That Yankees team, with so many players who had not been tested, exceeded most expectations this season and chased the Red Sox to the next to last day of the regular season for the division title. Ultimately, the Yankees settled for a wild-card berth before embarking on an inspiring run to the cusp of the World Series.
Girardi’s unrelenting manner — be it his rigorous preparation, his unwillingness to concede any cause or his sometimes contentious back and forth with the news media — was reflected in this club, which staged numerous comebacks this season and then twice rallied from two-games-to-none deficits in postseason series only to ultimately fall short in the second instance.
But it was during the postseason run that Girardi came under fierce criticism for his managing. In the Yankees’ Game 2 loss in the division series against the Cleveland Indians, he declined to ask for a replay review of a hit-by-pitch call by the plate umpire — a decision that helped open the doors for a decisive Indians comeback.
Girardi, who made a rare admission the next day — “I screwed up,” he said repeatedly at a news conference — was afforded a reprieve when the Yankees rallied to win the next three games against the Indians to advance to the A.L.C.S. against the Houston Astros.
Credit Ben Solomon for The New York Times
Still, the withering criticism that was directed at him after Game 2 seemed to affect him deeply and, for the first time, raised the notion that he might not necessarily want to return as manager in 2018.
And last Saturday night, after the Yankees were eliminated by the Astros, Girardi had an almost fatalistic tone as he discussed his baseball future.
“I’ve had 10 great years here,” he said. “I feel extremely blessed. God has been good to me, and we’ll see what the future holds.”
Though Cashman and Girardi have divergent personalities and far different interests, they had generally enjoyed a strong working relationship for the last decade. Though they rarely socialized together, they spoke almost daily during the season.
“I think he knows that he can speak his mind in a constructive way with me, and I can speak my mind in a constructive way with him,” Cashman said at the start of the 2016 season. “There’s an openness that is encouraged here. I acquire the talent, and Joe deploys the talent, and sometimes you’ll have disagreements on players’ capabilities that I’ve acquired or strategies that he’s employing.
“You’ve got to be able to work through those in a healthy manner to have a successful manager-general-manager relationship, and I’m proud to say we have that,’’ Cashman added.
But after the Yankees were eliminated last weekend, Cashman was vague in his assessment of Girardi.
“I think everybody did everything they possibly could to get where we wanted to go, to be the last team standing, and we fell short,” he said.
At a time when the ability to relate to players is becoming more valued — the new managers of the Yankees’ two rivals, Mickey Callaway of the Mets and Alex Cora of the Red Sox, are viewed as strong communicators — Girardi may have had some difficulties on that front. He became so frustrated this season over catcher Gary Sanchez’s inattentiveness in blocking pitches that he publicly called him out, a rarity for Girardi in the past.
And in the wake of Girardi’s botched replay decision, closer Aroldis Chapman “liked’’ a social media post that urged the Yankees not to bring Girardi back. Chapman later said he inadvertently “liked” the post.
Credit Ben Solomon for The New York Times
Girardi, who was chosen over Don Mattingly to replace Joe Torre as manager, had a rocky first season in 2008, when the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since the strike-aborted season of 1994. But after a lavish spending spree, the Yankees made an immediate turnaround and won the 2009 World Series — the 27th in franchise history — in a new stadium.
That championship also meant a change of uniform for Girardi. He switched to No. 28 — from No. 27 — because he continued to want a visible reminder of the number of championships the Yankees have accumulated, along with the inference that another one would surely come soon enough.
But with players who were the foundation of their championship years — Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera — aging and retiring, the Yankees were unable to win another under Girardi’s leadership.
In an interview before the start of the season, the Yankees’ principal owner, Hal Steinbrenner, said that the team had not developed enough talent in recent years. He largely absolved Girardi for leading the Yankees to just one playoff appearance — a wild-card berth in 2015 — since the previous one, in 2012.
“What did I look at?” Steinbrenner said. “Was any of what was going on the fault of Joe Girardi? Was Joe Girardi the fact we hadn’t made the playoffs in two to three years? Had he lost control of the team? Did the players no longer respect him? Is it a serious situation in that regard? And the answer to that in my opinion was no.”
Steinbrenner added: “So, I try to be a pretty even-keeled thinker. I’m objective. That’s my nature. That’s the way I come to decisions. There have been plenty of owners that have fired managers left and right and still aren’t winning. So how well does that work? I don’t know. I’ve got to take a look at any renewal of a contract with any employee and do the best I can to analyze it. Is this person the right fit? Or is this person being detrimental to the organization?”
Girardi, who has three children, has long touted the importance of family. He skipped a game this season at Tampa Bay to attend the high school graduation of his oldest daughter, and he has made it comfortable for players and coaches to leave the team for significant events in their lives. Girardi’s son, a sophomore in high school and a baseball player, occasionally works out with Yankees coaches before games.
Girardi, who had a four-year, $16 million contract, said last week that he would meet with his family after the season to gauge how they felt about him returning. Girardi said he wanted to understand how the grind of the baseball season impacted his children and his wife.
“I’m not living my kids’ lives; I’m not living my wife’s life,” Girardi said during the playoffs. “I’m living, in a sense, my life, so I don’t know what changes for them.”
Now, however, much has changed for Girardi. He is no longer the Yankees’ manager.