02/11/08 10:00 AM ET
Which Joe will make the biggest impact?
Torre, Girardi face new challenges with new managerial jobs
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
That diplomatic touch called out to Colletti after Torre, saying, "No, thank you" to an incentives-laden renewal offer, closed the Yankees door behind him on Oct. 18.So, by becoming available, Torre cost Grady Little his job for the second time in four years. The first was in 2003, when the Yankees turned on Little's decision to leave Pedro Martinez on the mound by rallying over the Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Nothing less than returning the Dodgers to their former exalted status is expected of the Brooklyn-born, former All-Star catcher. "We didn't hire Joe Torre to finish .500," said Colletti, whose club finished two games above that last season. Since 1989, the Dodgers have won two National League West titles and made two other playoffs as a Wild Card, but they have gone 1-12 in postseason games. In the preceding 15 years, they captured five NL pennants and two World Series, both under Lasorda. Lasorda, still a high-ranking advisor to the club, welcomed Torre by saying, "I'm so happy that he's coming to manage our team. I think he's got the credentials. He's just the type of manager our team needs." Torre himself said, "There is a commitment to bringing the Dodgers' name and franchise back to the stable organization and wanting to win every year." "Every" would include Year One. To help with Torre's baptism, the Dodgers have further spiked their young core with centerpiece center fielder Andruw Jones and highly touted Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. A comeback by Jason Schmidt, last winter's big free-agent signee who missed most of the season with a bad shoulder, would also be a big plus. The irony is that Torre thus inherits a team that did more to improve itself during the offseason than did the supposedly no-limits Yankees, who essentially remained unchanged for Girardi. So in that regard, the inevitable comparisons with Torre will be of the oranges-to-oranges variety. That rolls out a daunting welcome mat for Girardi, considering the Yankees went 12-for-12 in postseason appearances under Torre. But nothing about Girardi suggests that he is the least bit susceptible to pressure. His entire demeanor says, "Bring it on." A challenge, incidentally, that the Big Apple will not decline. Start with Girardi's choice of a uniform number. He didn't take No. 27 because he was such a big fan of Graeme Lloyd -- the lefty who wore that number during Girardi's playing days in the Bronx -- or to motivate Darrell Rasner, who wore it last season. No. 27 will be the Yankees' next World Series title. Girardi will wear his goal on his back. It might as well be a bull's-eye. Hank Steinbrenner, the Yankees' senior vice president who has become the public voice of the franchise, has lofty expectations of his new manager. Steinbrenner characterized Girardi as "hopefully a good cross between Billy Martin and Joe Torre, like right in the middle there somewhere." Already in the middle is Brian Cashman. Though others in the organization leaned toward hiring the more popular Don Mattingly, the Yankees' GM lobbied for Girardi and his tougher skin. "I wanted someone that understood the complexity of the Yankee organization," Cashman said. "We're a very complex situation, whether you're dealing with the media, the New York fan base, the expectations. I know the person, and obviously, I'm betting on this person." He's getting pretty good odds. When Girardi got the job -- three days after Torre walked -- he and the Yankees tied the knot following a yearlong engagement. Dismissed by the Marlins though he was the reigning NL Manager of the Year, Girardi spent 2007 atop the most-wanted list of teams hunting for a new skipper. He rejected all overtures, staying in the YES Network booth and in the Yanks' on-deck circle. It may be coincidental, or it may have been part of the grand design, but Girardi inherits the Yankees at a time when their fate rests with a trio of young pitchers -- Philip Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain. Broadway Joe II throws a very persuasive resume at the job -- he earned that Manager of the Year nod principally through mentoring a young Florida staff into the only one in Major League history to produce four rookies with 10-plus wins. Engineering such a feat was a snap for someone with a degree from Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering. It comes with a caveat, too: Those four rookies -- Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez -- won 45 games while working 592 innings in 2006; last season, they won 13 and logged 141 2/3 innings while coping with injuries amid suspicions that they might have been overworked the season before. Though that theory may be unfounded, riding hot arms that he trusted too much was also a charge occasionally levied against Torre. So Girardi already has something in common with his predecessor. Everything else is up to him.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.