Of Course A.J. Burnett Started Game Five

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Manager Joe Girardi (R) of the New York Yankees takes starting pitcher A.J. Burnett #34 out of the game in the bottom of the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Will the Phillies win Games Six and Seven this week at Yankee Stadium?

Probably not.

The 1985 Kansas City Royals were the last team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series.

However, if the Phillies do pull off some kind of miracle in the Bronx, Joe Girardi’s decision to start A.J. Burnett in game five on three days rest will be second guessed all winter.

It’s always easy to second guess.

Although on this occasion we are talking about baseball and not football, it can still be referred to as “Monday morning quarterbacking”.

Had Burnett gone out and pitched well enough to close the door on the Phillies last night, Girardi would have been considered a genius and hailed as a hero.

But, Burnett pitched poorly.

The Yankees lost.

And instead of creating “Girardi is King” signs for the tickertape parade, Yankee fans are now sharpening their pitchforks for Girardi just in case this series slips away.    

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The fact of the matter is that on two days rest, three days rest or five days rest, you never know which A.J. Burnett you are going to get when he steps onto the mound.

So, if Girardi didn’t start Burnett in Game Five, what was his other option?

Game Five: Gaudin would have been the only other logical choice.  However, Gaudin hasn’t even pitched in over a month; and when he was pitching regularly this year he had an ERA of 4.65.  Is this the guy you want on the mound in a World Series clinching game?

Game Six: Now you start Burnett on full rest.  Well, that sounds great, only that on full rest or not, Burnett is a prototypical case of Jekyll and Hyde.  You never know what you are going to get when this guy steps on the mound.  He could look like Cy Young, or a batting practice pitcher.

Game Seven:  You have Sabathia on the mound.  Sabathia will more than likely give you a solid start, but this is Game Seven and anything can happen.  A walk, a seeing eye single and a Chase Utely homerun and the Yankees are down three zip at the blink of an eye.

One would have to assume that Gaudin’s chances of winning Game Five in Philadelphia would have been slim at best.   Burnett could have been a thoroughbred or a lame dog in game six, and then you find yourself in a situation where you have your ace on the mound in Game Seven, but as we all know, anything can happen when it comes down to a single baseball game.  

The alternative strategy is the one that Girardi is currently pursuing.  

Game Five: Start Burnett on short rest.  Maybe you’ll get Cy Yong or maybe you’ll get a lame dog.  Either way, Burnett had pitched well in Game Two, so just maybe you’d get the “good” Burnett again in Game Five.

Game Six: You start Andy Pettitte.  He also would be going on three days rest, and he’s not as young as he used to be.  However, do the Yankees have a starting pitcher in their dugout that has shown more of an ability to get the job done in big-time games than Pettitte?

Game Seven:  You have your ace on the mound.  Win or lose, Sabbathia is the guy you want out there with everything on the line…his bank account says so.   

Second guessing managerial decisions is a past time nearly as old as baseball itself.

Had Gaudin started Game Five and allowed the Phillies to take part in a home run derby competition, then the unpredictable Burnett gets rocked in Game Six tomorrow and the Phillies are somehow able to sneak out a 3-1 win in Game Seven on Thursday, would you be happy with Girardi’s handling of the pitching staff?

Of Course not.

Millions of New Yorkers would be the smartest Friday morning managers in the city.