Cubs: On the heels of back-to-back rings, Joe Girardi came home
By Jake Misener
For younger baseball fans, you think of Joe Girardi as the former manager of the New York Yankees – and current skipper of the Phillies. But he had himself a solid playing career – and, throughout it all, the Chicago Cubs were a prominent thread.
Girardi, an Illinois native, was taken by the Cubs in the fifth round of the 1986 MLB Draft out of Northwestern. Less than three years later, he made his big league debut on Opening Day at Wrigley Field, going 2-for-3 against Philadelphia in a 5-4 victory.
To say that was a bucket list moment is an understatement. After all, this is a guy who wrote about his dream of playing for the North Siders when he was in elementary school.
The backstop was never an offensive juggernaut, to say the least. In his first stint on the North Side, which lasted from 1989 to 1992, Girardi was a well below-average performer at the dish, slashing just .262/.306/.323 – checking in with a 72 OPS+ during that span. With Rick Wilkins showing some signs that year, Chicago opted to not protect Girardi from the expansion draft and he wound up getting picked up by Colorado.
The move paid off in a big way for the Cubs. Wilkins turned in a monster season the following year – and was the team’s most valuable player, racking up 6.6 bWAR while hitting 30 home runs with a .937 OPS. Girardi, meanwhile, enjoyed the benefits of playing home games in the Mile High City – evidenced by a full 200-point swing between his home and road splits in 1993.
He spent three years with the Rockies, and further established himself as a quality backstop . The following offseason, the New York Yankees swung a trade to bring Girardi to the Bronx, where he quickly became an integral part of the team’s dynastic late-90s run.
It was there Girardi became a household name. He really did a bit of everything – catching a no-hitter, a perfect game and, oh, yeah – winning back-to-back World Series championships in 1998 and 1999 (along with his first, which came in 1996). On the heels of that historic accomplishment, he came back to the Cubs ahead of the 2000 season, during which he was named an All-Star for the first and only time in his 15-year career.
Chicago Cubs: A homecoming for the lifelong fan, Illinois native
He spent three years in Chicago during his second go-round, bringing his career total with the franchise to seven years – as much as he spent with New York and Colorado combined. After one final go-round in St. Louis, he hung up his spikes – and shortly thereafter became the manager of the Marlins in ’06.
And if you thought with his playing days behind him, his ties to the Cubs ended, you’d be very much mistaken. He’s been a managerial candidate multiple times since – losing out to Lou Piniella prior to the 2007 season and emerging as a speculative fit after Chicago gave Dale Sveum the boot back in 2013. Don’t forget – there were rumors tying Girardi to the Cubs yet again following the 2019 dismissal of Joe Maddon, as well.
In recent years, Anthony Rizzo’s contributions on and off the field brought up conversations of putting the captain’s ‘C’ on his chest. One of the six players to have ever received the honor in Chicago Cubs history? You guessed it. Joe Girardi.