Winter Meetings interview with Joe Girardi
Q. Your clubhouse has been locked in personnel-wise. Can you be more hands on establishing the character?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think there is a lot of character in that room. I think you pay attention to it in spring training. I think other people will step up and take charge of the clubhouse. You lose your leader of the bullpen though, so someone will have to step up in that area. We lose Robbie Cano. Jeter in the infield, Tex is in the infield, I feel comfortable about that. We lose Andy. But you've seen CC in the rotation, you have Kuroda in the rotation, two guys that are used to leading or are veterans.
But I think it will take on a little different dynamic because of the people we've lost and it might take some time to form.
Q. We've spoken to you since Robbie signed. What were your thoughts when you heard he got the deal he got, and you weren't going to have him?
JOE GIRARDI: It's a great deal. It's a wonderful deal for Robbie, and it's going to take care of him for a long time, and his family. He's a great player. We're going to miss him, there is no doubt about it. Enjoyed watching him play. Enjoyed pencilling his name in the lineup every day. He'll be missed. Players work for that free agency, and at times you lose people that real you really love.
Q. When we spoke to you last week you said you were still hopeful he would come back. Did you think ultimately that he would stay or did you think there was a chance he was going to leave?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I think anytime there is someone of that talent, there is a chance that you're going to get a really long deal. It's basically what happened. He got a ten-year deal. I think Brian we talked about and Howie we talked about a seven-year deal. Thought they made a good offer to Robbie. But when you're that good of a player, that opportunity is going to be there sometimes.
Q. Can you put into words just how difficult a hole will be to fill offense and defense?
JOE GIRARDI: We've added some guys to help fill that role. I don't necessarily think that we're done. But Robbie Cano is not a guy that's easily replaced. That is the bottom line. A .300 hitter, drives in 100 runs and hits 30 home runs. That is not an easy place, especially from the second-place position. So we're probably going to have to add offense in other places. You're not going to find too many second basemen that put up that type of number. So you're going to have to add it somewhere, but he's going to be missed.
Q. It's not normal for the Yankees to lose a player they want. As a Yankee manager, to lose the best player in your lineup, that's not normal either. So how disappointed -- you're smiling and happy for Robbie, but how disappointed are you?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I mean, I'm going to miss him. I'm going to miss what he brought. But in the year of ten-year deals, this wasn't going on eight, nine years ago. I mean, it happened once before that, but we didn't see it happen in the '90s, and the '80s, and the '70s, and now we've seen a few.
I'm sure St. Louis never thought they were going to lose Albert Pujols. And someone throws that type of deal in front of you, it's hard to say no.
Q. Can you talk about what you guys have done to this point without Ellsbury, Beltran? Do you feel you've done enough to not only replace what Robbie, but to get better?
JOE GIRARDI: I think we've made moves definitely to improve our ballclub. I feel much better about the offense going into next year than the way we finished last year. Presumably you're going to get a healthy Teixeira, and a healthy Jeter. I talked to both of those two guys and their rehabs are going great. Jeter is having a normal off-season. Feels great. Tex is where he wants to be and where he needs to be. So you start adding some of the names that we've added, some of the guys that we kept have already had a good year offensively last year. It's a much better lineup than when we finished last year.
Q. Brian said you guys hadn't talked about outfield alignment, where do you think you'll be?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, I think there are a couple different things that we can do. We'll just wait until the off-season is almost over before we have those discussions. I'll sit down and talk to Jacoby next week. I think his press conference is Friday. So I guess that's this week. Talk to him, sit down and talk to Gardy, and decide what we're going to do.
Q. Are you anticipating subtracting somebody from the outfield at some point too?
JOE GIRARDI: You have a situation where you might be able to DH those guys some of the days.
Q. What do you expect from Ichiro next year?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, we've made some moves. I can't really tell you. I know he'll be prepared and I know he'll work hard. We'll see how the off-season ends up before we decide exactly how the pieces are all going to fit. I always think that is the fair thing to do before you make an assumption that this guy's going to play there or this guy. You have to wait until it's all said and done.
Q. But he could be playing?
JOE GIRARDI: He could be moving around, I'm not sure.
