He’s a good guy pretty much all the time.
So when I saw Stairs just shooting the bull with Yankees manager Joe Girardi during Tuesday’s workout at Yankee Stadium on the eve of the start of the World Series, it dawned on me…
Those guys were teammates. It had to be so.
A quick spin on Baseball-Reference proved it to be true. In 2001, Stairs and Girardi both played for the Chicago Cubs along with Phillies’ utility man, Miguel Cairo. Back then Stairs was 33 and the Cubs’ starting first baseman. He played in 128 games that year, hitting just 17 homers and splitting time with Fred McGriff.
Girardi, on the other hand, was 36 and winding down his playing career as the backup catcher to Todd Hundley in his second go-around with the Cubs. Five years later Stairs was working on his ninth team prefacing a stint in Toronto and Philadelphia yet to come, while Girardi took his first managing gig with the Marlins.
Cairo, meanwhile, bounced around quite a bit in 2001. Before hooking up with Girardi and Stairs with the Cubs, he was traded by Oakland for current Yankees’ pinch hitter Eric Hinske.
Hinske, of course, was the final out of the 2008 World Series with the Rays, a role he doesn’t want to reprise against the Phillies in 2009.
OK, where does Kevin bacon fit into all of this? Wait, he grew up in Rittenhouse Square. See, it all fits.
Anyway, not even a decade after they were teammates in Chicago, Stairs and Girardi are battling it out for the World Series. Needless to say, this leads to an important question:
Hey Matt, what’s it like playing in the World Series against an opposing manager that used to be your teammate?
“It means I’m really old or he’s extremely young and doing really good,” Stairs said with a hearty chuckle. “No, it’s nice and I’m really happy for Joe. We were teammates in Chicago and he’s done a great job managing here and when he was with the Marlins and now he has the Yankees in the World Series.”
But knowing what he does about Girardi, did Stairs ever imagine a scenario where his old teammate could ever be his boss?
“He’s older than me, right?” asked Stairs, who at 41 is three years younger than Girardi. “I might have a hard time playing for a guy younger than me.”
The way it’s going Stairs very well could play for a manager younger than him one day. Sure, the lefty slugger struggled a bit in 2009, but big bats off the bench are a big commodity in baseball. Just ask Hinske, whose big bat for the bench has him in the World Series for the third straight year with his third different team.
Have bat, will travel.
Regardless, Stairs is pleased to see his old teammate doing so well, though he hopes he’s not doing as well when the World Series ends next week.
“I wanted to be a manager when I was young. How we learn is from watching the game and if you stick around long enough you might pick up some things,” Stairs said. “Joe is smart and he’s been around and he’s a good manager. He does extremely well with all that stuff like the bullpen moves. Sometimes you’re in a no-win situation and he does a great job in blowing it off.”