The Cubs are going to get strong pushback from the New York Yankees as they try to lure Joe Girardi back home to the North Side.
In listening to the qualities outlined by Cubs president Theo Epstein – and talking to people inside and around the organization – Girardi is the ideal candidate to become the 53rd manager in franchise history.
Girardi would be style and substance, a Cubs Convention headliner to energize the fan base this winter and a proven leader to help guide the wave of young talent that’s supposed to be crashing onto Wrigley Field across the next few years.
[MORE: Theo says Cubs job will sell itself]
But Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family will be pushing hard to keep Girardi in The Bronx.
Cashman had coffee with Girardi on Monday and planned for a lunch meeting with Steve Mandell – the manager’s Chicago-based agent – on Wednesday in New York.
Cashman declined to say if he would grant permission for the Cubs to speak with Girardi, who remains under contract through Oct. 31 and is expected to weigh opportunities with the Washington Nationals and in broadcasting.
“I think he likes it here,” Cashman told reporters on Tuesday at a Yankee Stadium news conference. “If you’re good at what you do, you’ll have opportunities to stay. He’s definitely going to have that. We’re going to give him a real good reason to stay and he’s earned that through his six years with us so far.
“I can’t speak to other opportunities. We can’t control other options or interests that may be out there. If you’re good at what you do, people are going to have some interest. You can’t predict the future on that. You can only control your side of it.
“We’ve benefitted from having him and we’d like to do that going forward. But we’ll have to stay tuned and see how it plays out.”
Cashman has a reputation for being a straight shooter. Remember the war of words with Alex Rodriguez this summer? Cashman told ESPN New York: “Alex should just shut the f--- up.”
Cashman is said to have a very good relationship with Girardi, who appeals to the Cubs across the board, from the Ricketts family to the marketing machine to the baseball operations department.
There’s the World Series pedigree as a player and manager (1996, 1998, 1999, 2009), the Peoria roots and bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern University.
Two clubhouse sources had a hard time picturing someone other than Girardi and doubted the idea of going with another first-time manager after Epstein fired Dale Sveum.
[RELATED: Girardi or bust? Pressure is on Theo to deliver next Cubs manager]
“The most important thing is he knows we’d like to have him stay and continue as manager of the New York Yankees,” Cashman said. “So he’ll have decisions on that end (as far as) what’s best for him and what’s best for his family. But I can’t predict.”
Fox Sports reported San Diego Padres executive A.J. Hinch – a Stanford University graduate who posted an 89-123 record in parts of two seasons managing the Arizona Diamondbacks – is on Epstein’s list.
Yankees managers are usually judged on whether or not they end the season with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan.
But Girardi drew widespread praise in an 85-77 season for keeping the Yankees relevant deep into September, even with a -21 run differential and injuries/ineffectiveness hampering Derek Jeter (17 games), Mark Teixeira (15 games), Curtis Granderson (61 games) and CC Sabathia (4.78 ERA).
Girardi also showed crisis-communication skills in the way he handled all the A-Rod drama.
“I think he’s been consistently tremendous,” Cashman said. “I know that because of the challenges this year presented to this organization – and the amount of players that we had to use and find and replace on the run – there were more people to manage (and) welcome and let go.
“He has obviously gotten a lot of notoriety for keeping everything in check. I personally believe that he has been exceptional ever since we’ve had him. I don’t feel this year was an outlier.”
Jeter is the only piece of the Core Four remaining with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte now joining Jorge Posada in retirement. So if a final decision comes down to the Yankees or Cubs, Girardi will be managing a team in transition.
Sveum said he knew this was coming at Clark and Addison when he took the job almost 23 months ago – limited spending on free agents, fire sales at the trade deadlines and decisions made with the long view in mind.
[RELATED -- Hired to be fired: Cubs finally end Sveum Watch]
Girardi got a feel for that with the Florida Marlins, becoming the National League’s Manager of the Year in 2006 – and getting fired after clashing with owner Jeffrey Loria.
At Monday’s news conference inside Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon, Epstein talked about hiring a “dynamic” manager to coach up the young players produced by a top-five farm system.
Those same qualities are why the Yankees are negotiating with Girardi.
“He’s been extremely consistent from Day 1 with us,” Cashman said. “The talent that he had to work with was significantly less than other years, but he still remained the same from my perspective.
“The job as a manager is to make sure these guys fight and compete on a daily basis and stay motivated and stay hungry.
“Maybe this year was unique in a lot of different ways. (But) he was able to still maintain that leadership and keep these guys hungry and motivated and not give up. And they never did.”
[MORE: Cubs say wait until next year (and the year after that)]
The Cubs can sell Wrigley Field nostalgia, family connections and the chance to make history. But it’s not like this is just another team. Here’s how one veteran scout handicapped the Girardi derby: “It’s still the New York F-----’ Yankees.”