First via Joel Sherman -
Joe Girardi must make a decision — and we are not talking Cubs vs. Yankees.
Girardi must decide to go all-out to win games until a playoff spot is secured. Because the hybrid he is deploying between saying the games matter — but often not managing that way — has left his team confused. Actually that decision might have been made for Girardi now since the Red Sox, with a 7-3 triumph yesterday, closed within five games in the loss column for the wild card.
That should be huge with eight games to play. But this weekend has the feel of a reverse Boston Massacre, or as if the ghosts of the 2004 ALCS Yankee choke job are being revived. That four games remain between the teams means the Red Sox have re-opened a door that seemed closed.
And Girardi’s schizophrenic managing style has helped open that door. He has alternately pushed hard and pulled back so often over the last few weeks that his team has been left as tight as its high-strung skipper.
Girardi said he is managing the same now as always. But that is just disingenuous. He has been more cautious with injured guys, older guys and tired guys than ever, acting as if his team has a playoff spot locked up, but no real fervor for the AL East title or the best record in the league. Yet by prioritizing that caution, Girardi has shut off his team’s switch. The Yanks currently feel like an NBA team that pulled its starters up 23 in the third quarter, and now can’t get going again with the lead down to seven in the fourth.
And, next, via Andrew Marchand –
It is nearly impossible for the New York Yankees to miss the playoffs, but they are trying their hardest to make it is as interesting as possible.
They have a manager who continues to say bewildering things that, if true, makes him seem delusional at best and incompetent at worst. They have a very famous third baseman who squarely pointed the finger at the team’s starting pitching as the problem of late. And they are tumbling toward the finish line, losing 13 of their last 19 and suffering their first four-game home losing streak of the season.
On Saturday, the Boston Red Sox again shellacked the Yankees in a 7-3 beating as rookie Ivan Nova could only pitch 4 2/3 innings, which left Alex Rodriguez to draw a line between the hitters and the pitchers.
“It’s hard to play with an edge when you are down five or six runs,” said Rodriguez, refreshingly honest, if impolitic.
On Sunday night, the Yankees send out the pedestrian Dustin Moseley, trying to avoid a sweep. Even as the Yankees slowly fade — they are now 36-31 since the All-Star Break — their manager, Joe Girardi, says that if the Yankees were in a tighter playoff race he would be handling his pitchers the same way.
That means, even if the Yankees weren’t at the postseason one-yard line, Girardi claims he would have turned to Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre in a first place showdown with the Rays on Sept. 13. It means that Girardi would be handing the ball to Moseley instead of the innings limited Phil Hughes on Sunday.
“I would manage the same way,” Girardi said before the Yankees’ latest no-show.
Girardi said that he values the players’ health first and that they are more productive rested. Of course, if the Red Sox were a game back and the Rays were up a game — which is the exact scenario a reporter put forth to Girardi — it is unfathomable he would turn to Moseley to avoid a sweep. But those were the manager’s words. That is the message he sent out.
Girardi is very careful not to say that he is managing like the Yankees are already in, but his actions belie his nonsensical words. The Yankees’ magic number to clinch the wild card is still just three, meaning they would guarantee at least a tie if they win Sunday night.
“We’re still in a good spot,” Girardi said.
With that in the back of his mind, Girardi continues to use his pitchers as if it were spring training. Girardi is valuing health over home-field, which is not an unreasonable way to go. However, the jogging to finish line approach may play better in theory than in reality. As programmed as many of the Yankees act, they are still people.
But similar to when the tumble began gaining steam with Girardi in the middle of it all on Sept. 13 — the Gaudin-Mitre game — this season is becoming all about Girardi, not his players.
I have to confess, when I look at the way the Yankees have been going about their business lately, I get that feeling of…well, like Game Four of the 2003 World Series and Game Six of the 2001 World Series, and, of course, Game Four of the 2004 ALCS…
By this I mean, they had this season down on the ground with their foot clamped down on its throat, but, rather than go for the kill and finish it off, they got soft and have allowed it get its air back and climb back to its feet. And, sometimes, that’s a fatal mistake.
The next seven games will tell us what it means to this season – and the ALDS. And, if it’s not a nice story for Yankeeland, I suspect that Girardi will get, and probably deserves, a fair chunk of the blame for the way he’s handled the close of this season.