Friday, December 2, 2011

Homegrown Homecoming: Joe Girardi

I'm not sure that anyone outside the Rockies fan base knows that Joe Girardi ever played for the team. It's certainly not what he's best known for. But he was brought on board during the expansion draft and, as a member of the team for its first three seasons, he made a significant contribution. He wasn't a power hitter like the Bombers. His impact came primarily through his ability to get on base and his fielding behind the plate. He was also the starting catcher for the 1995 play-off team.

Girardi was never hard to find after his time with the Rockies ended. He played with the Yankees for four seasons, three of which earned him a championship ring. He has a special place in my heart for that reason; after moving away from Colorado, it was rare that I could watch a Rockies game, but the play-offs were available to all. I got to watch Girardi more than just about any other player that I loved during that time.

A few seasons with the Cubs and one with the Cardinals rounded out Girardi's playing career, which ended in 2004. He then began working in the booth for the YES Network, which broadcasts Yankees games locally. In 2006 he was named manager of the Florida Marlins. He didn't lead them to the play-offs, but he did squeeze 78 wins out of them despite their rock-bottom $14 million payroll, and for that he won Manager of the Year. He didn't get along with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria though, and was let go after one season. The Marlins have had little success since that time, under a handful of managers, so the joke's on Loria.

Girardi spent a bit of time in the broadcast booth in 2007 before becoming the manager of the Yankees in 2008. That is the job he currently holds, so he's definitely the most visible of retired Rockies alumni. In his four seasons with the Yanks, he's led them to the play-offs three times, and won his first World Series ring as a manager in 2009. He is under contract through the 2013 season. He's surprisingly well-liked by Yankees fans, despite being given the nearly impossible task of taking over for Joe Torre. And for those who have given me a hard time for rooting for the Yankees, part of the reason I do is because I love Joe Girardi so much.

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