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…. It’s a mistake

Rebecca Glass wonders whether Joe Girardi should have gone to Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning last night:

…. Here’s the leverage argument:

Because of the importance of the situation, with the tying runs on base and the Angels’ best hitters (Hunter-Guerrerro-Morales) due up, Girardi should have gone to Mariano Rivera.

It’s a claim that much of the MSM and their readers/viewers will brush off as being too reactionary, but it’s based on the single, simple premise discussed above:

Teams should use their very best relievers in the highest leveraged situations.

At the time, there is utterly no way to predict that the ninth inning will matter or how much it will matter. What you know, however, is that at the time, the two potential tying runs on base are the two most important runs you want to prevent from scoring if you are the Yankees.

She is absolutely right. Watching the game, I was aghast when I saw Burnett come out for the seventh. In my view, the hitters had just gotten him off the hook for his horrible start to the game, the bullpen was fully rested after Sabbathia went eight innings and then they had a day off…. I mean, no matter how you slice it, there was no reason whatsoever to allow Burnett to continue in that game. Not to mention, as Don Zimmer used to say to Joe Torre –when Girardi was his catcher, by the way– “it gets late early in the postseason.” For Girardi and the Yankees, it’s late now. Girardi’s error could cost his team everything, and his error was clear the minute it was happening. If you were in the Yankees dugout, how did you not wonder what the hell was going on? What do you think Derek Jeter was thinking as he watched Burnett sweat his way through the 8th and 9th place hitters on the Angels?

The Yankees were nine outs from the World Series, with a two run lead, a shaky all season long starter who had already been raked, and every reliever in his bullpen was available. And in case you are still wondering if I am over reacting, let me make it even clearer:

GIRARDI HAD RIVERA AVAILABLE FOR SIX OUTS IF THE YANKEES DIDN’T SCORE ANY MORE RUNS

That means that all Girardi had to do was get three outs without allowing a run, in an inning in which the lineup was #8 hitter, #9 hitter, and Chone Figgins, who was 2 for 31 to that point in the postseason. To get that job done, he used the aforementioned shaky AJ Burnett, who allowed two base-runners in about ten seconds, and then –with the tying runs on base and nobody out in a game in which the Yankees were nine outs from going to the Serious– Girardi went to Damaso Marte, easily the worst pitcher on the Yankees playoff roster, if not the worst pitcher in the entire playoff universe. Damaso Marte. The same Damaso Marte who appeared in 21 games in 2009, threw 13 innings, allowed 14 earned runs and posted a 9.45 ERA.

How is that sequence even remotely defensible? I’ve been looking all day, and am still waiting for the dozens of articles questioning the choices Girardi made in that inning. Here’s one, from Jesse Spector, of the NY Daily News:

…. the burden of a collapse in this series would fall squarely on Girardi, who has made decisions in both losses that are indefensible. In both Games 3 and 5 in Anaheim, Girardi’s management of the Yankees’ pitching staff left fans saying to themselves, “What the hell is he thinking?” And that was before Alfredo Aceves coughed up Game 3, and before A.J. Burnett let the tying runs get on base in Game 5. From the time that Aceves came in, and from the time that Burnett stayed in after a long top of the frame, Girardi’s decisions had “mistake” written all over them. Both proved catastrophic.

Is that it? The umpires are getting raked for their mistakes. They’re writing about how Nick Swisher made the first and the last outs in that fateful seventh. They’re talking about the lousy broadcast coverage, the lack of insight, how Scoscia misused Brian Fuentes, how Fuentes shouldn’t have thrown that fastball to A-Rod. Girardi’s complete mishandling of the bottom of the seventh inning seems to have happened in a vacuum. I was screaming at the television, from the minute he sent Burnett out there, I mean, that was a farce. Here’s the heat Girardi has taken for it, the MLB page for Sports Illustrated has the following headlines:

Breathless ninth drains emotion from all
Angels’ aggressive approach pays dividends
Game 6 critical for Yanks’ Series rotation

From ESPN’s MLB page:

Managing their thoughts

Here’s what I would’ve chosen:

Girardi’s gaffe
Loss falls on manager
Letdown


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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