Saturday, July 24, 2010

Girardi wise to use Cubs job as leverage

Joe Girardi didn't dismiss the possibility of going home to Chicago to manage the Cubs after this season. It was a wise ploy on his part.

This is the potential downside of the New York Yankees' bizarre policy of waiting until contracts expire before starting negotiations for new deals. If Girardi had been signed to an extension in spring training, none of this would be an issue. But since Girardi will be a free agent, the Yankees are going to have to fight to retain his services.

On the face of it, leaving the Yankees to manage the dysfunctional Cubs when Lou Piniella retires at the end of the season makes no sense for Girardi. The team went through a chaotic sale last year and is still acclimating to life under new owner the Ricketts family. After back-to-back division titles in 2007-08, the Cubs are 10 games out in the crowded National League Central and likely to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their ace Carlos Zambrano was suspended after feuding with teammate Derrek Lee and throwing a tantrum in the dugout. The Cubs are saddled with unmovable long-term contracts like the one given to former Yankee Alfonso Soriano.

But the pull of home and managing the team he grew up rooting for could be a big factor for Girardi, a devoted family guy. Plus, after winning the World Series with the Yankees last year (and hopefully again this year), he could relish the challenge of trying to jumpstart a flailing franchise and end the Cubs' long championship drought.

Or he could simply use the Cubs job as leverage to get a better deal from the Yankees, which would be a smart move by a very smart guy.

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