It has now been nearly three weeks since the Yankees announced Joe Girardi would not be returning as manager for 2018. I’ve never been a big Girardi fan, and even though I had way more faith in him post-ALCS than I did after ALDS Game 2 (what a turn of events that was, huh?), I still think it was the right call to not bring him back. The Yankees are a young team that has the potential to be a force in the league for the next decade, and I don’t think Girardi was the guy to lead them. There was talk of him wanting to step away and spend more time with his family after 2017 before the playoffs even started, so even though I don’t think the decision was 100% his call, he may not have been up to the task of managing another 10 years.
So yeah, I’m glad Girardi is gone. But I figured that after getting rid of their manager of 10 years, they would have SOME kind of idea who they wanted to replace him. It’s kind of crazy how little I’ve heard about potential replacements for Girardi thus far. They’ve only officially interviewed two candidates. One was bench coach Rob Thomson, which was somewhat surprising because from everything I’ve heard the Yankees are looking mostly externally for their next manager. The other was Eric Wedge, who last managed the Mariners from 2011-2013 but also managed the Indians from 2003-2009, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2007. I could see Wedge stepping into the manager role because he’s experienced and has excelled and managed in the playoffs before.
The Yankees have also been linked to guys like Brad Ausmus, who apparently said he has no interested in managing next year, and 2003 ALCS Game 7 hero Aaron Boone. Personally, there are two guys who I have my eye on.
My logical candidate is Tony Pena. On paper, Pena almost makes too much sense. He’s been a coach with the Yankees since 2006, serving as both first base and bench coach. He interviewed the last time the Yankees’ had the manager job open in 2008, when Girardi got the job. He has managerial experience, as he was the Royals’ skipper from 2002-05, winning AL Manager of the Year in 2003. And, perhaps most importantly in my mind, he’s a former catcher who will be able to work with Gary Sanchez on his defensive woes. As far as downsides, Pena is 60 years old, perhaps not the ideal age for a manager of a young team. Also, who knows how much he would actually be able to teach Sanchez that he hasn’t already tried. Overall, Pena’s name has not come up much or at all regarding the manager job, but I think he’s a great fit.
If that’s my logical option, who’s my irrational option?
No, not Lee Corso. Alex Rodriguez, aka founder of A-Rod Corp and one of the best baseball players of all-time. Before I address why I understand this could be a completely horrible idea, let me explain why A-Rod could actually be a great manager.
First of all, unlike most of the other guys I mentioned before, A-Rod is young. At just 42 years of age and only one year removed from his playing days, he would be able to relate to younger players much better than an older manager would. Second of all, checkered past or not, he is undoubtedly one of the best players not just of this generation, but of all time. What he did as a player will get players to respect him instantly. He is also a great baseball mind, as anyone who has watched his FOX broadcasts can tell he actually has a lot of knowledge about the game.
Now, obviously there is way more too it than that. Off the bat, A-Rod’s relationship with the Yankees’ front office was never the best, from his opt-out during the World Series in 2007 to his career being cut short a month in 2016. Who knows if they would even want him to manage, or vice-versa. Also, A-Rod is just a sketchy dude. He straight up lied about his steroid usage multiple times, had multiple on-field issues with players (Dallas Braden, Bronson Arroyo, etc.), and hasn’t always been in the public eye for the best reasons (see: Madonna.) If he were to get hired, it would be an absolute media frenzy. One of the most exciting young teams in baseball, who also happens to be the New York Yankees, turning over the keys to the franchise to one of the most polarizing athletes of our time? You can’t script stories like that. Especially with him dating J-Lo, the paparazzi would absolutely flock to the Bronx. And call me crazy, but as much of a mess as that would be, it would be a LOT of fun to watch. Kind of like a modern-day Bronx is Burning (fantastic miniseries, throwback to when ESPN was actually good and not a steaming hot plate of garbage disguised as a sports network.)
But, at the end of the day, the question is this: who is the best-suited person to bring championships to New York. The last time the Yankees were in a similar position, with a promising young team and the manager job open, was 1995. The man they hired, Joe Torre, delivered them four championships in the next five seasons. Am I asking for that out of our next manager? Obviously not, but that would be great. The bottom line is, for as much as the 2017 Yankees overperformed, they still squandered what was a solid chance to win a championship. Their next manager needs to put them in the absolute best position to win a championship every single year. Who is that guy? No clue. If I knew, I’d be working in baseball somewhere, making way more money than I would know what to do with.
So to Brian Cashman, the Steinbrenners, and the rest of the Yankees front office: choose wisely. And to A-Rod: keep doing you, my dude.