10/26/09 6:15 PM EST
Dueling personalities lead Series squads
Girardi, Manuel win pennants with different approaches
Girardi graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in industrial engineering. Northwestern considers itself the Harvard of the Midwest -- or the Yale of the Midwest, on a quiet day -- so an engineering degree from there tells the rest of the world that you should not be categorized as anything other than intelligent. Girardi was a three-time academic All-American at Northwestern. This fellow did not just recently become diligent.
Girardi is not arrogant, but in his public sessions with the media, he does have a sort of an "I know more than you know" approach to inquiries that appear to question his judgment. He occasionally appears defensive in these settings, but most people might feel defensive, "under the microscope" as Girardi says, in the glare of publicity that accompanies what is the most intensively covered team in North American professional sports.
On the other end of the spectrum is Manuel. He still speaks with the Blue Ridge Mountain accent of his upbringing. His responses to questions may tend to circle around the topic at hand, change directions, take a U-turn and finish up somewhere unexpected. But this tendency is not a fair measurement of the man.
A lot of people from the urban north, when they hear the accent, immediately stereotype the speaker as a rube, a yokel, a hayseed. That has happened to Manuel, who has been written off before he started in some big league jobs. But Manuel, the record is going to show, is one of the most intelligent baseball men around.
The more time you spend with him, the more you see evidence of a sense of humor that can be down-home, but can also be extremely pointed. Forget the speech patterns; this is a shrewd character.
The resumes of these two are also substantially different, not surprising given the gap between their ages. Girardi is 45, Manuel is 65. Manuel was out of high school and playing professionally before Girardi was born.
Manuel is a baseball lifer, but Girardi has a more prominent playing career in the conventional sense. Manuel saw action in only 242 games over parts of six seasons in the Majors. He was a marginal player in the States, but he was a power-hitting star in six seasons in Japanese baseball.
Girardi played in 1,277 games over parts of 15 Major League seasons. He was regarded as a fine defensive catcher, an astute handler of pitchers, and he was far from an easy out. The fact that he played on three Yankees World Series championship teams is a tribute to his worth.
After a long Minor League managerial apprenticeship, Manuel began managing in the Majors in 2000 with Cleveland. He won an AL Central title in 2002. Cleveland went into a rebuilding mode the next season and Manuel departed, but his next managing spot would be the right one. He took over as the Phillies manager in 2005.
The Phillies won an NL East title in 2007, the first of three straight for Manuel. In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series and now they are back, attempting to become the first NL club to win back-to-back World Series since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.
Girardi had never managed before at any level when he got the Florida Marlins job in 2006. This young Marlins team was expected to be next to nothing, but Girardi kept the Marlins in the hunt for a division title much of the season.
For that, he was named NL Manager of the Year for 2006. That doesn't happen much for rookie managers, but then, Managers of the Year rarely get dismissed. Girardi was let go by the Marlins after the 2006 season due to a series of disagreements with members of the Marlins' front office.
But Girardi, popular from his days as a Yankees player, and trusted as Joe Torre's bench coach before the Marlins stint, got the Yankees managerial job in 2008. Success was not instantaneous. The Yankees had reached the postseason for the previous 12 seasons, but they missed in Girardi's first year as manager, falling to third in the AL East. But 2009 was a completely different story, as the Yankees rolled to a 103-59 record, by far the best in the Majors.
So the two managerial biographies are substantially different. There is also a difference between the managerial styles of these two men, but given the vast differences in their backgrounds, how could there not be?
Manuel lets good players play and treats them like men. He is well-liked and well-regarded by his players. When his mother died during the 2008 postseason, the way his team rallied around him was genuinely touching.
Loyalty is a two-way street and Manuel gets loyalty by being loyal. As an example, look at the struggles of closer Brad Lidge. He had a spotless season in 2008, never blowing a save opportunity. But this year he had serious troubles, blowing 11 saves, finishing with an unthinkable ERA of 7.21. Still, Manuel never totally went away from him, never publicly trashed him, and Lidge repaid this loyalty by emerging from his slump and, in the postseason, looking very much like the highly successful closer of 2008.
This kind of thing will not only impress Lidge. It will also impress the rest of the Phillies. Manuel is good with people. Baseball players, for the numbers and statistical outcomes, still end up as humans.
There is a smaller body of work in the Girardi file at this moment, but some things are clear. Girardi is supremely organized, with a grasp of the game's countless details and possibilities. During the regular season, he did a masterful job of handling the Yankees bullpen. Weighing the possibilities, pondering the plausible matchups, this would be the kind of thing at which Girardi could excel.
There were those who believed that Girardi was too tightly wound to succeed in the Major Leagues' most pressurized managing job. The notion was that the Yankees clubhouse would become too tense under Girardi and the team would not be able to fulfill its splendid potential. This turned out to be a narrow, uninformed view of Girardi. When a team wins 103 games and an American League championship, there is an excellent chance that nobody is too uptight.
In the same vein, Girardi was criticized for overmanaging in the Yankees' two losses to the Angels in the American League Championship Series. If he had a tendency to overmanage, it wasn't a fatal flaw because the Yankees won in six. Again, you would have to see more of Girardi managing in the postseason to cast a vote in either direction.
Both men can manage diversified offenses. There is obvious power on both clubs, but neither simply waits for the three-run homer. The Phillies are one of the NL's best running teams and you saw the Yankees play successful small ball in eliminating the Angels.
But there is evidence to support the notion that there is a sizable contrast between these two skippers. We go all the way from Mr. Girardi, a pinstripe kind of guy in more ways than one, to "Big Chuck," from Buena Vista, a man who defeats a cornpone characterization just about every day of the season.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.