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Nightengale: With Joe Girardi Out, Yankees Take a Foolish Risk

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Former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Photo: AP

The news was stunning, staggering, mystifying.

Joe Girardi, who had his finest year in his managerial career, leading a young New York Yankees to within one game of the World Series, is out as manager.

Start spreading the rumors, because this makes no sense.

None.

What in the world just happened?

This can’t have anything to do with a botched instant replay non-call.

It can’t have anything to do with the club’s performance.

My goodness, it’s incredible the Yankees even made the playoffs as a wild-card team, let alone knock off the Minnesota Twins in the wild-card game, stun the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, and come within one game of beating the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

No, this is merely a move coming after general manager Brian Cashman’s recommendation to ownership that Girardi not be retained.

Funny thing is, Girardi’s suddenly the hottest name on the free-agent managerial market, with the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies still seeking managers.

The Yankees have done some awfully strange things over the years, from the Billy Martin hirings and firings, to the A-Rod drama, to George Steinbrenner’s tyrant ways, but this one is a doozy.

And it makes absolutely no sense.

Sure, there was occasional friction between Girardi and the front office, but what club doesn’t have their differences?

Maybe the Yankees’ brass was offended when Girardi made it appear that it would ultimately be his call.

And indications are Girardi was getting squeezed from above and below, with the flare-ups grating on his bosses, and his players wondering if he’ll always be so tightly wound.

Still, the man is a winner, and the Yankees had a winning record every season he was there.

And now, we have a perhaps unprecedented situation in which three playoff teams kicked their managers to the curb, with the Boston Red Sox bailing on John Farrell as the Yankees did Girardi and the Nationals Dusty Baker.

What makes the latter two moves particularly mystifying is the limited upside. The Nationals won 97 games, 95 the year before and again will be heavily favored to win the NL East, losing a pair of Game 5 NLDS crapshoots each of the past two seasons.

The Yankees were almost universally acknowledged as way ahead of schedule when they won 91 games, captured the wild-card game and then stunned the Indians in the Division Series before Minute Maid Park and Justin Verlander stopped them cold.

The new Yankees manager will inherit Judge and Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius and whichever free agent plums they pick a year from now.

Girardi rarely looked graceful in his job, but he was very good at it.

And how much better will the manager be? Will a young, player-friendly, analytics-wise manager really provide that much more than Girardi?

Can a respected organizational man like VP of baseball operations Tim Naehring make a seamless transition to manager? Can a young, emerging candidate – be it Josh Paul internally or any number of rising stars in other organizations – handle a clubhouse that will almost certainly add a mega personality such as Bryce Harper to its mix of high-profile youngsters?

Did we forget how difficult it is to manage the Yankees?

Apparently, the Yankees did. And that’s the most nonsensical thing of all.

By Bob Nightengale

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, USA Today. Follow Bob Nightengale on Twitter and Facebook

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