It was never much of a question whether Joe Girardi would manage in 2020—just a matter of which team he’d wind up with. When the Marlins unexpectedly extended the contract of Don Mattingly, that opened the door for their NL East rivals, the Mets and the Phillies. Thursday morning, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported that Girardi is indeed headed to Philly (replacing Gabe Kapler). The news has since been confirmed by numerous other reporters, but the team itself hasn’t announced anything.
The longtime MLB catcher had zero managerial experience 14 years ago when the Marlins brought him in as Jack McKeon’s successor. Girardi’s 2006 squad posted a worse record (78-84) than McKeon did in 2005 (83-79), but it is an apples to couches comparison.
Owner Jeffrey Loria gutted the roster—and dramatically slashed payroll—during the intervening offseason. Key departures included Josh Beckett, Jeff Conine, Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell, Luis Castillo, Juan Pierre, A.J. Burnett, Paul Lo Duca and Todd Jones. Rookies and cast-offs filled their shoes.
According to Baseball-Reference, Marlins batters had an average age of 29.7 years old in 2005, which dipped to 25.5 the following season. It was a similar story on the pitching side (29.5 average age decreased to 25.9). This looked like the ground floor of a rebuild.
Despite all that, Girardi’s leadership helped the Fish surge during the middle of the 2006 campaign. It was a coming out party for former top prospects Hanley Ramírez and Josh Johnson and Rule 5 Draft pick Dan Uggla (among others). Aníbal Sánchez’s September no-hitter was the exclamation point.
When the dust settled, the club’s run differentials from ‘05 and ‘06 were virtually identical. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voted Girardi NL Manager of the Year.
The fun would be short-lived, however. Girardi had irreconcilable differences with Marlins higher-ups. He was fired shortly after the end of the regular season.
Apparently, former Marlins president David Samson still hasn’t buried the hatchet:
From 2008-2017, Girardi’s Yankees won more games than any other MLB team. Since then, he has served as an analyst on MLB Network (plus other side gigs around the industry).
Because Girardi was such a well-regarded candidate during this managerial hiring cycle, it presumably took a large commitment by the Phillies to lure him in. Expect a contract of at least three guaranteed years and an average salary north of $3 million.