Q. You had a similar situation in 2008, went to the playoffs. Got a lot of big free agents. You knew right away you were better. Is this different for you? Because you've improved, but you've also subtracted a big piece.
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, it's a little different. But as I said, the off-season is not over. We made some moves in that year, and I think they were all done in the month of December, I think. So this month is far from over. The winter meetings are far from over. I think we'll look different come January 31 than we do right now.
Q. When you talked to Jacoby about the lineup, is he your centerfielder?
JOE GIRARDI: I'm not really going to say anything until I sit down and talk to all the players involved, because I think that is the only fairway to do it. Jacoby is a great centerfielder, and I think it's fair to have the discussion with the players before I actually announce what I'm going to do.
Q. You still have a fair amount of age on this roster that you're bringing back. Is that just a continuing manner of managing them and trying to get through the season?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I think so. It's something I've had to do the last few years. Good thing is they're younger than me, so we don't have to worry about that. And you've just got to manage a little bit. Some of it is DH days, some of it is days off.
Q. How much next year hinges really on CC coming back, Teixeira coming back, Jeter coming back, Alex's situation? How much do you have to pay attention top of the order unknowns that you can't do anything about? You have to wait and see?
JOE GIRARDI: I think you have to pay a lot of attention because they're a big part of our team. I feel much better about CC, a year removed from that surgery. His hamstring healed up very well. Maybe one of the best games he pitched was the last game of the year, and he was trying to throe fight to throw another game, and we were like no, CC.
Derek, I know he's going to do everything he can to be the player he was before he got hurt, and I feel good about that because I know it's hard. And Tex, I'm confident he's going to be back and be a force in the middle of our line. But it's something I'm going to have to pay attention to in spring training and probably early in the season.
Q. Do you have just one open spot in the rotation right now, do you think with what you have, you need a high impact pitcher, a middle of the rotation kind of pitcher, or do you think with CC and Corona and Nova, the top three in your rotation, that's good enough to win?
JOE GIRARDI: I feel good about the top three that we have. But I think our club will look to see how we can improve. It doesn't mean there is a deal out there to be had. But I think Brian and his staff will continue to look to improve and we'll just see. We'll see how some of these young kids emerge.
You had Phelps who pitched pretty well last year. We felt Warren took some big steps, Pineda, and you got Nuno, and some guys that are going to compete. But I think we'll look to see what we can have.
Q. I know this is kind of Brian's time. In terms of input when you're thinking about (indiscernible) or Ellsbury or Beltran, how much of a say do you have in terms of your voice being heard?
JOE GIRARDI: I tell him my thoughts. Then obviously, it's his possibility to make the decision and ultimately who he signs, but he asks my opinion all the time.
Q. Did you like Ellsbury more than (indiscernible)? If so, why?
JOE GIRARDI: I think we've acquired a great player. We've seen the damage can he do against us. We firsthand witnessed that how he can change a game. I've seen him hit home runs to beat us. I've seen him steal home to beat us. I've seen him do it all, make great catches. So we added a great player.
Q. Because of what you went through with Derek last season, what are you going to feel comfortable with what you're seeing out there?
JOE GIRARDI: I think as we near the end of spring training, as you're starting to play in back-to-back days and seeing how we respond is when you get a much better idea how he's playing.
Q. Managers live in a world where you have a lineup in your head and it seems it gets blown up very quickly for a number of reasons. But guys also hit their way up-and-down sometimes. You have so many veteran guys, if everyone's healthy, how much conversation do you have about a comfort zone for guys and how that will play out?
JOE GIRARDI: I think that's really important where they're comfortable hitting, how they adapt to certain situations. Is it possible to hit here where you'll usually hit here? I think you have to have those conversations because we're going to have our fair share of veterans in the lineup. When you put it together the best way you think it's going to work, that's not always the case come June, July and August. But you put it together and give it a chance to see what's going to happen.
Q. Can you go game to game?
JOE GIRARDI: No, you don't want to go game to game, but it might change whether you're facing a right-hander or left-hander.
Q. How excited are you about adding a bat like Beltran's to your lineup?
JOE GIRARDI: I can't really talk about that right now.
