielded the results that Girardi has to find themselves on the hot seat. After all, this is the same franchise that deemed Torre replaceable after a six-year World Series drought. But even if a season without a playoff berth-let alone two straight and three in seven seasons-was once considered unacceptable in the Bronx, times have changed, and fans have adopted a more rational, level-headed attitude.
It's obviously necessary to have the confidence of the front office, which Girardi appears to have (just ask Torre), but having the fans on your side is even more important. Even a skipper that's well-liked by his bosses can find himself canned in order to appease a disgruntled fan base. Girardi has endeared himself to that fan base by doing things like working well with the media and being unafraid to get fired up and defend his players when needed.
He built up good will with fans and the organization by working his way up the ranks by serving as a World Series-winning player, a YES Network broadcaster, and bench coach to Torre. It also didn't hurt his credentials when he picked up a National League Manager of the Year award on his way to the Yankees job.
It's not uncommon for an organization that's become spoiled with success to panic and place blame on someone for the team's state of disarray in years, and that blame most often falls on the manager. The Yanks, however, recognize that of the current managers that have been with their team at least as long as Girardi has been-that's Mike Scioscia, Bruce Bochy, & Bud Black- none have a higher winning percentage (baseball's lost a lot of long-tenured managers in the last year or so like Ron Gardenhire, Ron Washington, Charlie Manuel, Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland, and Joe Maddon, who left for the Cubs). While he certainly has his share of detractors, like those who say he manages too "by the book," or "by the binder," most fans recognize that he was dealt pretty poor hands in 2013 and '14 in terms of the team's health and that, all things considered, he made the most out of what he had.
While Joe helped his cause by keeping those teams above .500 and respectable, he was sort of playing with house money. Expectations were low with rosters decimated by injury, and distractions were constant with the side-show retirement tours of Mariano River and Derek Jeter. So what happens if the 2015 season comes and goes and the Yanks are once again left with nothing to show for it? Considering the logo of this team could be changed from an interlocking "NY" to a question mark, it all depends. If the injury risks stay healthy and the bounce-back candidates bounce back, then the pressure is going to truly be on Girardi for the first time in years. If things fall apart again, then Joe will be at the very least be able to see out the final year of his four-year contract as the Yanks deal with some much bigger problems.
Either way, Joe Girardi has proven to be a more-than-capable manager who's rightfully dodged overly harsh criticism. The Yankees are in a stage of redefining themselves, and placing Girardi on the hot seat when he's undeserving will only exacerbate their problems, even if they do continue this ugly streak for a third year.