Joe Girardi has made a name for himself by masterfully managing the New York Yankees’ bullpen year in and year out, illegitimatizing any senseless clamor that may come with a minor blip.
If you are one of those fans, that is fine. If you are one who enjoys blaming the man at the helm for the team’s miscues, that is your prerogative.
However, if you are going to do it, make reasonable accusations. Do not simply point the finger because there is a finger to be pointed.
When the New York Yankees suffered their most crushing defeat of 2016 on Thursday night in Boston, fans did not come up short in pointing the finger. You cannot blame them. A gut-wrenching defeat that could have just as easily resulted in a meaningful win warrants dark feelings, deep sorrow, and eventual denial.
With that said, yet again, the blame was tossed in a nonsensical direction.
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Not only should skipper Joe Girardi have been let off the hook, but he should have been spared the unnecessary criticism with regards to his most substantial strength.
The ninth inning on Thursday was painful, indeed, as New York witnessed perhaps the most dominant reliever of this decade surrender a lead as if he had never seen a big league mound. The frame saw the first-place Red Sox gain a firmer grasp on their rivals, rather than the other way around, which the Yanks hoped to minimalize heading into the crucial set. Simply put, it was the kind of loss that a die-hard fan does not soon forget.
But to blame Girardi’s bullpen use methodology is climbing up to new heights of ignorance.
Let’s make this clear. That was a game with enormous implications. If the Yankees had come away victorious, which was Girardi’s motive, they would have been three games back of the AL East lead with a chance to make it two the following day. If they had lost, which they did, in the worst of ways, they would have been four games back of the division lead and, more importantly, a taxing three games back of a playoff spot.
In simpler terms, it was a game they had to have.
So, no, you cannot complain of overuse when Girardi goes to Dellin Betances — a man with 386 strikeouts over 244 combined innings throughout the last three seasons — with a three-run lead. And if you are a proponent of his arm not falling off, which it isn’t, consider the narrative of the disastrous inning.
It did not even start with the “overused” Betances. Girardi, courageously enough, played it situationally and brought in Tommy Layne to successfully retire a pinch-hitter. Following the executed order, Blake Parker hit Chris Young.
The rest, therefore, was left up to the right arm of Betances.
In this case, you cannot blame the ideology of Girardi. If he had gotten two more outs from a more than capable ‘pen, fans would be commending him for avoiding his hammer in a must-win scenario. Being that he did not get those outs, he went to his hammer.
The problem: his hammer was not, as they say, a hammer.
Five runs later, including a stinging Hanley Ramirez walk-off three-run homer, and the game was a goner.
Is it fair to attribute the failures of a newly positioned closer to a man who has led an Andrew Miller/Aroldis Chapman-less bullpen to an ultimately better second half ERA? No, absolutely not.
His bullpen management is the sole reason the pinstripes have remained in the hunt, and the worn down nature of inexperienced or generally unskilled arms will be the contributing factor to a downfall — which appears to be happening at the moment.
With the Yankees likely out of the hunt, point the finger in other areas. A vast majority of the guys being utilized in big spots spent a vast majority of the season pitching in Scranton — a la Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve, Jonathan Holder, and James Pazos.
Somehow, the man making the moves kept his team in it until the end.
So, if he must slightly favor Dellin Betances, which he has every right to do, do yourselves and the fanbase a favor by not pointing at overuse. The 28-year-old will likely hurl less innings this year than he did in each of the past two seasons.
Turning to him was not a mistake. Turning to him with one out and a man on was not a mistake either. It was proactive managing, putting the game in the hands of the best.
Keeping perspective is vital when analyzing devastating defeats, and likely a postseason-less campaign for the third time in four years.