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Five Questions For Joe Girardi

October 23, 2009 - John Whittaker
I should have just gone to bed.
Even after the Yankees came back to take a two-run lead in the seventh inning last night against the Angels, I knew the Angels were coming back -- stupid Rally Monkey.
So, it's a Friday morning and I'm exhausted because I stayed up until the final out, hoping the feeling in the pit of my stomach was a bad steak sandwich instead of the gnawing, empty feeling that something bad is going to happen. Plus, I think I have a headache from those damned Thundersticks that Angels fans beat incessantly.
Some people might have been booking World Series tickets after the Yankees six-run seventh inning, but not me. For me, last night was like Tin Cup on the 18th hole of the U.S. Open.
Drop, hit, kerplunk. Drop, hit, kerplunk. Drop, hit, kerplunk. Drop, hit, kerplunk. Drop, hit, kerplunk.
Fall behind on hitter, throw bad pitch, cringe when runner reaches base.
By the time the damage was done, the Angels had scored three runs and, despite the presence of Brian Fuentes in the Angels bullpen, you knew the Yankees were done. The little man in the back of my head was beating the "WE'RE NOT WINNING THIS GAME" drum.
I'm laying this one on the feet of Joe Girardi.
The Yankees should have been popping champagne after Thursday's game. Instead, they're winging it back to New York City for Game 6. If it was the first game this series where Girardi had been outmanaged, I wouldn't be as peeved as I am right now. Unfortunately, Girardi also cost the Yankees Game 3 of this series, and now I'm really ticked.
Much like Lionel Caffee cross examining Col. Jessup, here are a few questions I'd love Joe Girardi to answer -- and I'm not going to even ask about the possibility of throwing Mariano Rivera in the seventh inning last night (too early) or using Jorge Posada as the designated hitter (because Hideki Matsui's name has officially been changed to the struggling Hideki Matsui) or even why you continue going to Joba Chamberlain even though he's getting drilled worse than Jenna Jameson (David Robertson is probably a better bet). We'll leave those alone and build our case on these questions:
Why is Phil Hughes not throwing a curveball to Vladimir Guerrero with a 1-2 count and two out in the seventh?
Hughes looked like he drank a two-liter bottle of Tantrum before he came in to pitch last night. He had no control of his fastball and he couldn't put his slider where he wanted it. His best pitch last night was his curveball. So, Hughes throws a nasty 1-1 curve to get a second strike on Guerrero, then proceeds to shake off Jorge Posada three times before settling on a fastball that Guerrero grounded up the middle. Game effectively over.
Here's why this is Girardi's fault.
In Games 2-3, Girardi was running out to the mound like Forrest Fricking Gump to talk to pitchers. After a while, don't you run out of things to talk about? I mean, there are only so many game-related things you can say in the midst of 437 trips to the mound, and I can just imagine some of the mound conversations in Games 3 and 4:
Throw the curveball in the dirt. Don't forget to set your TiVo so you don't miss South Park. Did you remember enough pairs of clean underwear? What are you getting your kids for Christmas? Do you have any aspirin, these damned Thundrstix are killing me. If Figgins gets on, throw over 10 times, then throw a pitch. Then, throw over six more times, then throw another pitch. Got it?
Know what we forgot to make sure we got across in those mound conversations in Game 3 and Game 5?
Two nuggets that, if properly imparted and executed, mean this series is over. Yes, the pitchers have to make pitches, but Girardi should have come to the mound with Hughes, even at 1-2, and told him what pitch to throw. When he's shaking off Posada, who's only caught 110 games in the postseason, it's time for the manager to take over and make his reliever throw what the catcher wants thrown.
Get beat with your best pitch - and last night, Phil, it was the curveball.
If Tim McCarver knows this, can it be that hard?
I blame Girardi for not making damned sure Hughes isn't throwing a fastball to Guerrero, or, at least, that the fastball wasn't thrown at Guerrero's head.
Why in the name of all that is holy did A.J. Burnett start the seventh?
