Posted FEBRUARY 20, 2008
Written December 10, 2007
The New York Yankees recently replaced their long time and very successful manager with another former Italian catcher named Joe: Girardi replaced Torre. Many Yankee fans hope that Girardi will change tactics and/or strategy. Not likely. For instance Girardi has already indicated that he will follow the Tony LaRussa orthodoxy of designating his best relief pitcher as the closer. The closer is used almost exclusively to pitch one and only one inning (the ninth), which he starts, and only with a lead...
If Girardi waits until the ninth inning, Rivera may retire the side on six pitches when he could have thrown 24. Twenty-four pitches may have equated to two or even three innings thus eliminating the dreaded middle inning relievers, the worst pitchers on the staff. Not waiting until the ninth inning also allows Girardi to use Rivera in a game saving situation: bases loaded, sixth inning, cleanup hitter at bat. Waiting until the ninth deprives Girardi of discretion as to which batters Rivera faces. The bottom of the order is as likely to bat in the ninth as the top of the order...
If Joe Girardi does anything like this he will be different from Joe Torre. Otherwise he is like all the other MLB managers.
Two days ago the Yankees completed a four game sweep of the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, no thanks to their manager, 45 year old Joe Girardi. Both Girardi and the Boston manager, 50 year old Terry Francona, stuck with the Tony LaRussa orthodoxy of waiting until the ninth inning to use their best relief pitcher: Yankee Mariano Rivera, Red Sox Jonathon Papelbon.
Note: Papelbon is being wasted in the bullpen as is Yankee Phil Hughes whom Girardi used to retire only one batter in both games two and three of the series.
Both teams had the top of the batting order due up in the eighth. Both were protecting a one run lead. Both used nobody relief pitchers instead of their ace. Both blew the lead.
Dumb, right. Boston never got Papelbon into the game, which they were desperate to win, having dropped five and a half games behind the Yankees.
Two southpaw starters, Boston's Jon Lester and New York's Andy Pettitte, threw shutout ball through six. Finally, Alex Rodriguez homered in the bottom of the 7th. Yanks 1, Red Sox 0. Pettitte was done on this very hot night. With the top of the order due up Girardi brought in Phil Coke, holding Rivera back to pitch to the bottom of the order in the ninth. When it's phrased like that it seems really dumb, doesn't it?
Coke blew the lead, allowing a two run homer to newly acquired Victor Martinez. Red Sox 2, Yanks 1.
Note: Yankee reliever Phil Coke was credited with the win instead of Pettitte because the official scorer ignored the rule about denying a win to someone who pitches briefly and ineffectively.
Now it was Francona's turn to do the logical thing. Nope. Francona brought in 24 year old ROOKIE Dan Bard who had 33 innings in MLB. Bard allowed consecutive homers to Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. Yanks 3, Red Sox 2. There were more hits and another relief pitcher, Hideki Okajima. Yanks 5, Red Sox 2.
Rivera pitched the ninth, allowing two base runners but no runs. Rivera was protecting a three run lead while Coke was asked to protect a one run lead. Yanks win. Yanks lead by six and a half games.
So what's the deal? Am I the smartest baseball fan in the galaxy or are all the rest stuck in conventional wisdom? I'm going with the conventional wisdom thing. Maybe if the media asked questions based on my radical baseball thinking, MLB management would be prodded into, dare I say it, change.
But what about the fans? Fans are as much to blame. Come on, stop calling those lame talk radio programs asking the same lame questions from the same lame point of view. Get radical!