During an interview with Mike Francesca on Thursday afternoon, Joe Girardi dropped something of a bombshell. That's a bit hyperbolic, unless you're the Yankees tailor, but there's all kinds of subtext behind the decision to wear number 28 in the dugout next season.
Girardi famously chose number 27 when he was hired to represent the team's quest for a 27th World Series title, and now that he's accomplished it he's back at the deli counter to pull another slip of paper. It's a bit hokey, but so are a lot of the ways the Yankees perceived championship birthright manifests itself. "Now Serving 28" is something you can see on t-shirts and flashed on the scoreboard but it's not that easy.
The day of the championship parade isn't the appropriate time to discuss all the reasons why the Yankees might not repeat as World Series champions, but, no matter the particulars, it's easy enough to just say 2000 and leave it at that. That wasn't only the last time a team repeated as kings of the baseball hill, but it was also the last time the Yankees won it all before this year. As many a hysterical Yankee fan will tell you, it's been an agonizing wait to get back on top of the mountain, one that's been made all the worse by the impression that anything less than a championship is a wholesale failure.
For better or for worse, they aren't going to stop thinking that way which is all the subtext you actually need for Girardi's new digits. There's another one, though. Neither the manager nor anyone else is going to talk about it right now, but it also becomes something of a bullseye. Girardi isn't going to be on the hot seat at any point in the immediate future, but this title will have an expiration date. If the Yankees are seven games back of the Red Sox on July 27, 2011 and Girardi's still got number 28 on his back, you can bet there will be some enterprising columnist opining that the jersey with 28 on it is empty and needs someone else to truly fill it.
Of course, that same columnist would just write that it was time to hire 28 if Girardi stuck with 27, so he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. In the end, it's his back and he's free to do with it what he wants but all the talk of 28 makes it clear that the time to celebrate 27 has a short shelf life in Yankeeland.