CHICAGO – Here we go again.
Thanks to a handful of words that Theo Epstein didn't say the other day in Milwaukee, it's time for the semi-annual Joe Girardi Watch in the Chicago media and around Midwestern taverns. The default option as the next manager of the Cubs once again is fodder for public discussion, and there's a twist.
This time, the Cubs will pursue Girardi, provided they get a chance.
Will they get that chance? That's the question. It's also worth considering if they might pursue another alternative to manager Dale Sveum – say Yankees bench coach Tony Pena – if Girardi is not available. But clearly, the Yankees manager is atop the unpublished wish list.
With Girardi at the end of his contract and the Yanks on the outside looking in at the playoffs, the timing is right for Epstein to consider making a play.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and President Randy Levine aren't going to fire Girardi. But that doesn't mean the 48-year-old Northwestern grad will sign off on his next contract without considering his options.
When the season ends, the Yankees will approach Girardi about a contract extension. He gets a chance to pick what he wants – the security of a new contract in New York or a chance to become one of this offseasons most intriguing free agents.
As one of the leading candidates for the American League Manager of the Year award, Girardi gets to make the call.
If he wants he can stay and work on building the next Yankees powerhouse – without Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte – or he can pick a landing place elsewhere, with the two most tempting in Washington (there's no clear successor to Davey Johnson) and at Wrigley Field.
Epstein, the Cubs president, and general manager Jed Hoyer are smart to leave themselves open to upgrades, as Sveum heads into the last season on the 3-year contract he landed after Mike Maddux pulled out of the managerial search in 2011.
If Girardi and his wife, Kim, are willing to uproot their children from schools in suburban New York, it would be difficult – almost unthinkable – for Epstein/Hoyer to ignore Girardi, as Jim Hendry did when he hired Lou Piniella to replace Dusty Baker.