NEW YORK -- Some people have monkeys on their backs. Others have targets. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had both, and he had himself to thank.
With Wednesday's 7-3 win over the Phillies in Game 6 of the World Series, the Yankees gave Girardi his first title as a manager. They also may have given him a reason to consider a new jersey number for 2010. "He's off the hook now, isn't he?" shortstop Derek Jeter said with a laugh. Girardi's 2008 Yankees finished with 89 wins and missed the postseason, something the Yankees hadn't done since 1993. That didn't sit well with the Yankees, but they didn't sit still.
From the moment the team assembled this spring in Tampa, Fla., Girardi projected a different air. He appeared looser with his players -- enough to organize a pool tournament in lieu of an on-field workout -- and more at ease with the writers as well. "Well, I felt good about this club all year," Girardi said. "I said in Spring Training we had a very good club." Girardi's job carries as much pressure as any position in sports. The Yankees may not be able to win a World Series every year, but they aren't happy if they aren't the last ones standing. Throw in the past eight seasons without a title, and the hot seat only gets hotter for the man in charge. Girardi's toughest test this season didn't arrive until the playoffs, when he decided to use a three-man starting rotation of Sabathia, Burnett and Andy Pettitte. No team had won a World Series title using only three starting pitchers since the 1991 Twins. Burnett, working on three days' rest, lasted only two innings in a Game 5 loss, and Girardi's plan looked as though it could backfire. But Pettitte managed to pitch 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball in Game 6, making Girardi's gambit worthwhile. "It's not realistic in modern sports for anybody in any sport to think about winning every year," Steinbrenner said. "Maybe in the '30s or '40s you could. We try to win every year, and we just do it more than anyone else. That's the bottom line."
LEADING THE WAY
|Casey Stengel||7||1949-53, '56, '58|
|Joe McCarthy||7||1932, '36-'39, '41, '43|
|Joe Torre||4||1996, '98-2000|
|Miller Huggins||3||1923, '27-'28|
Thomas Boorstein is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.