JOE GIRARDI FAILS HIS FIRST REAL TEST AS MANAGER OF THE YANKEES

                                                                            Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

You probably already know the situation:  Yankees-Red Sox, 2-1 Yankees, bottom six, two out, second and third for the Red Sox after Mike Mussina struck out David Ortiz.  Here comes Manny Ramirez with, arguably, the game on the line.  This is Baseball 101 stuff:  walk Ramirez and take your chances with just about any other hitter on the planet.

 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Yankees having their best chance to win the game:  new manager Joe Girardi went out to talk to Mussina and they apparently (jointly) decided to pitch to Ramirez.  This was a terrible error whether they got Ramirez out or not.  Of course, Ramirez doubled in two runs and, for all intents and purposes, the Yankees best chance to win the game had left the building.

    

How could this possibly have happened?  Well, Joe Girardi said that he had discussed it on the bench before going out to speak to Mussina (I hope this isn’t like last year with Joe Torre, because, with no Mel Stottlemyre and, even earlier, with no Don Zimmer, the decision-making was poor last year).  If there’s nobody on the bench to say to Joe Girardi   that Manny Ramirez is one of the five or ten greatest right-handed hitters of all time and, oh, by the way, he hit a moon shot off Mussina last time up, then there are already judgment issues on the Yankee bench.

    

After the game, Girardi said that, during his conversation with Mussina, “we talked about the comfort level with both hitters [Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis] was basically the same… .”  Stop right there!  You don’t know what’s inside a pitcher’s mind (hopefully it’s Mussina’s competitive nature), but that’s absurd.  That’s when the manager has to say: “I appreciate your competitiveness.  Now walk Ramirez and go after Youkilis.”  Who was the manager, Grady Little?  Unbelievable.

    

After the game, Mussina said “I feel the same with both guys.”  Yikes!  It’s as if Lou Gehrig was coming up after Babe Ruth.  Kevin Youkilis is a very good hitter and a tough out.  But he’s not in Manny’s neighborhood as a hitter (and, remember, Ramirez hit one off the Volvo sign over the Green Monster the previous at-bat).

    

For the last few years, it’s been a pick-your-poison deal with the Red Sox.  Pitch to David Ortiz and he kills you.  Walk Ortiz and pitch to Manny and he kills you.  And, of course, both are well-established Yankee killers.  Girardi correctly decided to pitch to David Ortiz because, at 3-43, he’s having a miserable season (so far) and isn’t anywhere close to hitting like DAVID ORTIZ.  But Manny, again, is already hitting like MANNY.  A stunning blunder by the Yankees.

    

What can be done about this?  Well, I didn’t hear anyone ask Joe Girardi the magic question:  If the same situation comes up again tomorrow, will you talk to your coaches, talk to your pitcher and pitch to Manny again?  If the answer to that question is yes, then Joe Girardi has learned nothing from this experience.

    

Would the Yankees have won the game if Girardi had told Mussina to walk Ramirez?  Of course, we’ll never know.  But know this:  Joe Girardi, no matter what anyone says, did not give the Yankees the best chance to win the game yesterday.  And that’s the manager’s number one job.  Very surprising. 

       

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved. 

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