"There's no doubt about it -- the makeup of the team is going to be different, whether it's one guy or five guys. You draw on the things that you learn this year -- you have a relationship and an understanding of most of the players, but there will be new ones that will be a challenge for you as a manager."
Preparing for his first year at the helm of the Yankees, Girardi knew that there would be large shoes to fill. He inherited a club that had reached the postseason in 13 consecutive campaigns, 12 of them under the former manager, Joe Torre, for whom Girardi had performed as a player.
It would be Girardi's ship to steer, and he left little question of his intentions, selecting uniform No. 27 -- symbolic of the Yankees' objective of obtaining a 27th World Series championship.
It is a mission that will have to carry over into the next year, as the Yankees did not reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1993 season, when Derek Jeter made 56 errors at Class A and Spike Owen manned shortstop in the Bronx. Girardi said that this season will make him better equipped as a manager.
"I think every experience you go through in life has a chance to make you better if you evaluate it correctly," Girardi said. "I have learned from my experiences.
"There's a lot of things that you learn, because of the relationships that are established in being with people every day. You gather from those experiences and I think it helps you along the way."
With the Yanks' elimination, the teams that have the longest current run of consecutive postseason appearances are the Red Sox, Angels and Cubs, who will appear in their second straight this season.
Longest postseason streaks
|The Yankees fell one season shy of the record for reaching the most consecutive postseasons.|
Best in their fields (and courts and rinks)
|The teams with the longest consecutive postseason appearances in the four major North American sports leagues:|
|NBA||Syracuse Nationals/ Philadelphia 76ers||22||1949-71|
Girardi's first season at the helm was marked first by an absence of clubhouse candy -- it took a wonderful first half for Mike Mussina to score the return of his array of sweets -- and by an increase of secrecy over the Torre administration.
Girardi's typical response regarding relievers was that every pitcher was available every day, not wanting to offer additional information to opposing managers who might have friends in the media.
It was more permanently qualified by Girardi's relentless optimism. Quizzed daily, Girardi repeatedly stressed that his players would be able to establish consistency and vault them into contention. The Yankees came out of the July 15 All-Star Game with an eight-game win streak, but it was to be their longest of the year.
Later, Girardi's relentlessly sunny outlook would become a point of criticism -- particularly in his continued defense of slumping second baseman Robinson Cano, who was eventually disciplined with a two-game benching in September for lack of hustle defensively.
"I think it's important that you have confidence in the people that are in that room, and you have the ability to get it done," Girardi said. "Sometimes what you see from me is not necessarily what everyone else gets. There are times that you have discussions that are right to the point. But it's important that you believe in your players and I believe in my guys."
Yankees players said that Girardi accomplished his task of inspiring behind closed doors, motivating to succeed with a variety of tactics. That included multiple team meetings -- the first on May 14 at Tropicana Field, when the Yankees were two games under .500., and a notably scathing dressing-down following a 7-0 loss to the Red Sox on July 3 in New York.
Thirteen stellar summers
|The Yankees' year-by-year records and postseason results from their 13-season run as playoff participants:|
|2007||94-68||Lost to Indians in ALDS|
|2006||97-65||Lost to Tigers in ALDS|
|2005||95-67||Lost to Angels in ALDS|
|2004||101-61||Lost to Red Sox in ALCS|
|2003||101-61||Lost to Marlins in World Series|
|2002||103-58||Lost to Angels in ALDS|
|2001||95-65||Lost to D-backs in World Series|
|2000||87-74||Beat Mets in World Series|
|1999||98-64||Beat Braves in World Series|
|1998||114-48||Beat Padres in World Series|
|1997||96-66||Lost to Indians in ALDS|
|1996||92-70||Beat Braves in World Series|
|1995||79-65||Lost to Mariners in ALDS|
As Jeter said that day, "If there were easy answers to things, you'd fix it right away," and there were not. The Yankees played short-handed for most of the year, their struggles were due in large part to injuries to key performers.
"Anytime when you're not where you should be, people are going to question the focus," Girardi said. As soon as you get shut out, people are going to question a lack of energy. It's just more energetic from the visual eye when people are running around the bases all the time. When you're making right turns into the dugout, it looks slow."
There were enormous injuries to Jorge Posada, Chien-Ming Wang, Joba Chamberlain and Hideki Matsui -- and the struggles of rookie pitchers Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. With what the Yankees had, Girardi said that he felt his practice of challenging players did garner the expected responses.
"As a child, my parents showed a lot of confidence in me and the belief that I can do it," Girardi said. "Would I always accomplish everything I thought I would? No, but there wasn't doubt in me. I also had people who told me things I couldn't do and that motivated me. I believe in challenging players. You might not do it publicly, but I believe in challenging players."