Friday, August 13, 2010

Genius Joe Girardi At It Again

Back in the day, there was a pro wrestler who went by the moniker of The Genius. You may remember him.

As you could guess, The Genius' entire shtick was centered around his (supposed) immense level of intelligence. He wore a academic cap and graduation gown to the ring and mocked the audience with derogatory poems about the area in which their civic arena was located.

Unfortunately for The Genius, he was regularly defeated by other wrestlers, since, you know, the brain has little defense against the running power slam.

I was thinking of The Genius when Joe Girardi decided to show us how smart he was in the ninth inning against the Royals on Thursday. CC Sabathia was on the mound, in a minor jam thanks to a pair of bloop singles sandwiched around two outs. He was at 110 pitches, or about 10 pitches less than his standard workload this season. Mariano Rivera was not available, having pitched the two previous evenings. He had a three-run lead.

Surely, this was Sabathia's game to finish. Right? Right!?!?!?

That's when Girardi emerged from the dugout. He might as well have been wearing a cap and gown, spewing a stanza into his microphone about how the people of Kansas City had no idea how much fat content was in a standard Midwestern barbecue dinner.

He removed Sabathia from the game, the agitation clear in the big left-hander's face. When new pitcher Dave Robertson promptly served up a two-run double, I thought Sabathia was going to take a steel chair to Girardi's back.

The second-tier YES announcing team of Ken Singleton and John Flaherty made you long for Michael Kay—which is pretty incredible in and of itself—playing the company man card to the hilt by not even so much as mentioning that removing the team ace without Rivera available might be the wrong decision.

Luckily, Robertson stranded the tying run on third by striking out Jason Kendall. Sabathia's win was preserved. The papers wouldn't get their chance to roast Girardi after all.

If you watch the Yankees regularly, you understand that this type of stuff isn't new. Girardi has always been the type of manager who changes pitchers enough to make you wonder if there's some type of escalator built into his contract.

The frustration is that sometimes his love of percentages gets in the way of baseball common sense. Regardless of how it turned out, it was a foolish move to take out your best pitcher—one of baseball's best pitchers, not to mention a known workhorse—to bring in any pitcher not named Rivera there.

Call me old-fashioned, but if your starter takes you 26 outs into a game and you have the lead, he deserves his shot to finish it off.

My ultimate concern is that one of these days Girardi won't get covered by his players, and one of these, "Look how smart I am" moves will blow up in the team's face in a big spot.

The Genius, no matter how smart he was, almost always lost. Somebody may want to send Girardi some Wrestlemania DVDs before it's too late.

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