I have spent a lot of time over the last month or two defending Joe Girardi. He does an excellent job managing his roster, and I feel quite confident in saying that he is a well above average manager. Last night, however, he had the worst night he has ever had as Yankees manager, with a number of poor decisions greatly hurting the Yankees chances to win the game. Brien at IIATMS put some grievances together, and I thought I would run through them and point out the ones I agreed with and the ones I found not to be objectionable.
Starting Francisco Cervelli
I mean, why? It’s not like A.J. Burnett pitched well with Cervelli catching him in the regular season, making the decision to give up Posada’s offense, even if only for a couple of at bats, really dubious. I disliked the decision to let Molina catch Burnett last season, but at least he was actually a good defensive catcher. Starting Cervelli just strikes me as being obviously without logic.
Letting Cervelli Bat in the 4th
Again, why? There were 2 men on, and 2 outs. A single would add a run, a ball into the gap would have scored Brett Gardner from first. Would Posada have come up with a hit? The law of probability says probably not, but at least he would have had a chance. Instead, Girardi basically decided to surrender a scoring opportunity by letting the near-automatic out that is Francisco Cervelli go to the plate.
I fully agree with both of these criticisms. I disliked going with Cervelli to start the game, but I can concede that pitcher-catcher relationships are hard for us to analyze from the couch and that the manager may have a better grasp for that sort of thing. But there is no way to defend not pinch hitting for Frankie in the 4th. You expect 1, maybe 2 more innings from Burnett at that point, such that pulling Cervelli should have been a non-issue. The Yankees needed to add more runs in that spot, and Posada gave them their best chance to do so.
Walking David Murphy
I hate intentional walks. Absolutely hate them. They almost never make any sense, and one of only 2 exceptions to the rule only affects the National League. Giving David Murphy a free pass is just asking for trouble, and sure enough, Bengie Molina made sure to make them pay for it. The baseball gods were not pleased.
I would not have made this move myself, but I did not hate it, and think that the furor over it is much ado about nothing. Murphy hits right-handers very well, Yankee Stadium is a lefty haven, and there were two outs and a base open. Most importantly, Bengie Molina is a terrible hitter who is not much of a threat against right-handers. I think this move was defensible.
Leaving A.J. Burnett in Too Long
This one I don’t really feel like expounding on, but suffice it to say that, from the look of my Twitter feed, everyone in the world other than Girardi knew that it was time to take Burnett out after the 5th inning. John Flaherty just said it best on YES; Girardi managed this like a regular season game, trying to squeeze one more inning out of his starter rather than trying to get the lead to Mariano Rivera. And that brings me too…
This was the most inexcusable move that Joe made. I did not mind him starting the 6th, but once he completed the IBB to Murphy, he should have left the field to a standing ovation. Burnett started missing spots, and had nearly thrown one of the intentional balls away. That was a spot where Joba should have entered to face Molina, or where Logan should have been warmed to face Murphy. Joe tried to get one more out from Burnett for no good reason, and he got burned.
Bringing in Sergio Mitre
To put this as diplomatically as I can; everything else on this list annoyed me, this one flat out infuriated me. Yes, the Yankees were down by 4 runs. It’s still within the margin of a home run, but it’s not really close. Still, it’s game 4 of the ALCS and you are down 2 games to 1! Bringing in Mitre here is tantamount to giving up on the game, and you simply can’t afford to do that in this situation. If you don’t want to needlessly use Mo here, that’s semi-understandable. At some point there’s not going to be a tomorrow to worry about, but down by 4 it’s understandable enough to want to be able to use Mo to the max tomorrow. But if that’s the case, then bring in Kerry Wood and go in to tomorrow planning on only using 2 pitchers for the entire game if you have to. But do not punt game 4 when you’re down in the series.
I have absolutely no problem with this move. The win expectancy going into the 9th last night was 1.7%. The game was all but over, but the series is not. I would rather have Kerry Wood fresh and Mariano Rivera available for 2 innings of work than use either of them to keep the margin to 4 runs with one inning to go.
There are two other moves that I have seen questioned. One was pulling Robertson for Logan, a move that made perfect sense. Robertson had thrown a lot of pitches the night before, such that you are not really sure when fatigue begins to set in. With Hamilton killing righties and the right field porch beckoning, it made sense to go to the lefty there. He just did not get the job done.
The last move was sticking with Berkman batting righty with the bases loaded in the 8th rather than use Austin Kearns. I still do not know how to feel about this one. The numbers do not show a huge difference between the two against lefties, and Kearns has not hit in a while. On the other hand, Berkman simply looks atrocious and fairly helpless when batting righty. I’d say that there was no right and wrong in this case and that Joe was justified in refraining from making a move, but I can understand if your opinion varies.
In all, Joe had a terrible game with a few awful decisions and a handful of questionable ones. That said, the calls for his head are silly and shortsighted. Firing him (or letting him leave) based on a poor game would be a poor move, and would almost certainly be a decision born out of emotion and frustration rather than logic and reason. He is a good manager who had an atrocious night. It happens.
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