By Jason Keidel
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Maybe Millennials don't remember, but we once had a mayor who exhorted a crowd by bellowing, "How am I doin'?"
After a while, it took on a rhetorical tone. The self-certain mayor of Gotham was Ed Koch, who knew that New Yorkers love confidence, success, and winning.
To that end, Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn't possess the same bluster as the former mayor, but it might be fun to ask the question for him.
As the Yankees skipper enters his 10th season of lording over the dugout, he's slowly qualified for comparison. Once you've had this gig for a decade you enter the realm of some pretty high-end names.
So, how does Girardi stack up with his predecessors? Unlike most teams, which thumb through the managerial Rolodex, hiring and firing skippers every few seasons, the Yankees have some serious pillars emerging from their hallowed dugouts.
The Yankees have had 34 managers. For the sake of this piece, let's consider men who managed the Bombers for about a decade (or at least eight years). So with apologies to Lou Piniella, Yogi Berra, Bob Lemon, and Ralph Houk, there are five other managers who qualify.
Girardi, 51, has managed 1,458 games, going 819-639, with an average of 91 wins per season. Pro rata, Girardi would be 910-710 after 10 seasons. He's won one pennant and one World Series title, both coming in 2009.
With no established metric for such things, we might as well address Girardi's predecessors in chronological order.
Miller Huggins managed the Yanks for 12 seasons (1,796 games), going 1,067-719 , for a .597 winning percentage. Babe Ruth's first manager was the first to start winning absurdly often, particularly in the postseason. Huggins won six pennants and three World Series championships. Since Huggins' career dates back to the dead ball era, there's no anecdotal info we can provide, or any recollections unless you're at least 105 years old. So the numbers will have to speak for Huggins.
Joe McCarthy, whose blessed career began with Ruth and ended with Joe DiMaggio, managed the club for an astonishing 16 seasons (2,348 games). His regular-season record was 1,460-867, winning 62.7 percent of the time. McCarthy also won an absurd eight AL pennants and seven World Series titles. As with Huggins, most of us don't even have relatives who recall McCarthy's career, so alas, the numbers, considerable as they are, will have to suffice.
Then we have Casey Stengel, the oddball, goofball skipper known for his malaprops and old-world wisdom. Stengel went 1149-696, for a .626 winning percentage, as Yankees manager. Like his two predecessors (Huggins and McCarthy) the eclectic, iconic manager separates himself from the pack with his October deeds. When the brown leaves and long sleeves defined the moment, Stengel won 10 pennants and seven world titles.
It's quite understandable if you don't think he qualifies, but for fun let's squeeze Billy Martin into the fold. Like Girardi, Martin is the only other skipper without a Liberace-style set of World Series rings. Over eight seasons (941 games) the irascible manager went 556-335 (.591), with "only" two pennants and one World Series title, in 1977. (Martin was fired before the "Bronx Zoo" Yanks won their second world title in '78.)
Then we have Joe Torre, the only skipper other than Girardi every reader remembers.
Oddly enough, Huggins, Stengel, and Torre each managed the Bombers for exactly 12 years. And Torre was the last manager whose career even vaguely resembled the sprawling October résumés of Huggins, McCarthy, and Stengel. No. 6 won six pennants and four World Series titles.
Torre, of course, was way more than just Giardi's predecessor. He also managed Girardi during their enchanted run in the '90s, and perhaps Torre mentored the current Yankees manager more than anyone in the sport.
Girardi could not possibly fill Torre's shoes. Nor should he have to. You could easily argue that they entered the Yankees dugout at inverted times in the team's history. Torre entered during the dawn of an empire. Girardi came during its dusk.
There are holes in these comparisons. You have the difference in the length of the season. Other than Torre and Girardi, no Yankees manager had to navigate the October minefield of wild card teams, divisional rounds, and, in the case of Huggins, McCarthy, and Stengel, not even the ALCS. Also, Huggins and McCarthy didn't manage minorities. McCarthy's career ended one year before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, in 1947.
So while Girardi may not quite qualify for Monument Park -- and fans have seen fit to unload on him lately -- consider the inherent obstacles he's had, the layers of playoff series, and the rampant parity of this epoch, which also includes free agency. No "Core Four." No epic payroll edge. No George Steinbrenner. But unlike the aforementioned legends, Girardi's resume isn't finished.
Maybe the current Yankees skipper has some more October memories to make.
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