Imagine being really good at your job. You go to work everyday, you produce, and you exceed any expectations that anyone had for you this year. Then your boss calls you into his office and tells you you’re fired.
That’s the situation Joe Girardi is going through. The New York Yankees fired Girardi Thursday after he took a young team – a team that wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs – to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.
If you’ve followed along with the two columns I’ve written so far, you know that my first column was about the idea of Joe Girardi being fired at the end of the season. I took a firm stance on Girardi’s side, citing his World Series championship, his postseason appearances, and his overall winning record as reasons to keep him as the Yankees skipper. Apparently the Yankees front office doesn’t agree with me.
The issue of managers being fired despite having good track records goes deeper than Girardi, though. Two other playoff teams have fired their managers already this offseason. John Farrell of the Boston Red Sox and Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals were let go after their teams were eliminated from the postseason.
John Farrell had been the Red Sox manager since 2013 and won a World Series in his first season at the helm. Boston missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015, but won back-to-back AL East titles in 2016 and 2017. However, the Sox were eliminated in the ALDS both years. It is my guess that the lack of postseason success is what ultimately led to Farrell being let go.
Dusty Baker only spent two years with the Washington Nationals, and won back-to-back NL East titles. Like Farrell, though, Baker’s team was not able to get past the Divisional round in either year.
So now there are three playoff teams searching for a new manager for the 2018 season, and that’s where I have a problem.
Managers are not always the one to blame for poor performance, but they’re usually the easiest to blame. You can blame the players, but in order to fix that problem, you have to try to make trades or acquire new players through free agency. The front office could be to blame, but the general manager is not going to fire himself. So the easiest person to blame and replace is the manager, even if the lack of success is not their fault.
It takes time to put together a winning team and bring home a World Series. Out of the last 30 World Series winners, the average manager was in his fourth year with the team. But these days, the front office wants to win and it wants to win now.
On last Wednesday’s episode of the podcast, Billy Parvatam said the Nationals are “a very arrogant organization,” citing the number of managers they have had throughout their 14-year history – it’s seven, by the way. For a team that has never won a World Series, firing a manager who has just taken you to back-to-back division titles does seem pretty arrogant. It also makes this job look less attractive to potential candidates.
As the Nationals new manager, you go into the job knowing that anything less than a championship will get you fired. If you aren’t able to bring the Nationals a World Series trophy within two years you’re gone. That’s not a job I would want.
The Yankees and Red Sox jobs are more attractive, but they’re moving towards World Series or bust territory. Girardi was able to keep his job for a decade despite winning one championship. Farrell lasted four more years after his sole championship. If this trend continues though, these teams are going to expect a lot more out of their future managers.
Welcome to the new era of baseball. Bring us a World Series, or pack up your things and leave.
Matthew Atkins, Journalist and Baseball fan.