Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can't blame Girardi for Yanks' starter dilemma

The pitchforks and burning torches are out for Joe Girardi today, this in the wake of A.J. Burnett's epic failure in Philadelphia.

They're saying that Girardi's decision to use Burnett on short rest has set in motion a chain of events that will now bury the Yankees.

This is all about as predictable as the failure of a Michael Strahan buddy sitcom.

In a perfect world, Chien-Ming Wang was on the mound in Game Five, coming off another 19-win season and primed for postseason vindication.

Or maybe it should've been a special night for Joba Chamberlain, the prized thoroughbred grossly coddled for two years essentially for this moment.

But this isn't a perfect world.

The Yankees do not have a fourth starter. That's the truth. Injury and ineffectiveness by the above two pitchers created that predicament. And so it was that Girardi needed to find a pitcher to face Cliff Lee for Game Five, a pitcher who at would at least give his team a fighting chance against the Phillies' locked-in ace.

Popular opinion stated that the Yankees should ensure their three starters remain on normal rest, regardless of consequence in Game Five. Keeping Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and CC Sabathia in their comfort zone was essentially worth throwing in the towel on Monday against Lee.

Again, this was popular opinion. Obviously, this was same popular opinion that once made Fred Durst a millionaire.

The consensus was that Girardi should start Chad Gaudin, he of the 4.50 lifetime ERA. Chad Gaudin, who has been on six teams in seven big league seasons. Chad Gaudin, who hasn't started a game since Sept. 28.

We're talking about Chad Gaudin here. Chad Gaudin .

Here's my philosophy on World Series games, a philosophy that I figured everyone pretty much agreed with and therefore didn't need to be expressed in this forum. Not until now, anyway.

My philosophy on World Series games is as follows: I don't give them away. I never give World Series games away. Ever.

And if my team is facing the opposition's best pitcher, I need to do better than Chad Gaudin. I don't mean to be hard on Gaudin. He could be a great American. And, who knows, maybe he could've figured out a way to survive six innings against a desperate Phillies lineup.

But probably not. That's why Girardi had to turn to Burnett, coming off the biggest and most impressive start of his career. Burnett didn't get rocked last night because he was missing that extra day off. He got rocked because he's an inconsistent pitcher who is prone to gawd-awful starts. Sadly, this was basically par for the course for him.

Again, that's not Girardi's fault either. He didn't pay Burnett $82.5 million to be the Yanks' secondary ace. He can only put him out there and hope he can perform in commensurate with his paycheck.

Obviously, Burnett came up woefully short in that regard. Don't blame Girardi for that. He's just playing the hand he was dealt.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at dhanzus@gmail.com. Follow Dan on Twitter at danhanzus .

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