Yeah, he had only thrown 88 pitches entering the inning. And, I'll give it to Girardi that Burnett had held down the fort after that smelly dog fart of a first inning, when he got whacked around the park worse than Gary Busey at the end of Lethal Weapon. Even though he was putting up zeroes, did you ever get that comfortable feeling with Burnett that you had with Sabathia in Games 1 and 4? I didn't. With Sabathia, I was confident the Angels weren't scoring runs. With Burnett, I'm hoping the Angels don't score runs. There's a big difference. With a rested bullpen and an off-day on Friday (and probably on Saturday, too) the seventh was a good time to hit the bullpen. Plus, Burnett had sat in the dugout for three hours because the top of the seventh took so damned long - was it any shock he lost his rhythm on the mound?
Go to the bullpen when nobody's on. I won't argue with using Damaso Marte, though I think Phil Coke is a better option. But, life is a lot easier on the relievers if they're coming on with nobody on. It's a young relief group, other than Mariano and Marte, and relieving stress on those guys would probably have helped.
What does it take to get a pinch-hitter, or even a day off, for Nick Swisher?
I love Swisher. We wouldn't be here without him, he's been great for the clubhouse, and his girlfriend/wife is hot, or so my wife tells me. Here is another incontrovertible fact -- he hasn't hit for crap in the playoffs. You could throw a beachball at him at the plate right now and he'd swing through it. Cold streaks like this are all part of the Swisher package. When he's hot, you can't get him out. When he's cold, he's more worthless than my 401K is right now. I almost feel sorry for the guy when he comes up with runners in scoring position. He knows his swing is crap, he wants to help the team win and he's obviously trying too hard. He's wound tighter than a 13-year-old looking at a Cindy Crawford bikini poster or . When he's at the plate with men on base, he looks like he's constipated - and not just a little constipated, but I haven't pooped in three weeks and my eyes are turning brown constipated. If this was Major League, we're at the part of the movie where Swisher's standing in the batter's box telling Jobu if he doesn't help him now, he'll do it himself.
With two outs in the ninth, I'd have felt more comfortable with Jerry Hairston hitting, even if it was lefty on lefty. But, the lack of pinch-hitting options brings me to my next point.
Is Freddy Guzman really that valuable?
How valuable has that second speed guy been Joe? He's pinch-run once in the series and, in that one appearance, didn't try to steal a base. Guzman can't hit at all, doesn't play a position that helps the Yankees defensively in the late innings and apparently is behind Brett Gardner in the whole "let's pinch-run for Hideki Matsui in the late-innings" job. Wouldn't Eric Hinske have been useful last night, even in a spot-start situation for Swisher so he can clear his head?
Do you really need an extra speed guy?
Good call. You've hamstrung yourself offensively carrying a guy who can't hit and doesn't help us in the outfield late in a close game. That's why they don't give baseball managers control over personnel decisions -- because you're stuck with the useless Freddy Guzman when you could have used an extra bopper in the late innings.
On the plus side, Girardi is qualified to run the Oakland Raiders.
What is your managerial philisophy?
In Games 2-3, Girardi was running to the mound like it was the site of the nearest toilet after he ate a box of Ex-Lax and Mexican food.
He's consulting the book like it was written by John Grisham so he can make the decision to replace David Robertson with Alfredo Aceves or deciding Jose Molina should catch Burnett.
If that's your style, then that's your style. I can deal with that.
But, last night, Girardi sat in the dugout as the first and seventh innings fell apart looking like a wax statue. He looked like a Final Jeopardy contestant who didn't know the answer. If you're going by the book, you don't pitch Marte before you pitch Coke. If you're going by the book, Swisher's spending the night at a strip club and not stranding a small village of strippers on the bases last night. If you're going by the book, Burnett comes after six innings.
And, if you're going to wear out a path to the mound, then do it all the time. If you're going to talk to your pitchers because you don't trust your catcher to make the right calls, then make sure you're getting it right last night.. Don't let the New York press scare you from doing the job the way you're comfortable doing it.
Did you order the code red?
YOU'RE GODDAMNED RIGHT I DID! (That was just fun).
Will the Yankees beat the Angels?
Yeah, but this series would be over if I wasn't an idiot.
On to this weekend's football picks, with no help from Joe Girardi.
