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Time For A Little Backseat Managing

October 20, 2010 - John Whittaker
Managers are judged not on the theory of their moves, but by how they worked out.

So, Joe Girardi, get ready for a little back-seat managing — because you're going to get a winter full of it.

Why, in the name of all that is holy, did you decide to walk David Murphy to bring up Yankee killing, 400 pounds of fun Benji Molina in Game 4? I know, I know, you wanted no part of Murphy. And, yes, I know you were convinced the righty-righty matchup is what the almighty book tells you to do. Here's why walking Murphy was stupid. Your team was nursing a 1-run lead with two outs in the sixth inning. A.J. Burnett is playing with house money — you know he could unravel at any minute. With a runner on first, what's the difference between a two-run home run and a three-run home run? ONE RUN! When your offense can't score, one run is a backbreaking difference in a game.

How did that move work out?

Burnett misses badly with a pitch to Molina, who crushes a high fly ball that went into orbit about 10 hours ago. You could see the effect of that three-run bomb when the Yankees came up in the bottom of the inning. Feeling pressure to get one run back immediately, Robinson Cano struck out on three sliders in the dirt from Derek Holland that, had he not been trying to do too much, he wouldn't have swung at. Forced to scratch out more runs, the Yankees offense ground to a halt.

But, we're not done playing How To Mismanage A Bullpen, hosted by Joe Girardi.

With the Yankees now trailing 5-3, David Robertson comes in and gets two quick outs. The almighty book (what is this thing, Managing in the Postseason for Dummies?) says you go to Boone Logan to pitch to Josh Hamilton, even though we've already seen in this series that if you have a lefthanded pitcher on the mound, it's not automatic success against Josh Hamilton. He's got two home runs already in the series against lefties, both of whom made mistakes that Hamilton drilled. Boone Logan, meanwhile, has been known to not have the best control of his pitches. So, let's bring him in rather than leave in Robertson, who looked to have good stuff last night. What happens? BOOM - home run for Hamilton on a pitch that Logan left on the middle third of the plate. Everybody knows Hamilton crushes pitches on the middle third of the plate, and that Robertson has the ability to keep the ball away from lefthanders. But, go with the book Joe. Good move. I think it's time to get a new book.

Down 6-3, absolutely having to keep the game right where it is, what's Girardi's next move? Let's bring in Joba Chamberlain, because you don't use good relievers when you're losing. What were you saving Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera for, Joe? Christmas? You have to get big outs in the eighth to even have a chance in this game. Joba gives up a couple of more runs, the Yankees leave the eighth staring at a seven-run deficit, and the traffic jam outside Yankee Stadium begins in earnest. Hasn't enough been written about Chamberlain's struggles? Hadn't you gotten all you could have expected from him in Game 1? You're already down three runs, with a small chance of coming back and taking a lead. Isn't it worth getting your best two relievers in the game? Nope — we go with Joba and Sergio Mitre — because Yankees fans hadn't suffered enough last night.

There are a lot of things that have gone wrong in the Texas series. Phil Hughes didn't pitch well. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have two combined hits in four games. The offense has developed a strange phobia of hitting with runners on base. Nick Swisher's new first name should be The Struggling.

But, their manager didn't exactly have a good series, either.

Five other playoff Yankees notes heading into Game 5, which starts at 4:07 p.m. today (sorry for those of you waiting for King of Queens or Life According to Jim reruns):

1. Hughes needs to figure out an off-speed pitch. Against a team like Minnesota, Hughes will dominate because he doesn't have to throw his curveball for strikes. But, against Texas, which murders fastballs, Hughes will struggle until he has a consistent pitch he can use to disrupt Texas' timing. He's the future of the rotation if you're the Yankees — but that doesn't mean he doesn't have things to learn.

2. It's nice to see the Phillies-Giants providing baseball fans with good games. Cody Ross — who the Marlins cut during the season — slammed two home runs off of Roy Halladay to give the Giants a Game 1 win. Then, Roy Oswalt, the alleged question mark in the Phillies rotation, throws a beautiful Game 2 and gets a Jimmy Rollins triple to win the game. Well played games that have been well pitched, too. Then, Matt Cain throws a beauty in Game 3 to give the Giants a surprising 2-1 lead. I forgot what good pitching looks like.

3. It hurts losing Teixeira's defense now that he's out for the rest of the playoffs with a hamstring injury, but honestly, the Yankees would be better off with 75-year-old Moose Skowron at the plate right now. I'm starting to wonder about Teixeira's testicular fortitude, given that he's had roughly 4 hits in the last two postseasons. Your number three hitter really has to come through with men on base, or with nobody on base, or at least pick up the dinner check after the game. The check is the only thing Teixeira's gotten right. The Yankees will plug Lance Berkman or Nick Swisher in at first base, and it won't hurt defensively that much. Teixeira's good defensively, but his defense isn't enough to overcome hitless playoff series.

4. I'm not going to rip A.J. Burnett for his performance last night. I wanted five innings from him that kept the Yankees in the game. I got what I wanted.

5. Favorite things to watch when you a ballgame is getting away from you: Entourage, if the game is on a Friday night. Spike TV runs a marathon starting at 7 p.m. and going until midnight. It's the perfect thing to take your mind off of a bad pitching performance; Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men and Family Guy if it's the late innings during the week and you need some laughs because your manager has just made another bonehead decision; and, lastly, at least last night, ESPN's 30-for-30 documentary about Tim Richmond, the NASCAR driver who died from AIDS in 1989 — after watching Joba Chamberlain get lit up yet again, I felt like crying a little bit.

 
 

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