Marlins hire Girardi to replace McKeon

Updated: October 20, 2005, 2:25 PM ET
Associated Press

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

Managerial changes
Detroit Tigers
OUT: Alan Trammell
IN: Jim Leyland
Florida Marlins
OUT: Jack McKeon
IN: Joe Girardi
Los Angeles Dodgers
OUT: Jim Tracy
IN: --
Oakland Athletics
OUT: Ken Macha
IN: Ken Macha
Pittsburgh Pirates
OUT: Lloyd McClendon
IN: Jim Tracy
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
OUT: Lou Piniella
IN: --

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press