New England vs. Tampa Bay: London hasn't seen a football team as bad as Tampa Bay since the SillyNannies played the Pats on Family Guy. Maybe playing the junior varsity will help the Patriots figure out what they want to do defensively and give some of the young guys some experience. If Tampa Bay hadn't won a Super Bowl a few years ago, I'd officially be feeling bad for my buddy Teddy - because nobody should have to watch the crap the Bucs are laying on the field every week. Even so, he wears his Tampa gear with pride - you know, because he's not too bright. Just kidding Teddy!
Minnesota at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is frustrating because they've fallen into that post-Super Bowl unpredictability and we've played too many games in too short a time injury bug that sometimes hits Super Bowl teams (see New England, 2002; Pittsburgh, 2007). Still, at home, in cold and nasty weather conditions, I'm having a hard time going against the Steelers. I'm probably going to regret that.
San Francisco at Houston: I hate the Texans. Seriously, just decide if you're good or bad so I can figure out my picks without the headaches and 2 by 4s to the head every week. Actually, the same goes for San Francisco. Since I don't know how many times Mike Singletary took his pants off in practice last week, I'll take the 49ers coming off a bye week.
Indianapolis at St. Louis: Enjoy the bye week, Peyton.
San Diego at Kansas City: I'm just waiting for LaDanian Tomlinson to stop faking injuries and be a healthy scratch, because the Chargers are a much better team when he's not in the lineup. They won't need their best lineup for this weekend, though, with the Chiefs on the schedule.
Green Bay at Cleveland: One of these weeks, the Browns are going to jump up and surprise an unsuspecting team - what, that happened a few weeks ago against the Bills? That's right. Since that's out of the way, the path is cleared for me to pick the Packers. My fat guy sense feels a big game for Aaron Rodgers.
Buffalo at Carolina: The News Cat, in a News Cat production starring the News Cat, presents the CAT POOP SALAD GAME OF THE WEEK. Bills fans, Panthers fans, you will eat the cat poop. Eat it, love it! The News Brother will be at the game this weekend with the Whitless Wonder's niece wearing her little Bills cheerleading outfit, so good karma says the Bills win even though Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the start at quarterback. Jake Delhomme still sucks, by the way.
N.Y. Jets at Oakland: Defensively, the Raiders could really make life difficult on the Jets. They have good cornerbacks and the defensive line is showing signs of life now that Richard Seymour has decided he wants to make the Patriots jealous. I think I'm talking myself into taking the Raiders in the upset. Mark Sanchez remains filthy, JaMarcus Russell still sucks out loud and Rex Ryan feels the need to beat up a Raiders assistant coach after the Jets get beat, probably by some godawful score like 13-9 or 9-6.
Atlanta at Dallas: Red-hot team against overrated team that gets a lot of games on national TV. Hmmmmm, which way do I go? Of course the pick is Atlanta, which means I'm going for Dallas. A feeling in my substantial gut -it is almost lunch time as I write this - says the Cowboys come out and exploit Atlanta's weakness -- not so great run defense. Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and that other guy have good games, and the Cowboys pull off the upset, even though they're favored. Trust me, it's an upset.
Philadelphia at Washington: Can you see any game where Washington is favored for the rest of the season. Their coach is getting fired after the season. Their quarterback has the nerves of a 2-year-old girl and got benched last week for Todd Collins. Their offense couldn't score with a road map and a flashlight. I hate Philadelphia, but there is no way they lose this game, unless Andy Reid shows up drunk.
Chicago at Cincinnati: Cincinnati, with a chance to show they're for real, showed they're not for real by getting their tails handed to them last week. Chicago had 1,764 chances to beat the Falcons last week and couldn't get it done - which makes them the Nick Swisher of the NFL. I like the Bears to get back on the winning bandwagon this weekend.
New Orleans at Miami: Hot offense vs. hot defense. New Orleans has practice with this type of game, beating the living tar out of the Giants last weekend. I think Drew Brees repeats his performance last week, and I don't think the Wildcat offense is potent enough to keep up with the Saints.
Arizona at N.Y. Giants: Kurt Warner looked much better last weekend, and passing offenses can give the Giants trouble if the Giants can't get pressure on the quarterback. I somehow don't see the Giants defensive line playing as poorly as they did last week, and I really don't see Arizona being able to run the ball effectively enough to keep the Giants at bay. I like the Giants at home.


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