After 10 years at the helm, Joe Girardi is out as Yankees manager. He took over prior to the 2008 season, following the team's three straight playoff exits during the Division Series. The once mighty dynasty under Joe Torre had waned, having failed to win a World Series title since 2000.
The Core Four were still at the top of their game, and the organization was eager to capitalize on this before they entered their decline phase. Enter Joe Girardi, a three-time World Series champion with the Yankees and former teammate of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. Girardi was tasked with the responsibility of returning the Yankees to world championship glory.
He accomplished this goal in 2009, after the Yankees failed to make the playoffs in his freshman campaign as skipper. Overall, the team missed the postseason in four of his years as manager, while being eliminated rapidly in the one-and-done Wild Card Game in another. They also saw three exits in the League Championship Series and one in the ALDS.
Ten years is a long time to have any job. Girardi presided over many ups and downs during his tenure. It was a time of transition for the Yankees, with many personnel changes occurring.
Every member of the Core Four retired on Girardi's watch, and he was forced to navigate the club through the farewell tours for two of them. Meanwhile, the team failed to make the playoffs in each of those two years.
The organization decided to let homegrown All-Star Robinson Cano depart via free agency, instead choosing to sign Jacoby Ellsbury from the rival Red Sox. Ellsbury displaced fan-favorite Brett Gardner in center field, while the Yankees struggled for years to find even a replacement-level player to fill the void left at second base by Cano's departure. Run production suffered mightily due to the loss of his middle-of-the-order Hall of Fame caliber bat, which contributed significantly to the team's disappointing finishes in the two years that followed.
Girardi also endured the entire Alex Rodriguez soap opera, from the accusations and denials to the suspension and lawsuits. A-Rod made his triumphant return and was a major factor in the club's playoff push in 2015. But A-Rod could no longer play a defensive position and Girardi had to bench him the next year once it became clear that the former three-time MVP could no longer contribute to the offense either.
It's impossible to know precisely how much the field manager impacts the personnel decisions, or to what degree the front office influences his moves. Regardless, all of these things happened during Girardi's stint as manager. They are, therefore, part of his legacy.
With a heavy heart, let's take a look at the five worst on-field moments during Joe Girardi's 10-year run as Yankees manager:
1. Missing the playoffs in 2008
The Yankees' American League record 13 consecutive postseason appearances came to an end with the disappointing 2008 campaign. Girardi was brought in to get the Bombers to the LCS and beyond, following their elimination in three straight Division Series under Joe Torre. Instead, New York took a step backwards by missing the playoffs entirely.
The single worst moment of the season occurred on June 15th, when ace starting pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was injured while running the bases during an interleague game at Houston. Wang reached on a bunt attempt in the sixth inning with the Yankees ahead 3-0. He pulled up rounding third on a Jeter single, struggled to make it home, and had to be helped off the field after scoring.
New York won the game 13-0, but Wang was lost for the year, and his stellar career was effectively ended. He tore a tendon and sprained his foot. Wang made several comeback attempts in later years, but never regained his form.
"It's a manager's worst nightmare when a pitcher's on a basepath," Girardi said. "It's unfortunate."
"The National League needs to join the 21st century," Hank Steinbrenner said. "I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."
At the time of Wang's injury, New York trailed Boston by six for first place in the AL East and were 3 1/2 behind Tampa Bay for the sole Wild Card berth. They finished six games out in the playoff race, wasting Mike Mussina's first 20-win season in the final year of his great career.
2. Losing to the Rangers in the 2010 ALCS
One of the most controversial moves of Girardi's tenure was his decision to use a three-man rotation for the duration of the 2009 playoffs. It turned out to be his most brilliant, and the defining one of his most successful year as Yankees manager.
He eschewed this novel approach during the Yankees bid for a repeat, which proved to be a major contributing factor of their demise. After sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, Girardi decided to use struggling starter A.J. Burnett for Game 4 of the LCS versus the Rangers. Burnett got lit up to the tune of five runs, and the Yankees fell behind 3-1 in the series.