Q. Quite a few days ago Robbie really wasn't very happy during the course of the season, and you had him bat second. Did he ever express that to you?
JOE GIRARDI: There were discussions with a number of my hitters about I'm going to have to ask you to do things that you're not used to doing. That is the bottom line. I talked to Robbie. I told Robbie when I can get you back to third, I'll get you back to third. But right now I think you hitting second gives us the best chance to win.
It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't ideal all the injuries that we had last year. We had to make some adjustments. Players want to hit in certain spots. I understand that. There were a lot of times that I would hit second, have a good day, and get moved down to 8th and 9th, and think, gosh. But I felt it gave us the best chance to win, and that is the reason I did it.
Q. Did Robbie tell you he was unhappy?
JOE GIRARDI: He didn't tell me he was unhappy, but there were things that I heard, and I sat down and talked to him. He was like, okay, whatever you need.
Q. Knowing the position as well as you do, Brian McCann (No microphone) I'm assuming there is a great appreciation from you as to anybody in that room getting offense out of the catcher's box?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, it's so difficult because of the grind. You think about where he was doing it. It was awful hot in Atlanta on a fairly daily basis. I played my share of games in Atlanta when I was on the road. It's one of the hottest places to play in the country. So for him to remain productive through all of that is really pretty amazing.
Q. George didn't get elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. How do you feel about that? Do you think he should be in?
JOE GIRARDI: I think he is a Hall of Famer. What he's meant to the game, what the Yankees have meant to baseball and how he's built this franchise, and I hope it happens soon.
Q. Aside from Robertson, you know he'll be somewhere. Do you have another reliever that you think I know this guy's going to be there playing a role for me right now?
JOE GIRARDI: Oh, I do. I think Kelly's going to be in the bullpen. I think, obviously, Claiborne's going to be in our bullpen. Then you have a mixture of Phelps or Warren, depending on if they're in the rotation, those type of guys. So some of the guys that possibly are competing for rotation spots, the one that's don't make it, are probably going to slide to the bullpen. That's why it's hard to tell where everyone's going to be.
Q. In your mind you need to probably add one more starter, but for the fifth spot is Pineda, Phelps, Warren, Nuno (no microphone), is there anyone else that could compete for that spot?
JOE GIRARDI: Those are the guys that come to mind on the forefront.
Q. What did you guys like about Kelly Johnson? How do you see him fitting in?
JOE GIRARDI: It's a young man that hits the ball in the ballpark, changes the game fairly quickly. He's productive in the amount of at-bats he gets. Has versatility, second, third, plays the outfield. He's not going to clog up the bases. There are things he can do, and he provides a lot of punch at our ballpark.
Q. Robbie spent his entire time in New York not as the biggest star on the team. Now he's going to Seattle with an enormous contract and he's the man there. Do you think he has the type of personality to carry that and not be affected by expectations and everything that comes with that kind of contract?
JOE GIRARDI: I'd be surprised if it changed Robbie. He started to earn his stripes and be the features guy in the lineup; he was the same commit every day. Came to play every day. Played 160 games a year. Wanted to be up in the big spot. So I'd be surprised with how easygoing he is if it changed him.
Q. What was the last time you spoke to him?
JOE GIRARDI: Robbie?
JOE GIRARDI: It's been a little while.
Q. Did you get the impression he was going?
JOE GIRARDI: I've said all along that when you're a player of his talent, you know that the opportunity is there, and you know that when a player like that becomes a free agent, there is a pretty good chance that someone's going to make a really substantial offer that's going to compete against your offer, and there is a possibility that you're going to lose him.
Q. Is there a part of you that is at least happy he's not going to (no microphone)?
JOE GIRARDI: Yes, very much so.
Q. There was a lot of talk about eliminating the catcher collisions. What do you think?
JOE GIRARDI: I always thought it was part of the game. I know that they're trying to protect catchers. And concussions are an issue in our country not only in football but in other sports. I know it's a concern and you don't want to see players get hurt. I think part of it is just having the sense not to run over a catcher if you can slide. But sometimes the emotions of players get the best of them.
