It's not done yet, but it's almost there. And if you spent any time at all really studying the managerial candidates of the Chicago Cubs, you'd likely agree that it was probably there to begin with. We're referring, of course, to a contract extension for New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. As of this writing, the news out of the Big Apple is that the former Cubs catcher will receive a $9 million, three-year deal to stay with the Bronx Bombers.
Understandably enough, Girardi was the top choice of many fans of the North Siders -- not to mention a few local media members, including Comcast SportsNet's Dave Kaplan. Would he have been a bad choice? (Girardi, that is.) Not at all.
Having now managed a full season for the Florida Marlins and three more with the Yankees, he's an at least lightly seasoned veteran in the role. Joe is also a Peoria-born Northwestern grad who grew up a Cubs fan and came up through the team's minor league system. And, as mentioned, he spent some part of four seasons with the North Siders from 1989-1992. So he's at least experienced being a supporter of the team as well as a member of the organization. But, let's be honest, do you really think he was ever going to trade in his black pinstripes for blue ones?
We doubted it all along and now, it appears, for good reason. Although all of the various parties involved would probably deny it, Girardi was likely "claimed" by the Yankees all along. There's probably been a deal to bring him back in place -- at least in spirit -- for many weeks. Months even. By all accounts, Girardi is on fine terms with Brian Cashman and the rest of Yankee management and ownership. And Jim Hendry likely knew this.
The truth is, Joe Girardi never completely fit in with the team's vision of who the next manager should be anyway. Sure, he has a history with team, both as a fan and player. But 1992 is a long time ago. The team has obviously changed, the organization has changed (some would say not enough), and even the atmosphere at Wrigley Field has changed. (2003 took care of that.)
The decision to hire the next Cubs manager, like the decision to hire any key employee, was subject to fate. Here we have a team that, under its new ownership, is circling the wagons, turning its attention inward to the organization -- developing from within and promoting from within. And, as fate would have it, when Lou Piniella left, there was a guy already with the major league team who'd been in the organization for years and perfectly fit all of the team's priorities. Mike Quade even called himself an "organizational guy" at his introductory press conference. Was it fair that Quade got an on-the-job audition when Ryne Sandberg didn't? No. But, again, there's that fate thing.
And for those who would say Quade's hiring was all about money. Well, yeah, finances played a role -- as well they should. Do Cubs fans really want the team shelling out $3 million a year (or more if they got into a bidding war with the Yankees) for a manager? Again, that just doesn't jibe with the direction the Cubs are heading. And good for them.
Girardi would've been nice. So would've Sandberg. Maybe one or the other (or both) will get a chance to manage the Cubs eventually. But Mike Quade was a perfectly sound choice. And Girardi, anyway, likely never had the Cubs seriously in mind to begin with.