The Yankees could have been flying home on Thursday, bringing the World Series back to the Bronx for the first time in eight years. Joe Girardi would have been standing just to the right of home plate before Game 3 on Friday, shaking hands with Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, their teams lined up on the baselines, a giant flag stretched across the Yankee Stadium outfield.
With one more victory over the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, that would have been reality.
Instead, Girardi is gone. He cleaned out his office on Wednesday after being informed that the Yankees would not renew his contract. After a decade on the job, with 200 more wins than losses and the 2009 championship, Girardi is out. A different manager — just the third in 23 seasons for the Yankees — will guide the team’s next generation.
It was a shock — on the surface, anyway — when the Yankees made the move official on Thursday. They had traded veterans last summer and mapped a blueprint for the future, and yet they found themselves one win away from a pennant this month. While their run differential (+98) suggested they should have won 100 games, instead of 91, in the regular season, they still exceeded reasonable expectations for what they might achieve this year.