Phil Hughes didn't fare any better, losing both of his starts against Texas. Still, the series may have turned out differently with two starts apiece from Pettitte and Sabathia. The Yankees won both of CC's starts, while losing Pettitte's only one. Perhaps things might have turned out differently if Pettitte had gotten a second turn.
Instead, the Yankees were beaten by a team that won five fewer games during the regular season. It was a disappointing end to a 95-win campaign, as the Bombers fell two victories shy of a chance to play the Giants in the World Series and possibly garner back-to-back titles.
3. Losing to the Tigers in the 2011 ALDS
The AL's top playoff seed went to the 97-win Yankees in 2011. Then they ran into the Detroit pitching juggernaut.
They lost a game to Max Scherzer. They lost one to eventual MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. Then Doug Fister beat Ivan Nova in Game 5 to end New York's season.
The Bomber's had tons of offense. They hit a franchise-record 27 home runs in the first 14 games of the season. They set another club record on July 30th versus Baltimore when they scored 12 runs in the first inning. On August 25th, they became the first team in history to hit three grand slams in one game.
Perhaps their undoing came before the season even started. Coveted free agent starter Cliff Lee rejected the Yankees' six-year, $138 million contract offer to sign for less money with the Phillies. In the end, the Yankees' big acquisition Freddy Garcia just wasn't enough to push them past Detroit and into the ALCS. The outcome was bitterly disappointing considering the fine year they had.
4. Losing to the Tigers in the 2012 ALCS
Once again, winners of the AL's top playoff seed. This time, after a 95-win season. Once again, eliminated by the Tigers. This time, it was a four-game sweep in the ALCS.
In May, Mariano Rivera was lost for the year when he tore a ligament in his knee shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City. It was a horrific injury. Sadly, it wouldn't be the last one experienced by a member of the Core Four during the 2012 campaign.
Derek Jeter broke his ankle diving to stop Jhonny Peralta's groundball in the top of the 12th inning of Game One versus Detroit. Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees had rallied for four runs, capped by a Raul Ibanez two-run home run with two outs to tie it up. The Tigers took the lead on the play before Jeter got hurt, then added another run for the 6-4 victory.
New York scored a total of two runs on 11 hits in the remaining three games. It was arguably the most one-sided defeat in a postseason series ever suffered by the franchise. The Yankees never led at any point during the four-game sweep.
5. Losing Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS
Losing the ALCS this year doesn't qualify as a "worst moment." The fact that the Yankees even got there was a major achievement, considering they were nearly swept by Cleveland in the Division Series. They weren't even supposed to make the playoffs. This was a rebuilding year, after all.
Still, the ALCS was winnable. But they didn't lose the series based on their play in the final two games. They lost it because of their performance in Game 2.
In many ways, their seven postseason wins served as a highlight film for the 2017 season. The Yankees won with lots of home runs and clutch pitching. Likewise, their playoff losses mirrored their most frustrating failures during the regular season.
None better exemplifies this than Game 2 at Minute Maid Park. They got superb pitching from their starter and middle relief, only to have the closer blow it in the ninth. They hit the ball hard all night against the ace of aces, but just couldn't deliver the knockout blow. They only needed one more run to take the series back to New York with a chance to clinch the pennant without having to return to Houston, but they just didn't get it. Instead, Verlander got the big strikeout, time and time again.
The Bombers could have won that series in five games and moved on to play the Dodgers in the World Series. They might have become the first team ever to knock off three 100-win teams in the same postseason.
Some might argue that the worst moment of the 2017 season was actually Game 2 of the ALDS. It sure seemed like it at the time. But in retrospect, that game was actually a high point for this year's team. After that crushing defeat, the players truly came together. They rallied in support of their manager. That loss was the launching point from which six more ultra-memorable victories were attained.
"We got your back," said Todd Frazier to his manager after that stinging loss. Frazier was speaking for the entire team. The ballclub had finally gelled. It's just too bad that it happened only 10 games before Joe Girardi's outstanding decade-long run as manager came to an end.
What do you think were the Yankees’ worst moments under Joe Girardi? Let us know in the comments section below.