Where the hell did the Yankees find this Joe Girardi guy?
Yeah okay, he won a couple of World Series rings catching their pitching staffs back in the 90s, but that was almost 15 years ago. What has he done for the Yankees lately other than not make the playoffs last season for the first time since the strike?
First Girardi stumbles and bumbles his way to a disappointing 103 wins in a regular season when he obviously should have done much better with the talent that was gift wrapped and handed to him by Brian Cashman and the franchise's deep pockets.
What's that? He didn't have A-Rod for a month, you say? And moving Phil Hughes to the bullpen worked brilliantly in establishing for New York what is arguably the best bullpen in baseball? Forget all of that. The Yankees have a massive payroll, the highest paid player in the game, and a lineup and rotation stocked full of All Stars and future Hall of Famers. One could argue they shouldn't have lost a single game in 2009 never mind an obscene 59.
Then, after somehow slipping his way into the ALDS — taking the AL East by a minuscule eight games — he enters the ALDS with the absurd idea to use a three-man rotation. Absolutely no one does that anymore. And if no one does it than it must not be the correct way to manage. But there goes Girardi, bucking conventional wisdom and throwing his three best pitchers out there, including CC Sabathia on short rest. Yeah, the Yankees did sweep the Twins — with their pitching dominating all three games, holding Minnesota to six total runs — but in the ALCS against the LA Angels of Anaheim Girardi's critically erratic handling of his pitchers (specifically the bullpen) would come back to haunt the AL East Champions when his luck finally ran out.
The Angels won only 97 games in the regular season, a whopping six less than the Yankees in a much easier division. And while they did finish 10 games ahead of second place Texas, the Rangers were only 87-75, eight games worse than the second place, wild card winning Boston Red Sox (95-67). In any case, it was obvious that the Angels were a highly inferior opponent and that only Joe Girardi could get in the way of another inevitable playoff sweep by the Yankees.
And boy did he try his hardest to do just that.
In Game 3 and Game 5 of the series (the two the Angels won) Girardi was directly responsible for the Yankees' failures. Switching pitchers like Tony LaRussa circa 1989, he twice caused the Yankees to lose one-run games by bringing in the wrong arms from the 'pen. The typical bias Yankees fan that will support their inept manager to the absolute brink will undoubtedly cite Girardi's managing of his pitching staff to 103 wins in the regular season, the sweep over the AL Central champion Twins in the ALDS using his three-man rotation and bullpen-by-matchup technique, and the three wins notched already in the ALCS at the point when LA won their second and last game of the series (game 5), as evidence that Joe knows what he is doing. But the fact that those two wins ever even occurred is unacceptable, and the manner in which they occured places the blame squarely on Girardi's shoulders.
And then Joe pulled what could have been the ultimate blunder of his short managerial career in Game 6 of the series. Instead of pitching his ace Sabathia like nearly every analyst and columnist said he should — theoretically giving the Yankees their best chance of preventing the series from going to a game 7 — he instead chose to go with the lowest paid and highest aged of the three starters that the Yankees' have used in their playoff rotation.
Andy Pettitte? Isn't that guy like 50 now? With the rainout allowing Sabathia to start Game 6 on regular rest it was an obvious move to skip Pettitte and use CC that Girardi once again failed to realize and execute on.
So Joe sends the eldest and least talented pitcher in his ridiculous little three-man postseason rotation out to the mound and what does the pitcher do? Girardi's former battery mate makes it only 6 1/3 innings, giving up an obscene seven hits and yet only one run with six strikeouts. While one could argue the fact that Pettitte surrendered only one run validates Girardi's decision, the seven hits show that it was merely luck that the Yankees got through Andy's deceivingly poor outing.
Then it was into the bullpen for another demonstration of incompetence by the Yankees' manager. After pitching Joba Chamberlain only 2/3 of an inning in which he gave up no runs on no hits Girardi decided to lift his former starter turned co-setup man and pitch his closer for two innings!
I don't care if he is the greatest closer of all time, you DO NOT pitch a closer two innings in this day and age. He could get hit, he could get hurt, and it's simply just not done. The man's name is Mariano Rivera, not Goose Gossage, and the year is not 1978.
That's why it was shockingly fortunate when Rivera held up the entirety of the potentially harmfully long outing, giving up one run on two hits. His performance secured the Yankees their 40th AL pennant and Andy Pettitte earned his 16th postseason win (the most all-time surpassing John Smoltz) as well as his fifth win to clinch a playoff series (also a record).
So despite Joe Girardi's constant mishandling of his ball club, the New York Yankees have finally somehow returned to the World Series. CC Sabathia — the player who should have started Game 6 — was awarded the ALCS MVP nevertheless, going 2-0 with 1.13 ERA, beating out fellow teammate and playoff redemption story Alex Rodriguez for the award (.429/3 HR/6 RBIs).
Now New York will take on the Philadelphia Phillies (in a rematch of the 1950 Fall Classic) and Cliff Lee in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday in the Bronx. The Yankees will counter by running fellow left hander (and AL Cy Young Award winner) CC Sabathia out to the mound (available due to Pettitte's Game 6 win). The rotation is in-line, the lineup has been hot, but the Phillies are a very good ball club that matches up well offensively with the Bronx Bombers (they were first and second in home runs this season).
If the Yankees are going to win this last stage on their season-long odyssey to a 27th World Series championship, it will be their rotation and bullpen that will ultimately get the team to their intended goal. And victory will come only if both of those units can be successful and win despite the destructive mismanagement of their absolutely "clueless" skipper.