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Girardi agrees to manage New York Yankees

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi thought back to when he replaced Mike Stanley as the New York Yankees' catcher in 1996, Joe Torre's first season as manager.

"I remember walking into spring training, the first day, and people saying, 'Boy, you've got big shoes to fill,"' Girardi said Tuesday. "I thought, well, I wear a size 13."

He heard the same thing about replacing Torre, who left a formidable imprint during 12 seasons as manager, but that didn't stop Girardi.

On Tuesday, he agreed to a three-year contract and a mandate to deliver World Series championship No. 27.

"I expect to be playing in the fall classic next October. I think that's everyone's expectation," Girardi said. "I've been there some years, and I haven't been there some years, and I've broadcast there some years, and let me tell you, it's much better when you're in uniform and you're there."

Girardi's deal is worth $7.8 million, a person familiar with the agreement said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Yankees didn't announce the details. It includes bonuses based on how far the team advances in the postseason.

Girardi was the 2006 NL Manager of the Year with Florida, plus he has a pinstriped pedigree. The hard-nosed catcher played on three Yankees teams that won the World Series, served as their bench coach under Torre in 2005 and was a TV announcer for the YES network in 2004 and this year.

New York made the playoffs in all 12 years under Torre, who won the World Series in four of his first five seasons. Girardi will have to live up to that lofty level of initial success. He follows a manager who joined the ranks for Yankees greats, including Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel.

"I don't think you can ever replace a figure because that figure is unique in his own way. What I'm going to do is I'm going to be myself," Girardi said. "And yes, are there expectations on me and, you know, the coaching staff and the players? Absolutely. The same expectations that were on Joe Torre when he came in in 1996.

"I can't be Joe Torre because I'm made up different," Girardi said. "You know, I'm a different character, so I don't really necessarily worry about replacing someone or how I'm going to replace someone. I'm more worried about just being myself and getting the most out of the guys."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman doesn't expect Girardi to replicate Torre, known for his laid-back style that allowed veterans to police the clubhouse with relatively few rules set by the manager. Girardi may have a pushier personality.

"He's not going to be Joe Torre. He's going to be his own man," Cashman said. "There's going to be, obviously, some different things that are important to him, and everybody needs to be prepared for that."

Cashman was impressed by Girardi's mental toughness.

"He's been a world champion player, played in this environment; he's been a coach; he's been a major league manager; he's meticulous in his approach," Cashman said. "Three characteristics that probably describe his beliefs are hard work, accountability and discipline."

Once he was informed the Yankees had chosen Girardi, Don Mattingly told the team he had no interest in returning next year as bench coach or in any other coaching position.

"I think Joe is a good baseball person and totally will be a great manager there in New York," Mattingly said.

Girardi and Mattingly telephoned each other while they awaited a decision.

"The important thing was that our friendship remained intact," Girardi said. "Sometimes, you know, friends go after the same position and you don't want to see it come between you."

Cashman said Girardi's experience managing the Florida Marlins in 2006 was a factor but not the decisive reason. The GM also cited Girardi's experience as a catcher and his ability to handle New York media.

"Joe Girardi is without question the right man for the job, and I look forward to working with him and watching his abilities unravel over the course of the next three years and, hopefully, longer," Cashman said.

Girardi can only hope that was a slip of the tongue.

He inherits a team in transition. Alex Rodriguez is gone, and the Yankees are not assured of getting back pitchers Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera or catcher Jorge Posada.

"Obviously they are important Yankees, and they have meant so much to the organization," Girardi said.

Rivera and his agent, Fernando Cuza, were at Legends Field in Tampa on Tuesday, to talk with Yankees officials. The ace reliever, who has filed for free agency, said only, "We've got to see something."

Cuza said they had a good meeting but wouldn't speculate whether Rivera will be a Yankee next season.

"I don't know," Cuza said. "It's up to them."

Rodriguez informed the Yankees on Sunday that he was terminating his contract and becoming a free agent. The Yankees repeatedly have said they wouldn't negotiate with A-Rod if he hit the open market.

"You are going to miss those 54 home runs and plus, 150-plus RBIs, but to me you can't look backwards, you have to look forwards and where do we go from here as an organization," Girardi said. Notes:

Tony Pena, who also interviewed for the job, agreed to remain with the coaching staff. Former major league pitcher Mike Harkey, Yankees minor league coach Dave Eiland and former Yankees infielder Bobby Meacham also are coaching possibilities. Kevin Long and Rob Thompson are expected to remain on the staff.


AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.



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