Suddenly available, Girardi could be in mix for Nationals job

If the Nationals want an accomplished manager with postseason success already on his resume, one of the biggest names out there just became available in surprising fashion.

Joe Girardi, who won the 2009 World Series and three more playoff series for the Yankees since, was let go this morning by the club that employed him the last 10 seasons, immediately making the 53-year-old the hottest managerial candidate on the open market.

Whether that makes him the hottest candidate for the Nats' open position isn't as clear-cut.

The Nationals, who let Dusty Baker go last week in the wake of a second straight first-round postseason exit, have already begun their search for a new manager, with Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez and Mets hitting coach Kevin Long the first two known interviewees, according to sources familiar with the team's search.

Neither Martinez nor Long has prior managerial experience, while Girardi has 11 total years: 2006 with the Marlins (when he won National League Manager of the Year honors, then was fired by owner Jeffrey Loria) and 2008-17 with the Yankees (when he won a World Series and three division titles, though none since 2012).

4th-Nationals-sidebar.jpgGirardi, though, will not come cheap. He just completed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Yankees and surely will be seeking something in a similar range now. Nationals ownership has never offered more than two guaranteed years to a manager, and Baker made only $2 million per season during his time in D.C.

Thus, it would require a major break from the Lerner family's longstanding form to lure Girardi to Washington. The family's interest in the former big league catcher, though, has long been known.

Girardi actually topped the Nationals' wish list when they began the first of their six managerial searches, way back in October 2006. Just fired by the Marlins after a spat with Loria and the front office, Girardi was among the biggest available names at the time. But he declined to interview with a Nationals organization that was still in its infancy and trying to find its way, electing instead to take a year off. And when Joe Torre and the Yankees parted the following season, Girardi jumped at the opportunity to take the reins in the Bronx.

Might Girardi want to take time off again, sit out a year and then decide whether to go back to work? He dropped some hints during the postseason that he might want to spend more time with his family.

Girardi led a Yankees roster that was supposed to be rebuilding this season to a surprising postseason berth, winning the American League wild card game over the Twins, then rallying from two games down to beat the Indians in the five-game AL Division Series, then taking a 3-2 lead on the Astros in the AL Championship Series before losing Games 6 and 7 at Minute Maid Park.

Girardi wasn't immune to criticism along the way. Though he's well-regarded for his in-game tactics, he also has been accused of being too by-the-book when it comes to playing matchups and using relievers. An old-school type who prefers to run a tight ship, Girardi isn't thought of as the type of players' manager that Baker was, and he reportedly had a frosty relationship with the Yankees front office this season.

Though he obviously is far more accomplished, Girardi in some ways is not unlike Matt Williams in managerial style, a style that led to Williams' ouster by the Nationals after only two seasons.

Those accomplishments, however, cannot be ignored. And the Nats made it clear last week in severing ties with Baker what they are looking for in their next manager.

"Our expectations have grown to the fact that winning a lot of regular season games and winning divisions are not enough," said general manager Mike Rizzo, who is entering the final year of his contract. "Our goal is to win a world championship."

Girardi has done that. Few other managers currently available can make the same claim.

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