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Marlins hire Girardi to replace McKeon

MIAMI -- Lured by the chance to manage, Joe Girardi is
giving up pinstripes for teal.

The New York Yankees' bench coach accepted his first managerial
job, signing a three-year contract with the Florida Marlins, and
was introduced at a news conference Thursday.

"I believe I was born to manage," Girardi said. "People
asking about not having managed, but as a catcher I believe you
manage every day you're on the field. I was the type of player who
had to do the little things to win."

Girardi, who also interviewed for the Tampa Bay vacancy, spent
15 years as a major league catcher. He then went into broadcasting
in 2004 and came out of the booth to join the Yankees' staff this
season.

"He is the right man to lead our team," Marlins owner Jeffrey
Loria said. "I'm proud that he will start what will be a long,
successful managerial career here in South Florida."

Girardi was apparently Loria's first choice from the outset and
was the first candidate to interview with the Marlins owner. A
follow-up interview took place Oct. 12 in New York with Loria and
general manager Larry Beinfest.

"During the interview process the adjectives about Joe were
consistent -- prepared, smart, competitive, communicative -- all the
things we were looking for in a manager," Beinfest said.

Girardi, 41, succeeds 74-year-old Jack McKeon, who led the
Marlins to the World Series title in 2003 but resigned after the
team finished a disappointing 83-79 this year.

With the Yankees, Girardi was a member of three World Series
championship teams and caught two no-hitters. In Miami, the crowds
will be smaller, the budget tighter, the odds of winning longer.

Still, Florida has won two World Series titles since 1997,
second during that span only to the Yankees' three titles.

"Jeffrey and Larry will do what they can to give me the best
product on the field," Girardi said. "They want to win, they want
championships. And that's what I'm all about."

Girardi interviewed twice for the Devil Rays job vacated by Lou
Piniella. An Illinois native with an engineering degree from
Northwestern, Girardi also weighed the option of turning down the
Marlins to remain with the Yankees until the Chicago Cubs' job
becomes available.

He spent seven seasons with the Cubs and also played for the
Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals before retiring in 2003.

"Joe was known as an intelligent player with great leadership
skills, and he will bring those traits to his new position," Loria
said.

Among other candidates interviewed by the Marlins were Atlanta
Braves third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez, Oakland Athletics
third-base coach Ron Washington and Tampa Bay coaches Billy Hatcher
and Tom Foley.

Girardi takes over a team facing a likely roster shake-up.
Spending cuts are possible after Loria approved a franchise-record
$60 million payroll this year and was rewarded with a late-season
meltdown, the second-lowest attendance in the National League and a
stalemate in his bid for a new ballpark.

Still, the Marlins have a strong young core with 22-game winner
Dontrelle Willis and slugger Miguel Cabrera.

McKeon led the Marlins to three of the four winning seasons in
franchise history, but there was a consensus within the
organization that a managerial change was in order. Players
complained that McKeon was too abrasive, and clubhouse tension
mounted as the season soured.

Girardi becomes the seventh manager for the Marlins, who played
their first game in 1993.