Which one of these guys should we blame?
Four days ago, I would have said Joe Girardi. Actually, I would have shouted it. I thought he had made one of the biggest blunders in managing history.
It was Game 4 and A.J. Burnett was on the mound and he actually had a lead. The Yanks were up 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning and Nelson Cruz was standing on second base. He had wisely tagged on a deep fly ball out by Ian Kinsler.
Burnett only needed one more out to escape a mildly stressful inning and he had only thrown about 96 pitches at that point. With David Murphy coming to the plate, I'm really not all that worried. In fact, I don't think anyone is all that worried.
But Girardi looked at the matchups, saw first base open, and gave Murphy a free pass to the lonely base so Burnett could face Rangers catcher Bengie Molina. The sad thing was I knew exactly what was coming next.
All it took was one pitch and the Yankees' lead was gone. A three-run blast by Molina gave Texas a two-run lead and I was absolutely livid. Why not pitch to Murphy? I don't even know who that guy is? Why are the Yankees just giving him first base? What has he ever done?
I know Molina because he had been red hot during the division series against the Tampa Bay Rays, was already batting a thousand against Burnett in Game 4, and had already hit three career postseason home runs against the Yankees.
But as the series went on, I started to realize that Girardi had to over-manage because he no longer had faith in anyone else on that team. This is a team that would have been swept had Brett Gardner decided to run through the bag on a slow roller in Game 1 instead of diving headfirst to beat the throw.
If a headfirst slide by Brett Gardner is what this team needed to be inspired than that's just comical.
But the Yankees were just bad. With the exception of Robinson Cano, one wild inning in Game 1, and the quintessential "we'd rather win this series at home in front of our fans" game, the Yankees were just bad.
Let's start with first basemen Mark Teixeira. I'm starting with him because I think his story is a microcosm of this entire series. He was 0-13 in the ALCS before hitting a weak grounder to third with runners on first and second and no outs in Game 4, straining his hamstring and exiting the postseason.
His body literally gave up him. He even said as much in the post-game interview. Amazing. Maybe you should get a few hits first before you start saying your body gave up on you. Just a thought.
Next, Alex Rodriguez. He watched strike three cross home plate in Game 6 and recorded the final out of the 2010 Yankee season. He didn't even swing the bat. And why should he? He's got an offseason of spending massive amounts of money ahead of him. I wouldn't have swung either.
Now, this next guy concerns me because I can't say anything bad about him but boy, do I want to. He also struck out to end the eighth inning in Game 6 and he looked really bad doing it. He did one of those weird half-swings that said, "Uh, I kind of want to hit it but I also kind of want to spend a massive amount of money in the offseason and I want that to start ASAP."
Of course, I'm talking about Derek Jeter. What to do with him? He's old. He no longer has any late-game heroics left in him. His range at shortstop is noticeably diminished. And he's a free agent.
If there were a way to pay him to still be the Yankee captain, but not let him anywhere near the baseball field, I'd be okay with that.
Now here are some names along with some awful ALCS stats. Nick Swisher, 2-for-22. Marcus Thames, 2-for-16. Phil Hughes 11.42 ERA. David Robertson, 20.25 ERA.
The Yankees went 8-for-50 with runners in scoring position. Swisher went 0-for-7. Teixeira went 0-for-4 and we can only assume that second number would have been higher had his body decided to keep going.
This is what Joe Girardi was working with. And this is why he has a binder full of charts and graphs and color-coded decision-making laminates, because he manages a roster full of guys who would rather be spending massive amounts of money in the offseason.
Why wouldn't he look for a better matchup for Burnett? He clearly needed the help, with his regular season ERA a hefty 5.26, and his win-loss record weighted on the wrong end.
At first glance, Girardi's moves looked like over-managing but they were really just signs of panic. He was overcompensating for a team he knew was out of gas.
People will probably put a lot of the blame on Girardi but he was the only one actually trying to win.