There was a time not so long ago when Joe Girardi was something of a dream candidate to manage the Chicago Cubs. He’d been a two-time member of the organization, was highly-regarded as a thoughtful leader in the clubhouse, and had gotten experience at the helm of the Marlins and then for a long-time with the Yankees.
Indeed, when the Cubs went through multiple managerial searches in the past decade or so, Girardi’s was frequently an aspirational name mentioned. The problem? He was happily employed by the Yankees, from 2008 all the way through last season. The team was doing well, the front office seemed to like him, and there would be no prying him away.
Then there was a falling out after some disappointing years during a Yankee-style rebuild (though also some surprising success, in my opinion), and Girardi was dismissed at the end of his contract – to the surprise of some – after last season, with GM Brian Cashman citing communication issues and a lack of connectivity with the younger players on the roster. There were also rumors that Girardi never really took to the analytics movement, and maybe the game had passed him up a bit (look at what’s happening across the game in managerial hires).
In the meantime, the Cubs lucked into Joe Maddon becoming available, and he was the *perfect* manager for them heading into 2015. Four years later, Maddon is one of the winningest managers in Cubs history … and he’s also on the final year of his contract with no assurances that a new deal will be forthcoming.
So, then, in a very superficial way, when Girardi removed himself from consideration in a couple of this year’s managerial openings and apparently is not going to land a gig at all, it makes sense that peoples’ minds would go right here:
Girardi surprised reds by pulling out Friday. He had a chance to win job at that point but they never got to point of talking money with him. He also pulled out of rangers derby. Industry speculation: he’s waiting a year on Chicago
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 21, 2018
Given the background and Girardi’s managerial pedigree, I don’t necessarily doubt that *he* might be hopeful and waiting for the Cubs. But, if the Cubs front office is going to move on from Joe Maddon next year (something we don’t know for certain they are going to do, mind you), is Girardi really the type of manager they will be going toward?* Perhaps Girardi’s experience in New York will make him uniquely situated to succeed in Chicago, but it’s also possible that the front office will want a younger, more analytically-inclined manager *IF* they’re going to be moving on from Maddon.
Ultimately, I don’t know that there’s any smoke here, and I’m not sure there ever will be. But because of the past connections between the Cubs and Girardi, because of Maddon’s lame-duck status, and because of Girardi’s free agency, these kinds of whispers are going to persist until/unless Maddon has a new deal.
*Terry Francona is signed by the Indians through 2020, just in case you started wondering about other “name” managers out there. Francona, you’ll recall, got the Boston Red Sox job back when he was a young, modern-thinking up-and-comer … with Joe Maddon finishing second, and ultimately making his bones with the Rays.