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Girardi takes a quiet approach

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Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Oct. 01, 2006




Girardi takes a quiet approach



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If this stings, as it must, Marlins manager Joe Girardi isn't going to show you where he keeps the pain, bitterness or anger. He sat and learned next to Joe Torre's eternal calm, so he knows how to talk at length without saying much of anything, keeping you back in a polite and professional way. This has to be killing him, having management undermine and guillotine him with anonymous sources, but he stays encased in a way that is about as revealing as cement.


What kind of job do you think you have done, Joe?


''I won't comment on that,'' he says.


The fairest criticism of you?


''That's for other people to say,'' he says.


A favorite Bible passage you like in difficult times?


''I wouldn't share it if I did have one,'' he says.


How have you been sleeping lately? Do you sleep much?


''Doesn't matter,'' he says. ``I'm a highly energetic person. I'll sleep when I'm old and retired.''


Have you been treated fairly?


''You are poking around, and I'm going to give you standard answers,'' he says. ``I'm 41 years old, and I'm thankful for this great opportunity.''


OK, but you didn't answer the question. Have you been treated fairly?


''Stuff that happens in the clubhouse should stay in the clubhouse, and stuff that happens in the organization should stay in the organization,'' he says.


It is a remarkable restraint. Not a lot of people get hammered and shamed privately and publicly by their bosses without animosity, especially not when they've done what everyone considers spectacular work. ''He has done an amazing job,'' no less an authority than Detroit manager Jim Leyland says, but it appears that amazing job is just today's meaningless, season-ending game from resulting in unemployment.


There aren't a lot of things Girardi could have done to get fired in the first year of a guaranteed contract by a cheap organization that entered the season with no expectations. But he apparently did them, whatever they were.




His job wasn't to win this year, though he did that. He wouldn't have been fired for losing, after all. His job was to develop young players, be an on-field extension of the front office and get along with a management team that isn't the easiest with which to get along.


But the owner, president and general manager don't appear to have much use for him, despite the Marlins exceeding every expectation this year, including their own. And there aren't a lot of jobs in any line of work that you are keeping if you don't get along with your boss, his boss or his boss.


Firing Girardi is a public-relations disaster? Not really. What are the Marlins going to do? Offend all the fans they don't have? A new man will be brought in, and Florida's young arms will make him look good, too.


''The focus,'' Girardi says, pointing from his office to the clubhouse, ``should be on them.''


It's too late for that, of course. Just like managers get too much credit for winning and too much blame for losing, it's impossible to ignore when one of them wins more than anyone expected and loses his job anyway. Girardi looked skinny and tired Saturday, sitting in a chair behind a desk in his office. On a calendar hanging on the wall nearby, surrounded by hand-drawn hearts, one of his children has written in quaint misspelling, ``I love you Dad. You'er the best.''


''There are more important things in life than this job,'' Girardi says. ``That keeps things in perspective. People need me at home. They don't need to hear that I'm frustrated or tired. I've got a 7-year-old, a 5-year-old and a baby. They don't care about this stuff.''




It has been a stunning season. The youngest team in baseball history and the cheapest in the sport this year did unimaginable things. These Marlins hit more home runs than the champion lineup of Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Gary Sheffield. This starting pitching staff is one that the New York Yankees, with all the money in the world, might prefer to have over their own. I thought the Marlins should lock up Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett, Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis for $70 million to contend for a decade. But the staff they put together was younger, healthier, a whole lot cheaper and, for this season at least, better. The Marlins have won more games than Barry Bonds and Ichiro. Got a no-hitter, too, just for fun.


When their second baseman, Pokey Reese, inexplicably vanished in spring training, all they did was replace him with a rookie, Dan Uggla, who hit more home runs than any rookie second baseman ever.


''I had no expectations,'' Girardi says. ``You expect, and you set yourself up for disappointment and set limits on yourself. Our goal was to win the World Series, and everyone thought I was crazy when I said that in spring training. But we were in the hunt with a week to go, so my thought wasn't that crazy.''


If he has grown weary of all the questions about himself, he does not show it.


''I gave my heart and soul to this thing,'' he says. ``I love what I do.''


Today, in a barren stadium, as his first and only season as boss ends, that love will hurt.

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Here's the way I look at this:


If the players hate him, they sure haven't quit on him...that says something.


If the players love him, they sure might quit on the new guy fast.


The way this process has unfolded, I'm convinced, is just about the worst way to handle things, but then again, tact has never been the Loria-led Marlins strong-suit.

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