Lou Piniella's retirement naturally sparked a lot of speculation about who will be the next manager of the Cubs and one constant across the spectrum is that Joe Girardi's name gets thrown into the mix.
On the surface, it seems ridiculous. Why would a guy walk away from the Yankees job for any other job in baseball? Whatever the pressures of managing in New York, Girardi can at least be assured that he will never be left wanting for talented players nor will the team ever pass up on a chance to get better even if the team is already cruising toward another playoff berth. He's got one world title as a manager to go with the three he won as a player and it won't take much more to push him into the upper echelon of Yankee legends.
But what about winning the first Cubs title since 1908? Wouldn't that make for a legacy of the highest order?
Sure, and Girardi has many ties to the Chicago area. He's from Peoria, went to Northwestern and spent two stints with the Cubs during his playing career. The allure of being the guy to bring the title to the north side of Chicago has to be pretty tempting to everybody -- but one must be realistic about the chances of being that guy if you take over the job right now.
The Cubs aren't knocking on the door of a title. They aren't even in the elevator on their way to knock on the door. The team is showing serious signs of age this season and will need to prune itself of veterans while rebuilding the roster to make another run at ending their championship drought. Why would Girardi sign up for that process, a process that could well claim him before it comes to fruition, when he's guaranteed a championship quality team every single season in New York?
You can never know exactly what's in someone's heart and Girardi may have personal reasons that make moving to Chicago more appealing than staying in New York. A rational assessment of the situation leaves that as one of the two biggest draws to a potential move to Wrigley Field.
The other one is money. Girardi makes $2.5 million right now, less than Terry Francona, Joe Torre, Dusty Baker and several other managers who didn't just win a World Series. Surely any new contract with the Yankees would involve a raise but would they get into a bidding war with the new owners of the Cubs who might see Girardi as the perfect guy to front their franchise? They probably would if the Yankees win another World Series this year but a collapse between now and then would create a big unknown.
Either way, it gives Girardi a great deal of leverage when it comes time to talk on a new contract and makes his return something less than the guarantee it was before Piniella hung up the cleats.