Joe Girardi downplays Cubs speculation

CHICAGO -- One of the first things New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi saw when he walked into the White Sox visitors clubhouse Friday afternoon was the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times. It featured the silhouette of a man with a Cubs hat on his head, under the headline "There's Only One Man For the Job."

That man, of course, turned out to be Girardi, who this weekend seems to be the object of a recruiting campaign of the type much of the New York media laid on LeBron James last month. Girardi stared at the paper for a moment and then practically sat in exasperation.

"Oh, please," he said. "I'm trying not to pay any attention to that stuff. Just trying to do my job."

A few minutes later, he was surrounded in the Yankees dugout by a media contingent to rival anything he will see in the Bronx during the postseason. The line of questioning, of course, centered on whether Girardi -- a former Cub, graduate of Northwestern and native of Peoria who has extensive family and personal ties to the area -- would replace Lou Piniella as Cubs manager next season.

As he has when asked similar questions by the New York media, Girardi stayed true to the company line. "As I've said all along, my responsibility is to the Yankees," he said. "I was hired by the Yankees to do a job, we're in a very tight divisional race and my job is to prepare this team to play every day and that's what I'm focusing on. I've never worried about next year. I'm happy with my contract situation."

Girardi had put out the word that he would take questions on the subject just this once, and for a limited time, which no doubt contributed to the size of his audience.

And true to his word, Girardi spent about three minutes on the topic, saying no more than he had in New York, and in some case, the exact same words.

"I feel I'm fortunate to be one of 30 managers with a contract right now," he said. "There's people in this organization right now who have done a lot more for this organization than I have who don't have contracts. And we're not worried about next year. We're worried about right now. My focus is [New York]. I have a responsibility to the Steinbrenners, who have treated me great and my family great, and to [GM] Brian Cashman and to my players."

That seemed to satisfy the Chicago contingent, which quickly dispersed.

After they left, however, Girardi mused about spending his off-day in Chicago on Thursday visiting his father, who is 79 and, according to Girardi, in "the end stages of Alzheimer's."

"It was tremendous to see him," Girardi said. "It's tough, because every time I see him I wonder if it's going to be the last."

Girardi said he and his family were shocked when his father, Jerry, suddenly spoke to them after having not spoken "in four or five months."

"I probably asked him how he was 10 or 12 times with no response," Girardi said. "Then out of the blue, he just said, 'I'm good today.' Just like that. That made my whole day."

Those are the kind of days Girardi can experience more of if he ultimately decides that he and Chicago Sun-Times' choice for the Cubs next manager turn out to be the same man.

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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