I lost time as a catcher being run over a couple different times, but I thought it was part of my job and I enjoyed the contact. Now I'm not so sure that everyone enjoys contact. But I love football, so I liked it.
Q. Would you like to see it eliminated?
JOE GIRARDI: I could go either way, but I still believe it's part of the game.
Q. (No microphone)?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I think we have a meeting tomorrow bright and early.
Q. What are your expectations for Pineda?
JOE GIRARDI: We'd love for him to compete in our starting rotation. That's why we traded for him. Unfortunately he had the injuries that really slowed him down. But we'd love to see him compete for a spot and be a force like he was in Seattle.
Q. He'd probably be rotation on the big league level or Triple-A?
JOE GIRARDI: I can't really tell you. There's a lot of times that guys get brought back slowly or brought up slowly through the bullpen too. I think you have to see what we have and how it fits.
Q. Have you had any discussions at all or text messages with Alex as far as whether he's working out as if he'll be playing in spring training?
JOE GIRARDI: I've had text messages with Alex, but it's been more how are you doing than about working out. I know Alex will be prepared to play because he loves to play. So that's not really a concern of mine.
Q. You said last year when he came back that you separated your manager and player and all the other stuff aside. Is it difficult for you to watch this all going on? The team, and the suspension, and the appeal and everything else going on, is it hard to separate yourself from that as part of the team versus somebody who has a relationship with him?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I don't think so. I think what probably we're all looking for is clarity. What's going to happen? Obviously the sooner there is a decision made, the quicker you can decide what to do with your club. What your needs are and what your needs are not. I think that's what we're all looking for.
Q. In your opinion can there ever come a point with any player where they can become too big a distraction, even if they can be productive, compared to maybe what you have?
JOE GIRARDI: I think it's if you allow it to become too big of a distraction. I think you can allow it to happen, but if you choose not to and the players choose not to, then you let it go. You play.
I didn't find it a distraction last year. Maybe the first couple days there seemed to be a little bit more intense media scrutiny, but that died down. He's scrutinized all the time so.
Q. The three guys that got into the Hall of Fame. As a manager I'm sure you can appreciate 8,000 or so wins sitting up on one stage, kind of fitting that they're all eligible at the same time. Maybe mention your thoughts on those three guys?
JOE GIRARDI: Extremely impressed with what they've all done throughout their career. I had a chance to play for two of them. Had a chance to play against Bobby a lot being a National League player for ten years. Really thrilled for them. But I think sometimes people don't understand all that goes into managing a club day-in and day-out. For them to do it for such a long time and to be so successful at it is something that you look up to and try to model yourself after.
Q. Kind of interesting that they all bridged that gap when players started to make bigger money. The manager maybe didn't have, in theory, as much power and control. They were only able to navigate that part of it.
JOE GIRARDI: I think they had so much respect for the players that that was not an issue for any of them. Players look at them as their boss. They knew what they were doing, trusted them, and let's go to work for them.
Q. Limited amount of rules too. It seemed they all had that in common. There wasn't a list of anything.
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I think clubs -- I know from my standpoint, these are men. These are grown men. They know what they're supposed to do. Your rules are be on time and play hard. Those are the rules. It doesn't really need to be much more complicated than that.
I know we have a hair policy, but it's not real complicated either.
Q. Are there times when guys don't understand they're treated like men until they can't handle it? Is that part of what it is too?
JOE GIRARDI: I think it is. I think that you treat them like men and they know what the expectations are. As long as they're handling it, there isn't much to be said.
Q. There's been obviously a lot of talk about Tanaka out of Japan. It just comes up. Any thoughts on him being added to the rotation, and any thoughts on the posting system in general?
JOE GIRARDI: I don't have a lot of thoughts. I think there is some clarity to that now, and I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen in this situation. But obviously he had a tremendous year last year, 24 and 0. I don't know how you get much better than that, except you have a zero ERA, and I don't think that's actually possible. He had a tremendous year, and if he does come over to the States, I'm sure he will add to any rotation.
Q. What clarity have you heard?
JOE GIRARDI: The only thing I know is that there is a limit on what you can post. And as many teams can post that as you want and you go from there.
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