Phillies

Joe Girardi fired by Yankees after 10 seasons as manager

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Joe Girardi fired by Yankees after 10 seasons as manager

Joe Girardi was fired as New York Yankees manager Thursday after a decade that produced just one World Series title for a team that expects to win every year.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made the announcement five days after New York lost to Houston in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

"With a heavy heart, I come to you because the Yankees have decided not to bring me back," Girardi said in a statement released by his agent, Steven Mandell. "I'd like to thank the fans for their great support as a player, coach and manager and the lasting memories of their passion and excitement during the playoff games."

An intense and driven former All-Star catcher, Girardi was at the end of his four-year contract and said last weekend he had to speak with his family before deciding whether he wanted to return. New York made the decision for him.

"Everything this organization does is done with careful and thorough consideration, and we've decided to pursue alternatives for the managerial position," Cashman said in a statement.

Girardi's 910-710 regular-season record with the Yankees is sixth in victories managing the team behind Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1,173), Casey Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

Cashman said he and owner Hal Steinbrenner had spoken directly with Girardi this week.

"He has a tireless work ethic, and put his heart into every game he managed over the last decade," Cashman said. "He should take great pride in our accomplishments during his tenure."

Girardi wore uniform No. 25 as a player with the Yankees from 1996-99, when he helped win three titles, but switched to No. 27 when he earned the manager's job over Don Mattingly and succeeded Torre after the 2007 season -- signifying the team's quest for its 27th championship. Girardi took uniform No. 28 after leading the team to a World Series victory over Philadelphia in 2009.

New York changed managers 20 times from 1973, when George Steinbrenner bought the team, through October 1995, when Torre replaced Buck Showalter. But the Yankees have had just two managers in 22 years since.

New York became the third of the 10 postseason teams to remove managers, joining Boston and Washington. There is no clear favorite to replace him; candidates from within the organization could include bench coach Rob Thomson, Triple-A Scranton manager Al Pedrique and Class A Tampa manager Jay Bell. Possibilities from outside the organization include former Kansas City manager Trey Hillman, a one-time Yankees special assistant who managed in South Korea this year; Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, who held the same role with the Yankees from 2007-14; and former Philadelphia manager Pete Mackanin, who was a pro scout for the Yankees in 2008 and 2013.

The 53-year-old Girardi led a young squad on a surprising run to an AL wild-card berth this year with a 91-71 record, the team's best since 2012. New York beat Minnesota in the wild-card game, then fell behind Cleveland 2-0 in the Division Series. Girardi admitted he made a mistake not asking for a video review of a hit-by-pitch call in Game 2 that led to an Indians rally.

"I screwed up. And it's hard. It's a hard day for me," he said then. "But I got to move forward and we'll be ready to go tomorrow."

New York won the next three games to advance, lost the first two games of the ALCS at Houston, then won three in a row to move within a victory of reaching the World Series for the first time in eight years. But the Astros swept the final two games.

Girardi's statement thanked people from Steinbrenner and Cashman down to the player development and scouting staff, traveling secretary and even the clubhouse attendants. He had sounded unusually nostalgic when discussing the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs.

"It's been wonderful to watch," he said last week before what turned out to be his final home game. "I peaked at left field and I see the fans jumping up and down. And I peak and watch them hitting the pads. In right field, they're jumping up and down. And it's brought back a lot of good memories for me, but I just love it. And it's fun to be a part of."

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

Bombs away! Nick Williams takes aim on manager's car in batting practice

CLEARWATER, Fla. — A week into camp, Nick Williams looks primed to build on last year’s impressive rookie season.

Williams has been launching balls in batting practice and manager Gabe Kapler loves it — even if it means he’ll be charged for a little damage to his rental car.

On Tuesday, Williams clubbed a ball far over the fence at Mike Schmidt Field. It landed on the roof of Kapler’s rented Ford Explorer, leaving a dent that would hold a couple of servings of creamed spinach.

“I would trade a Nick Williams home run for a dent in a rental car any day of the week,” Kapler said Tuesday.

“I’m glad he said that,” Williams said Wednesday morning, “because it felt kind of good to hit it.”

Later on Wednesday, Williams put on another power display at Schmidt Field. It was so impressive that Cesar Hernandez considered leaving the field, grabbing his keys and moving his car.

“I just missed Cesar’s car,” Williams said with a laugh.

Kapler was again impressed with Williams’ round of BP.

“Today we had a nice little breeze coming in from right field,” Kapler said. “The breeze did not stop Nick Williams from destroying the baseball and almost hitting my car for a second day straight.

“If he is destroying cars and it happens to be mine, no problem.”

Kapler has no intention of parking elsewhere in coming days. In fact, he likes the idea of Williams using his car for target practice.

“We’re going to make it a bull’s-eye for him,” Kapler said. “That’ll be a running joke. It’s a great way to build relationships. It’s part of the whole scientific plan to make this work.”

Williams, 24, arrived in the majors in June of last season. He played in 83 games and hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS. Like a number of players on the roster, he would benefit from fewer strikeouts and more walks (97/20 in 343 plate appearances last season), but a week into camp, Kapler likes the hitting potential he sees in the young outfielder.

“He’s really shining,” Kapler said. “He really is. He walks around with a perpetual smile on his face.

“Our hitting coaches are enthused about the bat path. The way he sort of lofts the ball to the middle of the field. Some hitters, when they strike their best ball, it’s on the ground. But Nick, when he makes his most solid contract, it has a nice loft to his swing. And in the middle of the field, there aren’t many guys who can drive the ball like he can.”

The Phillies have four outfielders worthy of regular playing time. Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera line up to play left field and center field, respectively. Williams will get time in right. Aaron Altherr can play any outfield position.

Kapler is reluctant to assign roles at this point in camp. But he is confident he can find all four playing time.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “Between pinch-hitting, interleague, someone getting a tweak and missing a week, the occasional rep at first base [for Hoskins], they’re all going to get a ton of reps. I envision plenty of at-bats to keep everybody satisfied, healthy and performing well.”

Larry Bowa sees stars aligning for Phillies

Larry Bowa sees stars aligning for Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Larry Bowa is still here, hitting ground balls, working with the infielders, pitching batting practice and offering opinions.

"This team should play .500," he said walking off the field after a workout this week. 

"At least .500."

Bowa might be 72, but his energy level is that of a man 50 years younger. Really. This is his 53rd year in pro ball and his 34th in a Phillies uniform. He was a Gold Glove shortstop and a World Series winner in his playing days, he helped win a National League pennant as third base coach in 1993. He managed the club for four years and spent the last four seasons as bench coach.

The front office made sweeping changes after last season. Pete Mackanin was let go as manager — he remains with the club as an adviser and will scout spring training in Arizona — and Bowa relinquished his bench coaching duties. But Bowa's affiliation with the Phillies, which began in 1966, continues. He is now a senior adviser to general manager Matt Klentak. He will spend the season watching all of the Phillies' clubs from top to bottom. He will work with minor-league infielders. So there will be plenty to keep him busy.

Though the Phillies' win total slipped by five, from 71 to 66, last season, strides were made in the rebuild. The team played .500 ball over the final 76 games and a number of young players, some who could be difference-makers for a long time, arrived in the majors.

That's one of the reasons Bowa thinks this Phillies team can surprise people.

"The experience they gained last year, the way they played the second half, the way they played in the division, they played Washington tough," Bowa said. "Our division is not what you'd call super strong, and you're playing all those teams 18 times.

"I think our lineup is going to score runs. They're going to catch the ball. We caught the ball in the infield last year. And I think they're going to catch it in the outfield.

"In a perfect world, you'd like to have more pitching depth, but you know what? There aren't many perfect teams. They should play .500. The bullpen is strong. You hear they might go with eight relievers. Mix and match."

In his heart, Bowa was sad to see shortstop Freddy Galvis go. The two were close after working together for years. But Bowa thinks rookie J.P. Crawford is going to be just fine.

"I think Crawford is a very good shortstop, I really do," Bowa said. "With Freddy, you're talking about a guy who in my opinion should have won two Gold Gloves. Not one. Two. He should have won the last two years, but he didn't. The thing that J.P. brings is, even when he didn't hit good the last month last season, he gets on base. That's big."

Bowa loved what he saw of Aaron Nola last season and believes Jerad Eickhoff will bounce back big.

"He cemented himself with the way he pitched," Bowa said of Nola, who ranked 20th among big-league starters with a 3.54 ERA last season. "And you didn't even see the real Eickhoff. I think there was something bothering him and he tried to pitch through it. I don't think it was anything major. He's a bulldog, man. I'd fight for Eickhoff and Nola every day of the week. I like their demeanor, their attitude, their intensity."

Bowa didn't mince words when talking about third baseman Maikel Franco and starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, two big talents that need to do more.

"It's time," Bowa said, plainly. "It's just time. These are two guys that mean a lot to this team. Stuff-wise, Vinny should pitch good this year."

Bowa loves the addition of first baseman Carlos Santana, a selective hitter who produces runs. He was impressed with the late-season work of relievers Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia and thinks the confidence they gained will fuel strong seasons. He believes the team will respond well to new manager Gabe Kapler's energy.

"If you play .500 baseball going into the middle of August," Bowa said. "There's so much parity in baseball, you catch lightning in a bottle, watch out."

Bowa is happy to still be around the game and the Phillies. The change in role agrees with him.

"I've had a charmed life," he said. "And to be honest, I wasn't in love with the travel anymore."

He remains proud of the Phillies' second half last year. The team went 38-38 in its final 76 games.

"People sort of dismiss that," Bowa said. "But the fact is, it's very easy to fold up shop when you're buried at the All-Star break. It's a credit to Pete and the guys that played, they never quit. They played hard.

"I think this organization, if you look at the second half when Pete left, it's a lot better than when he took over.

"The stars are aligning. Things are really looking up."